Life balance & so easy to understand conceptually, but sometimes impossible to achieve in reality. Finding it is not a challenge exclusive to people who work for startups, but it is a challenge almost universally felt by employees at early stage companies. There just always seems like there is more that you would like to get done than there is available time to get it done. I’ve successfully worked through the startup stage at 3 different companies so far, and each one has presented its own challenges, lessons and rewards.
Staying passionate about the mission
Ask any two people to define life balance, and they will likely each have very different answers. Sure, everyone would say something about balancing time spent working with time for self, family and other personally important activities, but the relative weight given to each will differ greatly. For hardcore startup people, the passion they feel for their work often means they are OK with giving their work more of their time and attention than, say, the average sanitation worker. The learning, the frenetic pace of the work, passion for the mission, and the nature of the work itself all feed some inner need. It takes a special breed of person to be able to find that magic mix that provides maximum satisfaction.
Understanding yourself is the key. Burnout can set in when you least expect it, and you need to watch for its warning signs. Some possible harbingers of a future bout with burnout that you might want to watch for include: is your ratio of cups of coffee to hours of sleep greater than one? Do your kids’ faces always remind you of things on your “to do”list that don’t involve them? Do you get a sick, guilty feeling every time you insert the key in the ignition to leave for work? These are certainly signs to watch for.
Making it work for you
When you get the first inkling of one of these or several other similar feelings, it is time to make a change. A change of attitude, a reduction in the time allocated to your work or a change in your work. You could take up knitting or some other equally stimulating past time or just spend more time with your significant other, your spouse or your children. Visit your parents. Whatever it is, make a change to the structure of how you allocate your time and celebrate it. You’ll be happy you did.