Yes, You Can Run a Business and Still Have a Life! Here’s How

by Sophia Bera on April 19, 2017

This is part 2 of a 3-part series on a “Behind the Scenes Look at Gen Y Planning.” Feel free to start by reading Part 1 on “How I Built the Kind of Business I Want to See in the World”. Also, if you’re a financial planner who is interested in finding out about the next mentorship program that I’m launching, you can sign up for the wait list here.

When you work for someone else, your responsibility is to do a few of the tasks needed to keep a business running. When it’s your business … you do everything. All the time. At least at first.

Lots of new business owners work around the clock. They neglect their health, families, and friends. These can be pretty dark times. Exciting! Yet dark.

I’ve been there. When you first strike out on your own, it’s exhilarating. You control your time! You no longer answer to a boss! You can work from anywhere! You’re no longer limited to two weeks of vacation!

But this also means you work a lot harder. You invested all this time and money into an idea and you’ll do everything you can to see that investment pay off. So what’s another 60-hour week? What’s another vacation where you’re always on your laptop?

It doesn’t have to be this way, but it usually starts out this way. After some trial and error, I’ve found a way to run Gen Y Planning that allows me to have a life outside of work. Yes, you can be an entrepreneur who goes to the gym three times a week. You can work from home and still find time to leave the house every day. You can make time to meet with clients and make time for your family and friends, too.

Not only can you do these things — you should do them! Running a business when you have zero social life is a great way to run your business into the ground. I’m going to show you how Gen Y Planning does it.

It wasn’t always this organized (and my team and I still have crazy weeks where we have to re-prioritize a bunch of work), but I can say that, four years in, we have a good system going that allows all of us to have time for other things in our lives.

Ask Yourself: How Much Do I Want to Work?

I get this question a lot. I don’t work nearly as many hours as I did when I worked at a day job or when I first launched my firm (around 50 hours per week). I promised myself I would never work the crazy hours that I did at the startup in New York (60 hours per week).

When I looked back at my RescueTime in 2016, I saw that I worked an average of 30 hours per week. I don’t want to work more than that. Some weeks I work more and some less, but that’s a good average.

If you work in an office, you’re probably wondering how you can get away with working a 30-hour week. Here’s the thing: you probably already do. I think that offices are not the most conducive work environments. Even though people are paid for 40 hours, I doubt that the average American is working that entire time. Once you factor in disruptions, chatting with co-workers, lunch breaks, bumming around on the internet, and other distractions, you’re spending way less time on actual work than you think.

Time Block Your Days

Now that you know how much time you actually spend working, you can block off time for things like client meetings, work travel, and uninterrupted chunks of time for focused work. Trust me: once you know where your time actually goes, it’s so much easier to tell it where to go instead.

Yeah, I said tell it where to go. You actually have control over what goes scheduled! Really! So instead of mourning all those evenings lost to work calls, set some boundaries.

Changing how I set up my week has been a game changer for my business. I often had client meetings on the weekends and I let prospects schedule calls whenever they wanted. This free-for-all scheduling led me to feeling overwhelmed because there was no consistency. Every week was different and I had to squeeze in my life around my work.

This was bad for me, obviously, but it wasn’t great for my clients, either. I wanted them to have a great experience working with me, and that meant I needed to feel refreshed and adequately prepared for our call. It was time for a change.

About a year ago, I decided to only schedule phone calls and meetings on Tuesdays-Thursdays. Mondays are my days to prep for the week ahead and writing, whereas Fridays are my a wrap-up days where I work on the business and not just in the business.

By offering client meetings a few evenings a week, I’ve been able to cut out almost all weekend meetings. It also makes it much easier to book travel because I know that I don’t have client meetings on Mondays and Fridays. Plus, many of my clients prefer evening meetings because of their work schedules. We all win!

In addition, I hate morning meetings, so it allows me to have leisurely mornings in yoga pants, drinking tea and responding to emails without having to look presentable for a video call.

I should say that my business is completely virtual, so evening meetings don’t involve staying late at an office for me. This was an intentional choice when I started Gen Y Planning. I wanted to work from anywhere and work with clients from across the country. (Plus, I get to meet my clients’ babies, puppies, and kitties over video calls, which is the best!)

The Tough Part: Sticking to Your Schedule

It’s one thing to say, “I’m going to schedule three client meetings a week, block of two hours a day for focused work, and still have time for my family and friends.” And then you start working and a bunch of people want to schedule meetings this week, eating into your focused work time — and there goes dinner with your friend who’s in town for a few days. So, what do you do?

Tip #1: Color-Code Your Calendar

It’s nerdy, but it works. You can get an immediate view of your week ahead — how much time you spend in meetings, and how much time you allocate toward actually leaving your house and talking with loved ones about non-work topics (so necessary!).

Be specific with your categories. Instead of just one for “work,” break it down into things like meetings, client calls, conferences, and focused work time. For non-work items, break them down into time with family, social outings with friends, travel, time allocated to exercise, errands, and more.

On my calendar, all of my client and prospect calls are in green because they are money-making activities. If I have a team meeting or a call with a reporter, they are in blue. Self-care, working out, and social events are in purple. This is a quick way to check in with myself. Do I need to renew my focus on client meetings? Have I set aside time to have fun with friends?

Tip #2: Multi-Task the Right Way

The more you try to do at once, the worse you do at each task. But there are some tasks you can combine that will benefit you and save you time. I like to move throughout the day by conducting “walking meetings.” I do this for any calls that don’t require me to take notes, such as a call with a reporter or another financial planner. This keeps me from sitting all day. It also gives my eyes a break from a computer screen.

Tip #3: Leave Your Home

Since I work from home, I make it a point to leave my apartment at least once a day. I have a local coffee shop half a mile away that I enjoy walking to. It’s nice to see familiar faces and they have the best cold brew. Sometimes a change of environment is all I need to be more productive.

I also try to co-work once a week at a different coffee shop with a few friends who also run online businesses. Not only is it an excuse to put on pants, but it gives me the chance to bounce ideas off of other entrepreneurs. Idea generation + time with friends + pants + coffee = winning.

Know When to Outsource

A lot of entrepreneurs suffer from “superhero syndrome.” They don’t trust anyone to take on some of their work, and they don’t want to pay anyone else to do it, so they try to do everything themselves. If this is you, this will be your downfall and you will never be able to scale your business.

I started out that way, but when I was going through a divorce, I realized that I couldn’t do it all myself. The last thing I wanted was for my business to suffer because of my personal life. I still wanted to take on new clients and send my email newsletter out, and some days I was hurting so much that I could only work for an hour or two. This meant I needed to learn how to hire good people and trust them.

Stop trying to be a hero. Give yourself time to deal with life stuff. You spouse or partner wants regular date nights. Your kids want you to show up at their dance recitals. Your dishwasher will break and you’ll need to be home to let in the repair guy. There will be a time in the next six months when you have to go to the dentist again.

Outsourcing tasks will give you that time back. It wasn’t until I gave up some control and hired a team that I realized how important outsourcing is to a successful, growing business.

Say “No” to More Stuff

When you first start out, you don’t want to turn away any potential opportunity. But it’s so important to know when to say no. Hard work doesn’t necessarily lead to more money. You can work less and make more by getting better at marketing your services and outsourcing tasks to a team.

I see a lot of entrepreneurs work really hard at non-income generating activities, which is not how you should be spending your time! If you’re trying to build processes and procedures before you have any clients, STOP! You’re doing it wrong! Focus on getting paid. Making more money will help solve most of your problems in the beginning.

Sometimes you have to make tough financial decisions and really look at the numbers. This year, I made the decision to get rid of Quick Start sessions, which were 90-minute, one-time financial coaching sessions. Those sessions helped a lot of people, but they were a distraction from my ongoing client base that needed more of my attention.

Now, I refer prospects who would have been ideal Quick Start session clients to other financial planners. I have more than 50 ongoing clients, and landed more clients last month than I have in over a year. By taking Quick Start sessions off my plate, I got back more time to dedicate to serving my ongoing clients and bringing on new ones!

Work Hard, Play Hard

You went into business for yourself so you’d never have to answer to anyone else. But if you completely give your time over to your work, you’re still serving another master. I see too many entrepreneurs work seven days a week, and I’ve been guilty of this too.

Work smart and be protective of your time. You can accomplish a lot in a day and still have a life. Take some time to rest and recharge. Make plans with friends or family in the evening and on the weekends so that you have something to look forward to and your work doesn’t become your life. And don’t forget to have fun!