Six years ago, I was on my honeymoon in Mexico. As I’d always done on holidays, I scoured the business section of the bookstore looking for a business-related title that I thought would give me some inspiration about a future business venture I’d always planned for. On this occasion, I actually found a book that I couldn’t put down, and one that directly leads me to not only starting a business with my business partner but one that still gets talked about daily in our goals and aspirations. That book was ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ by Tim Ferris.
Now I know what you’re probably thinking is ‘Great - another business guy who raves about 4-hour work-week’, but stay with me. Spoiler alert - 4 years into being the CEO of one of the UK’s fastest-growing agencies, I’m nowhere near working 4 hours a week. But what I have done in my time since reading the book is to test, try out and come up with ways to reduce the time I spend on things that aren’t important, delegate more and generally spend more time at work and outside of work doing things that I want to. Here’s what I’ve learned in the past 6 years on how I’ve truly improved my work-life balance:
Create, document and delegate key business processes
18 months ago, I was acting as the CEO, project manager, and marketing director for Blend. While I had some processes written down, most of them were on personal documents and not being shared with my business partner Peter. I also discovered that Peter was doing the same. At the same time, we’d just completed our largest ever project by value...and made a loss. After meeting Rachel Jacobs from eCommerce Partnerships, we started to soon see how our lack of processes and lack of delegating those processes were going to kill our business. It was time to change, fast.
The biggest impact to me personally was the mental strain, I was spending 24/7 thinking, worrying, and ruminating on this, and it was causing big issues in my work-life balance and the relationships both inside and outside of the company.
The transformation here to my work-life balance was made after we did the following:
- With Rachel’s help, wrote down (on a google doc) the step by step processes we had for:
- On-boarding a client
- Managing a project
- We then pulled these apart by looking at where the strain was and what needed to be changed and maintained.
- We then used Monday.com to officially document these processes.
- Finally, we spent 12 months implementing, testing, and tweaking these processes with our team, where Peter and I were being removed from each process as much as possible.
The end result here is that we now have team members that are owners of each process and are responsible for making sure that these processes are not only followed but improved on a minimum of once a quarter. By doing this, Peter and I not only are removed from the day-to-day of the business but get the headspace to think more creatively and strategically about Blend. From a work-life balance perspective, this means that even if we have a member of staff ill or unable to work on a process, we have the step by step instructions of what to do in any given situation giving 100% peace of mind.
Complete a quarterly delegation and outsource audit
When we first started Blend, Peter and I always had a tendency to think that we had to do it all. From marketing to accounting, to even arranging bin collections. I know from talking with many entrepreneurs that this is always the same dangerous path that we walk down. There came a point that we just couldn’t keep this up and realised we needed to either delegate or outsource tasks that were zapping our time and energy.
To start this process, we decided to write down all of the tasks we’d completed in the past month. We then scrutinised each of these by asking:
- Did that task help us drive more revenue? If not, don’t do it again.
- If it did drive revenue, am I the person who needs to do that?
- Even if I am, what other things could I be doing instead of that?
- Would that other thing add more value to the business?
By doing this, we soon saw many tasks that didn’t need to be done and lots that could be delegated and outsourced. For example, why was I personally approving posts and members on our Facebook group and responding to comments? I delegated this to a member of the marketing team and swapped this with writing a strategically focused blog (like this one).
Not only has this meant that I’ve reduced the need for me to be working beyond my capacity, but it’s also empowered a member of the team and allowed me to create more value for the business. The crucial point here is that this has to be done once a quarter - it’s a habit that we take tasks on that we don’t add value to and that could be delegated or outsourced.
Focus on one social media channel
“You’re bloody addicted to the thing!” - Ever heard that one from your spouse? I did. My phone has taken over my life on many occasions - and in fact, it’s something that I’m battling with right now due to the launch of Clubhouse. The issue I had is that I was trying to interact on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin and tailor my posts to generate leads and opportunities for Blend. The reality was that I couldn’t keep up, and my posts on ALL platforms were failing.
About 6 months ago, I decided to focus solely on Linkedin. Ultimately, I decided to do this as I discovered this is where the best opportunities were. Not only has this meant I’ve actually secured a number of projects off the back of it, but also meant that I’m not glaring at my iPhone when I should be eating dinner, bathing my daughter, or on a date. Trust me, your partner will appreciate this.
Don’t work standard hours
Some of my team were surprised when I had my slack status set to ‘At swimming with Zara.’ My daughter has swimming lessons once a week from 10.30 am - 11 am. Initially, I was hesitant to do this, but as a company that’s always offered flexibility to staff, why shouldn’t I do the same for myself. In reality, this just means that I don’t take a lunch break one day a week, but get to spend quality time with my daughter that enriches me and her. It's a small amount of time that if I didn’t take, I’d have missed out on:
- Seeing her jump in the pool for the first time
- Swimming underwater for the first time
- Screaming with excitement when the toys are brought into the pool.
Now while it might not be swimming with your daughter, I’d ask you this: Is there something you’d love to do in the daytime that you could catch up working on later? If so, do it.
Work towards a 4-day week and then do it
At the start of January, Peter and I announced to our team that we would now be working from Monday to Thursday. It might have felt that this was a snap decision after Christmas, but this was actually a goal of ours for 2 years. Since we’d both started families, we wanted to make sure we could grow our business and maximise the time we spent with our wives and children. Alongside this, we found that having space outside of the office always gave us great ideas, so it seemed like a great focus to have.
By slowly increasing the responsibilities and ownership of Blend to our team, we were not only able to feel comfortable doing this but also realise that this was the best thing for the growth of our business. Our team feel more empowered and we bring better ideas to the table. While I’m not saying this is every entrepreneur’s dream, having a long term goal to improve work-life balance should be part of every entrepreneur’s plan.
So, there are my thoughts based on my experiences. I’d love to hear from other entrepreneurs about what you’ve experienced and what you’ve done to improve your work-life balance. Please do comment below or connect with me on Linkedin.