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How You Can Keep Your Personal Life Straight While Bootstrapping Your Business

“Bootstrapping a business is not without its challenges,” writes Entrepreneur’s Michelle Goodman.

“Besides the long hours and the strain on personal relationships, it can be tricky to split one’s creative juices between two professional pursuits.”

She’s certainly not wrong.

Even when pulling investment capital from other sources, starting a business is an immense, all-consuming undertaking; one which can easily take over your life if not properly managed.

It’s an even more monumental task when bootstrapping. You’ll often find yourself having to juggle multiple professional and personal pursuits – up to and including their business.

Unfortunately, that can very easily take its toll on your personal life. Family members may begin to feel “alienated, taken advantage of, or overburdened with an unfair share of daily chores,” explains marriage and family therapist Rachel Sussman,  as you stop making time for them in order to focus on work. Your social life, too, may go straight down the tubes, as you have no time to spend with friends amongst your overly-busy schedule. Not only that, you could potentially even find yourself working so much that you simply can’t think outside the box any longer.

It happens more often than you might think.

“I just arrived back from a weekend trip to Munich” explains Business Coach J V Crum. “You see, I decided I needed to break out of a rut. You may be familiar with this one yourself. You know the one where you get swept up in work and find yourself consistently turning in 70-80 hour weeks? Even though I own my business and control my time, I had gotten myself into one of those.”

That’s dangerous, continues Crum, because by letting your business overtake your life – by putting on hold the things that you want to do – you’re potentially stymying your own creative thought process. You start to neglect more than just your personal life – you start eating worse, sleeping less, and barely exercising.

All of this together starts to have an adverse effect on your mind – sending both your productivity and creativity through the floor.

Unfortunately,says journalist Brigit Schulte, our current workplace culture is completely obsessed with how much we work – not necessarily how much we get done. The problem with this is that it’s in our downtime that we get all of our best ideas. It’s “In the breaks where the ‘aha moment’ comes.’

“When you look at human performance science, there’s such great evidence that working all these hours doesn’t get you where you want to go,” Schulte explains to Fast Company. “While you may be able to work a few 60-hour weeks, eventually you’ll be so burnt out that you lose the ability to be creative and innovative.”

So…how can you bootstrap your business and still have time for friends, family, and personal recreation? How can you prevent yourself from working seventy- to eighty-hour weeks, and being too burnt out to do anything that isn’t business related?

Crum’s advice is that you simply need to take charge – in much the same way as you’ve shaped your business to be how you want it, you should do the same with your personal life. Constantly focus on the life you want to live, and do whatever it takes to pursue it. More than anything, he advises not being fooled by thinking you’ve got too much on your plate:

“If your business has taken over your life,” says Crum, “it’s time for a turnaround. You don’t want to look back on your life and feel like you missed it.”

According to InforcePRO managing partner and CSO Jim Ruta, one excellent way to do this is to treat yourself not as the founder of your venture, but simply as another employee. Set regular hours for yourself, and stick to them. Treat yourself to the occasional vacation, and give yourself a bonus every now and then – just because you own the company, doesn’t mean you need to run everything at the expense of your personal health.

Moreover, never assume you need to do things alone. Sometimes, you’re going to encounter a problem that floors you, or you’re going to be completely overloaded with work. At that point, you’re going to need to turn to friends, employees, family, or your co-founders to help you through it. If you aren’t willing to do that, your business is going to suffer along with both your personal and professional life.

“Many entrepreneurs want to be the one who comes to the rescue in a problem,” writes Inc’s Erik Sherman. “Unfortunately, that’s something to feed your ego, not expand the business. Give employees, family members, or whoever can help out a chance to shine in the spotlight.”

Last, but certainly not least – and this is probably the most valuable piece of advice Sherman gives – keep close track of how much you’re actually advancing your business. A lot of the time, an entrepreneur will sacrifice their downtime in order to put more time in at their business – unfortunately, this is more often than not a futile effort.

It’s ironic. Many entrepreneurs who let their business take over their life think they’re actually making progress. Unfortunately, in many cases, the opposite is true – they’d end up getting more done if they’d simply take the time to relax now and then, says Tony Schwartz of the New York Times. Like Schulte, he firmly believes that our current workplace culture is horrendously flawed – people simply aren’t made to work for long, uninterrupted stretches.

“Working in 90-minute intervals turns out to be a prescription for maximizing productivity,” Schwartz notes, citing a study by Professor K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University, noting also that amongst elite musicians, athletes, actors, and chess players, “the best performers typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no longer than ninety minutes.”

Bootstrapping instead of seeking out investors can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make as an entrepreneur. With no investors to answer to, you’ll have complete control over how you run things. Not only that, if you mess up, you’ll also (presumably) be free from debt if your business should fail.

The trade-off, of course, is that bootstrapping requires significantly more time, effort, and expertise than investment. In other words, before you bootstrap, you need to be certain you’re ready for the toll it could take on your personal life. If you cannot maintain a proper work/life balance, then you’re going to start to feel overwhelmed, and your business will suffer for it.

Image credit: NKNS

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Kevin Blanchard

Kevin Blanchard

Kevin Blanchard is the CEO of ServerMania.