Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
CEOs feel the weight of every decision they ever made — not to mention every dire prediction about their business. It’s important to discern when it’s time to help with the heavy lifting and when you need to take a step back and reflect. Executives can balance the scales using these three key strategies to achieve balance, all the while increasing productivity in their company and for themselves.
1. Learn when to surrender
How many times have you tried to solve a problem only to discover a dozen more problems stemming from the first one? Or had a decision you made turn out to do more harm than good? Those are the times when most people push the hardest, determined to gain victory. It’s important to consider the cost when you maintain this relentless attitude. What is being sacrificed? Have you analyzed all the factors and possible breaking points, or are you the type of person who wants to achieve the goal at any price?
Surrender is an art, but it is a vital tool you can use at any time when you see that applying force in a situation is going to end in collateral damage. I have to press the “surrender button” often. I’m legally blind. I rely on my team members as the eyes, ears, legs and hands of the company. As a result, I use my brain all day — my imagination is on fire anticipating problems, responding to needs, memorizing, making decisions and collaborating. Sometimes the workday is long. But no matter how tempting it is to get everything on your list done, you have to know when to back off.
A surrender moment might be calling it a day, going to bed early and waking up at 4 a.m. the next morning to read emails or prepare for a meeting. You may find podcasts or audiobooks to decompress with or take 10 minutes to meditate or calm your thoughts with music. These are small, quick moments where you may put off important decisions, meetings or tasks, knowing you will not be giving your best.
Just when people are demanding that you solve a problem immediately, you are taking five minutes to step back and reflect. Surrendering at the right moment of frustration can often bring a creative solution to the surface of your mind; in fact, giving in to the obstacle instead of trying to force the situation can often save you time.
2. Put yourself in check
Have you often felt that the push and pull of business has overwhelmed you to exhaustion? Maybe you feel as though you don’t have time to strategize or contemplate your direction because the mere constant on-the-fly decisions and the swirl of problems seem overwhelming. It’s easy to tell yourself you need to change your work-life balance, but many business leaders find this kind of revolution tough to achieve.
If you are constantly driving and pushing, that is when fatigue can lead to multiple negative outcomes, including a feeling of desperation leading to bad decisions. Not only is this detrimental to your health and well-being, but it can also trigger other negative outcomes for your company. Building in balance and putting yourself in check is vital. It starts with asking hard questions and answering them honestly. Are you lopsided in life? Are you overambitious? Do you need to recharge? How can you best do that? It’s easy to say “no” to spontaneous invitations to let off steam — there’s always more work to be done.
One way to ensure your work and personal life are balanced is to have an accountability partner. This person should know your strategies for making room for relaxation and quiet as well as a little fun. At the same time, you can begin scheduling commitments aimed at recharging your batteries: Put everything on the calendar, both personal and business, including planned breaks, attending a school play, working out, getting a massage, going for a walk or just dining alone with the phone off in a restaurant you enjoy. You can even schedule a night out with friends, a morning coffee date or a karaoke party. You would then share the schedule with your accountability partner — they should call or text you regularly, asking whether you met your commitment to bring more balance into your life.
3. Find and set boundaries
It’s great to know your own boundaries so you can reflect, study and handle yourself in a crisis. However, no matter how your business is set up, you are dealing with other people, too: employees, colleagues and customers. Negotiating with others’ schedules and managing the workflow will require patience. You’ll need to learn when to put your foot on the pedal and when to release.
Getting to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members is most important here. What are their peak work hours? Are they morning people, or do they stay up late and work into the night? You’ll need to build in praise, encouragement and even celebration to honor their time, talents and dedication.
Even if you only employ one or two other people, you’ll need to be aware of personal struggles, triggers, tragic events — like the loss of a family member — or divergent abilities they may be reluctant to reveal to you. Fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding can go a long way toward helping individuals feel comfortable sharing valuable information with you about their lives. You may discover healthy ways to push employees beyond their limitations or fears. On the other hand, you may find that simply being a source of comfort and strength for individual team members is all you can do — and you may have to pull back at times, allowing those who face extreme challenges the time to grieve or heal.
There are times when a partnership or working relationship has achieved its end. In those times, you’ll have to learn to accept change as part of the cycle of living and be respectful of your own need to let go if a loyal employee or colleague makes a pivot. At those times, you will have the chance to take the high road, wish them well, thank them and leave them with sincere good wishes for their future. At the same time, you can look forward to meeting the next teammate down the road.
Learning when to put the pressure on and when to take a step back are equally vital to the success of the team, the original vision of the company and a healthier, happier you. When you build structure into your whole life — surrender, balance and boundaries — you will find the peace you need to navigate all obstacles and restore the joy of being an entrepreneur.