Work-life balance: Worst practices!

If you run a small or medium business, more often than not you’re responsible for accomplishing a lot with very little. So, based on my own experience and conversation I’ve had with dozens of entrepreneurs, if you roll your eyes a bit when you’re told that you should strike a more harmonious balance between your job and your life, you are not alone.

The articles and blogs and tips and tricks that advise us to disengage a bit from our professional pursuits are often wrapped up beneath the heading “Best Practices.” And they almost always assume that there’s a team there to back you up. For the SMB entrepreneur, this is often simply not the case.

Rather than get depressed about how much time work consumes for small and medium business people, I decided to compile a list of my own. Based on my own experience running a small business, and the experiences of many others, I’m proud to introduce Work-Life Balance: Worst Practices!

  • I’ll take care of that as soon as you send me … Whether you fill in the blank with a business plan or updated financial data from your accountant, these words ensure that whatever information you need to accomplish what others are waiting for will arrive at the most inconvenient time possible. Then, being a person who cringes at the mere thought of being late, you’ll get started even though it’s Saturday night.
  • The liveline: “If” may be the most important word in the language. It differentiates “I’ll have that first thing Monday morning” from “I’ll have that first thing Monday morning if you …” The absence of the word “if” has the power to transform the concept of a deadline into a liveline. And when you’re working with a liveline, well, you’re working. A lot.
  • Holidays: Even though holidays may not include parties, for you, they’re still special. That’s because when everyone else is off work, your productivity skyrockets. So anyone who says you don’t enjoy holidays doesn’t know you very well.
  • This is not the U.N.: I once told a colleague that delegation might be the answer to many of her work-life balance challenges. “Delegation?” she asked. “Those are for the U.N.” In all fairness to my colleague, I don’t think she believed that she could do her job better than anyone else. I think she simply believed she could do it more quickly, with less pain and drama for all.
  • Working by numbers: Although I’m not alone, I’m one of the worst offenders when it comes to this particular worst practice. People I’ve worked with over the years have my number. They have my office number, my cell number (which is, incidentally, my home number). Some of them even have my husband’s number. Guess what? People use them.
  • Idle hands: Somewhere over the course of the last several million years, it was decided that we shall have two arms and two hands, each of which has four fingers and, most importantly, one thumb. So eating lunch or doing laundry while not also staying on top of e-mail and texting and Facebook and Twitter and any number of blogs wouldn’t be just a casual waste of resources, it would be downright disrespectful toward the elders of evolution.
  • The computer as accessory: We love our computers. In fact, my bag accommodates mine, so I can, and do, bring it with me everywhere. Ok, maybe not to birthday parties, but plane trips, vacations, and even long car rides are always a great opportunity to catch up on work. Yes, I am that guy typing away in the coffee shop on his PC.

These are just a few of my worst practices. I’d love to hear a few of yours.

Matthew Stibbe is writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. He is also an avid blogger, closet geek and HP fanatic.