The importance of work-life balance

  • Columns
  • Sunday, 05 Jun 2016

If you’re unhealthy and unhappy personally, chances are, you’re not going to be very productive at your business or workplace either.

Q: What daily habits helped you build so many companies and amass such wealth? – Vuyo Nkwanyane

Running a business (or many of them!) can be a stressful endeavour. Looking back over my 50 years as an entrepreneur, one of the major keys to my success has been my ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.

I believe in so this strongly, and so do the heads of our many Virgin companies, that we encourage our employees across the entire Virgin Group to do whatever they need to do to foster their personal lives as well as accomplish their goals at work.

They can choose to set flexible schedules, working when and where they’re most productive.

Employees at Virgin Management have access to unlimited paid leave. These sorts of initiatives mean that our staff is happier and healthier – and, as I often say, if you look after your people, they will look after your business.

To maintain my own work-life balance, there are six things that I try to do every day:

Rise early

No matter what time zone I happen to be in, I tend to wake up at 5am so that I can use the early morning hours to get some exercise and spend time with my family. This routine helps put me in a positive mindset before I get down to business.

Of course, not every entrepreneur likes to get up so early. Find a routine that enables you to work on your most challenging tasks when you’re at your most productive. Perhaps your ideal routine might be to get a later start, then after the day is done, destress by relaxing with family and friends.

Limit screen time

I love social media, email and all the communication opportunities that technology provides. But you can’t let your devices take control, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur. So I find that it’s best to check both my email and social media at the start of my working day, and then only at intervals that I determine for myself.

If you’re not paying attention, social media can become a distraction and a hindrance, rather than a highly useful business tool and a fun way to communicate. Monitor your usage of your devices so that they don’t run your life.

Write lists

I carry a notebook everywhere, and I’m constantly writing lists and taking notes – this technique has helped to make Virgin what it is today. Everything from our original logo to our first business plan all began as scribbles in a notebook.

Find a method that works best for you, whether it’s doodles, charts or bullet points. Or just write down what you need to accomplish and cross tasks off as you complete them – there’s something very satisfying about ticking items off a list.

Make time for sports

I get up early to exercise because it gives me energy, improves my focus and concentration, and even helps me sleep better at the end of the day.

I really enjoy kite-surfing – I see it as a good opportunity to get away from all the other stresses of life and business.Life is a lot more fun if you make time for sport. I’d definitely recommend finding something you like doing, perhaps a sport or a routine at the gym, to keep yourself focused throughout the day.

Make time for loved ones

I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my family. When I was young and just starting out in business, my parents encouraged me and supported my entrepreneurial spirit. I’ve tried to be similarly supportive of my children, and I make it a priority to spend time with them and my wife Joan every single day.

It reminds me of why I do what I do.Set aside some time every day for your loved ones. If you can’t be together, talk on the phone or through Skype. Switch your emails off and give them your full attention, even if it’s just half an hour. You’ll be more relaxed, and may even learn things from them that can help in your business.

Embrace something new

I love new experiences, and I try to learn at least one new thing every day. I never went to university, but I consider life to be one long educational experience.

No matter what your career goals are, try to do something different each day. See where it takes you, and what you can learn. This has made every day of my life an adventure – who knows where it might take you! – Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

  • Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is founder of the Virgin Group. He became an entrepreneur at 16 and made his first million at the age of 25.
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