Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
In my experience in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, “hustle” and “work-life balance” are two terms that get thrown around a lot, and most of the time, the people using these terms do not truly understand them. Instead, these terms get used as buzzwords in an attempt to motivate team members or look good in front of peers, when, in fact, they have the opposite effect. I want that to stop.
There is nothing wrong with using either term, but if you’re going to use them, in my opinion, it’s important to truly understand them and believe in what they represent. This may be difficult, especially if you are a business owner or a working parent, or both. However, it is not impossible. I know, because it’s how I run my business.
Related: Why Hustle Culture Might Be Toxic to Your Business
Some people may disagree with me, but, in my opinion, it is not a “flex” if you’re constantly hustling. Some business owners and team members like to brag about working constantly, but what are they actually achieving? Are they really ahead of the game because they dedicate all their time to working? Are they happy with their lives? Are they mentally and physically healthy? Or are they just acting a part to appear as though they’re doing better than they are?
After having worked for years among the higher ranks in the corporate world and now as an entrepreneur running my own company, as far as I am concerned, “hustle” is overrated. Sure, there will be times when you need to grind it out to meet a deadline or because you have a particularly demanding project, but, if you are managing your time correctly, that should not be your daily reality. Hustling all the time is a surefire way to burn out, and whether you’re the one doing all the work or it’s your team who is being asked to hustle, that’s not what anyone wants.
I know that work-life balance is important. In fact, it’s something I personally preach. The problem is when people use the term but don’t practice it themselves. I don’t consider it work-life balance when you’re habitually answering emails or calls after hours, during the time you’re supposed to be spending with your family or just with yourself. If you say that your workday ends at a specific time, but then you continue to focus your attention on work, how is that balance?
It’s not fair for leaders to expect their team members to consistently dedicate time after hours to work, and it’s not fair for team members to consistently ignore their work during the workday to focus on their personal business. Of course, there are exceptions, but they should only be exceptions and agreed upon in advance whenever possible. In any event, when your focus is constantly split between work and personal, then both will suffer.
Related: 10 Myths About Work-Life Balance and What to Do Instead
When things don’t go as planned
I started thinking a lot more about “hustle” and “work-life balance” when lockdowns and school and daycare closures completely upended our lives, essentially erasing the line separating work and home life. For the people without children, perhaps the adaptation was less problematic, but for those who were suddenly forced to figure out how to navigate schooling and childcare at home while also working from home, it was a formidable challenge.
While I have always run my company according to a family-first philosophy, during the pandemic, this approach made all the difference. As many of my team members were unprepared to accommodate children at home during the workday, I made it a special point to create an environment that was supportive and flexible, with the understanding that, as long as the work is getting done and the quality remains, there is no need to insist on eight straight hours of each person’s full attention.
I think we all came out of the pandemic with a deeper understanding perspective on what it means to hustle and how to achieve work-life balance. Overall, as a team, we were able to successfully adapt to the demands of pandemic life, and the habits we developed during that time have carried over into our current operations.
A better way
Maintaining our philosophy of family first and guided by what we learned during the pandemic, my business partner and I have done our best to take the “hustle” out of our work and achieve true “work-life balance.” That is, when we’re working, we’re 100% focused on our work, and when we’re not working, we’re 100% focused on our personal lives. We have set working hours, and we very rarely let our work intrude on our personal time. We ask the same of our team as well, because we know they also have lives beyond work that deserve their full attention. Organizing our time in this way means that we are never splitting our focus. It improves the quality of our work and our emotional well-being.
This does not mean that we are so rigid that we cannot step away during the day to attend to some personal business. And it doesn’t mean that the odd work issue won’t overflow into our personal time. What it does mean is that, when we are at work, we are all working with our full attention focused on the tasks at hand. No one is afraid to communicate when they need to take a break or step away, and no one is allowing their work to overrun their personal life.
Related: Replacing the Hustle Mindset With the Unhustle Mindset
I understand that not everyone is in the position to practice what I am advocating here, but maybe they can strive to draw a clearer line between their work and home lives. Or maybe they can find some ways to better organize their time to prevent having to work long hours.
My experience tells me that when you believe in the concepts you are preaching to your team and your peers, you have a better chance of achieving your goals, you produce quality work without having to sacrifice your well-being, and you get what you need to stay productive while maintaining a healthy balance between work and personal time.