Maintaining Personal Relationships When You Have a Demanding Career

Who are you surrounding yourself with while on your quest for world domination? Too often we find ourselves so busy just landing clients and running the day-to-day of our growing empires that we don’t make time for others in our lives. It’s far too easy to get wrapped up in our own world and shut people out when we’re in the zone. It’s even easier to find ourselves in that zone when we’ve convinced ourselves that we are doing this business thing on our own – cue the effects of isolation and mental health deterioration. There’s compiling evidence that people who surround themselves in strong, personal relationships not on live longer, but also cope better with stress, and exhibit better overall health. There’s even one study that found doubling your group of friends (IRL people, not online) has the same effect on your wellbeing as a 50% increase in income!

Not to mention, it can get lonely running a business. There’s always someone out there, it might even be a family member or once close friend, who means well but just doesn’t get it. Then, there’s always someone that does get it but fails to show the support you’d think they would (because, well they’ve got stuff they’re dealing with too). Surrounding yourself with a team of supportive people is an important aspect of wellness that will only help your business run more smoothly. So how can busy entrepreneurs keep their personal relationships in tact?

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It seems like everyone is obsessed with tracking, scheduling and timekeeping. You’re always booking appointments with clients, right? Schedule an appointment to go do something fun with your friends or loved ones. Your clients are important and so are you. So step away from that desk and get social outside of the walls that make your office (or your home if you work remotely). When was the last time you went out for a meal, a sporting event, maybe even a movie with someone that isn’t directly involved in your business? It’s always nice to take a step back and embrace the moment.

I know you don’t mean to neglect your friendships, and I get it’s just hard to find time. After spending 80 hours a week on your business (or between your 9-5 plus your side hustle), you’re no longer left with any energy to put into a personal life, but it’s necessary! Here’s a trick: try optimizing your schedule. For example, schedule a client meeting and then a coffee date with a friend at the same café back to back. You’re already there, so you’ve cut down travel time, and you can tell your client you have another meeting in an hour to ensure the business session doesn’t extend its welcome (nothing is worse than a client wanting to “have a quick touch-base coffee” that turns into a three hour endurance marathon to challenge your patience).

FYI – There’s actually substantial evidence that working over 50 hours per week will start to reverse your productivity. According to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University, it is so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours.

Back to relationships, in her book What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, Laura Vanderkam argues, “many workers simply lack the self-discipline to set proper boundaries.” Even if you know you have a bad habit of canceling plans (or if things always seem to fall through with your friends), you should still make the effort to coordinate and commit to social engagements. Vanderkam shares, “Planning a few anchor events for a weekend guarantees you pleasure because—even if all goes wrong in the moment—you still will have derived some pleasure from the anticipation.”

Next, let’s talk tech. When you do go out for anything that is considered fun or purely recreational, are you checking your phone every 5 seconds? That doesn’t seem like much fun for you or whoever you’re supposed to be spending time with. Be mindful enough to realize you are probably addicted to you phone, without even knowing it. That constant feed of news, notes, and nonsense is affecting our lives to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose according to a study by Time. WHAT?! Food and connection are innate human necessities, your smartphone is not. Get back to being a human. Choose people or food over your smartphone (you can do it… We have faith in you).

When our minds are on growing businesses and profit all day every day, it’s easy to be unaware that this kind of body language is coming off in a rude way. According to John Stoker, author of Overcoming Fake Talk: How to Hold REAL Conversations that Create Respect, Build Relationships, and Get Results, “93% of communication occurs through nonverbal behavior and tone; only 7% of communication takes place through the use of words.” Likewise, when a cell phone is physically present in a social situation, “individuals are more likely to miss subtle cues, facial expressions, and changes in the tone of their conversation partner’s voice, and have less eye contact,” according to a disturbing study study from researchers at Virginia Tech. So, auto-piloting on to spend down time flipping through apps or showing off your lightening fast reflex to respond to texts instantaneously is really just giving off bad vibes.

So, turn off all of the unnecessary notifications for a bit, put your phone away and if necessary, let the person that you’re hanging with take control of all of the impromptu phone photography and group selfie taking. It’s not like you weren’t going to see those photos anyway, right?

Businesses come and go, but you’ve only got one life. Your success is directly derived from the kind of person you are. To put that another way, you are the success, not your business. You can start another business if this one doesn’t work out (GASP!) because it’s YOU that has the secret sauce inside of you to accomplish your dreams – it’s not based on where your business is now, where it came from, or where it’s going. Don’t aim for a successful business, aim for a successful LIFE. You can’t let your business define you to the point where you would be right back in a state of entrepreneurial depression if it was suddenly gone tomorrow.

However you decide to spend time with those you’re close with, remember that you are supposed to be spending time with them. It may be killing you inside to think of all of that time out doing something enjoyable while you could be catching up some some never-ending project, but your loved ones and your business will thank you for it. In the grand scheme of things, stepping away from work to spend time with others will help strengthen your relationships and make you an even better entrepreneur. What’s the point of having a successful life if you don’t have anyone personal left around you to share it with?