The Gray Cat Blog

A comprehensive collection of blogs designed to assist small business owners and multiunit operators.

Adding Balance to Your Life

Jun 20, 2023

One of the greatest benefits of being a sole proprietor is that I can wield tremendous influence over my schedule and thus, add balance to my life.  Gone are the days of “punching a clock” where I am expected to be in a certain place for a period of time – read that as “9-to-5”.  Rather, as an entrepreneur, I am judged on the amount of work I can produce and if I can get from point A to point Z more efficiently, then I add hours to other parts of my life that create overall balance.

The way I achieve balance is that I view my life well beyond a 40-hour work week.  Instead, I look at having 168 hours a week (24 x 7) at my disposal.  I am better suited for working in the mornings when I am sharpest, so I start my day at 5:30AM to optimize on that productivity.  After a four-to-six mile walk, I am usually in the office at 7:30AM and begin to crank out the work.  My goal is two-fold:  a) produce high-quality work; and b) do it in the shortest time possible.  And when I have 168 hours to pull from, I can accomplish quite a lot.

Having spent half my career in a corporate world, I didn’t just learn these time-balance ideas when I became an entrepreneur.   I had some large roles in my corporate career and time management was the only thing that kept my sanity.  To keep ahead of the countless meetings and deadlines, I had to be all over my time management skills to maintain any semblance of balance in my life.  Here are some of the key items that helped:

Own your Calendar:  This is the key for me.  My calendar is my driving force to achieving balance because I do not stop at scheduling work tasks, but I include and force myself to add non-work items into this timeline.  I schedule work items; chores to be completed; recreational events; and travel.  Fortunately for me, I can get by on about 5-6 hours of sleep each night, so right there I pick up about 20 hours extra per week to tap into.  I am an avid gardener so rather than tie up my entire weekend tending to the gardens, I schedule projects throughout the week to tackle (i.e., in-between business calls) that spreads out the workload.  This balances not only my mental state but is a heck of a lot physically easier on my body!

Importance of Exercise:  Which leads me to this – the importance of exercising.  I mentioned earlier that I walk everyday and not only does this add the routine of exercise into my life, but also gives me some quiet time to organize my day/week ahead.  Often, I am writing ideas in my head as I walk or putting together to-do lists – both work and fun – for the upcoming week.  Combined with other forms of exercise throughout the week that keeps my energy level up, I can accomplish a great deal over a given period.

Turn it Off:  Our phones have become an appendage to our body.  In fact, according to Data Reportal, “screen time has increased by almost 50 minutes per day since 2013 and now the average American spends 7 hours and 4 minutes looking at a screen each day.”  Think about that.  That is 30% of your day looking at your phone and not being present in the moment.  I was fortunate enough to take my son to the Masters this year and they have a strict “phones not allowed” policy.  While it was odd not to have my phone for 12 hours, my son and I enjoyed the “moment” because of this policy.

Spend Time Alone:   This may seem like an odd one, but it offers moments of quiet relaxation throughout the week.  I am a crossword puzzle enthusiast, and there may be nothing more relaxing than sitting in my gardens doing the crossword puzzle every day for thirty minutes with a cup of coffee.  In addition, I used to travel a ton for work (about 200K miles a year) and if you have ever been a road warrior you know that you spend countless nights eating by yourself in restaurants on the road.  I got used to that solitude (though it can be a bit much for a road warrior) and now that I am home a lot more, I still go out to dinner alone a few times a month to enjoy the meal in solitude. 

Foster relationships:  Last, but clearly not least, you must foster and develop relationships.  As much as I appreciate some scheduled alone time, having a network of friends and colleagues is critical to enhancing balance by socializing and bouncing ideas off one another.  Although I have a nice circle of close friends, I also have a wide network overall.  Tapping into this relationship network on an ongoing basis helps me from being consumed by groupthink. 

Achieving balance can be challenging ongoing endeavor and it clearly does not follow a linear path.  We are thrown continual curveballs in our lives and being able to manage through those hiccups by employing some of these tips, can keep your life in balance. 

John Matthews, President & CEO, Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc.

John Matthews is the Founder and President of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc. a Raleigh, NC-based management consulting company. Gray Cat specializes in strategic project management and consulting for multi-unit operations; interim executive management; and strategic planning. Mr. Matthews has over 30 years of senior-level executive experience in the retail industry, involving three dynamic multi-unit companies. Mr. Matthews experience includes President of Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches; Vice President of Marketing, Merchandising, Corporate Communications, Facilities and Real Estate for Clark Retail Enterprises/White Hen Pantry; and National Marketing Director at Little Caesar's Pizza! Pizza!