When I started my first company, funneling all my time and resources into it was a no-brainer. I  loved what I was doing and was so passionate about it, that for me, it never really felt like work. I wasn’t considering time for a social life or hobbies because I started my company with the mindset that if I worked today like no one else would, I could live tomorrow like no one else could. Balance wasn’t the priority for me back then, and while those early days of starting my business were far from easy, going all in to build my company was the only option for me—it’s how I’m wired, and I knew it’s what it would take for us to succeed. My company—and the dream I was working toward—was the very thing that fueled me and gave me the pep in my step to keep going. 
But this isn’t the case for everyone—truthfully, it probably isn’t the case for most people, and certainly not as a long-term practice. We need balance in our lives. And while I may thrive when I’m throwing myself into my work—and had the ability to do that when I was young and had few responsibilities outside of work—it can be a quick path to burnout if you’re not careful.
In my early 20s, building my business was all I wanted to do. I had a vision and a mind that couldn’t help but obsess over how to make it a reality. I won’t lie, it was tough—thrilling yes, but also bleak and isolating. But I was so singularly focused on my “why,” that I genuinely wanted to spend hours making cold calls, working on spreadsheets late into the night, and personally signing pitch letter after pitch letter. That mindset—that singular focus, dogged determination, and unyielding drive—undoubtedly fueled my company’s success, and it’s something entrepreneurs do need in the early years of building a business. But it’s not the whole picture.     
As the years passed and my business grew, we were able to scale, and it wasn’t as hard to be able to take some moments of time away from the office here and there. I eventually got married and, living on opposite coasts, found myself traveling cross-country, working during the day out of our LA office, and seeing my husband during the evening. For a time, compartmentalization worked pretty well, and it was easy enough to manage. I really thought I had this whole balance thing figured out—that is, until I became a parent, and then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
As many working parents can surely attest, if you ever wondered what it was like to juggle dozens of balls in the air at the same time, that’s exactly what it feels like to become a mom while running a business. When I had my first son, I took a weekend off to give birth (yes you read that right), and I was right back in the office on Monday. While I very thankfully had the privilege to afford childcare services during the day, I had a lot of guilt about not being able to spend as much time with my children at first. There’d be weeks upon weeks where I’d spend all night breastfeeding and had to pump while in the office. Over time, it became easier to manage, and I’d find ways to make it work, like offering to do the early drop-offs at my kids’ school, but I also found myself wanting to squeeze in as much time as possible with my sons. One day when I was in a meeting for a young CEO's networking organization, I found myself zoning out and thinking I wish I was with my sons right now. So I quit that group and did exactly what I wanted to do—go home and hang out with my kids.
You don’t have to be a working parent to experience the feeling of wanting to do something for yourself that isn’t work. Many times, balance is about finding time for the things you want to do. Maybe there’s a hobby you wish you had more time for, maybe you’ve always wanted to volunteer at a nonprofit, or maybe you want to make more time to see your parents living on the other side of the country. My recommendation: if it’s important to you, do it. I know firsthand that taking time off work can be hard, especially if you’re running a company that’s trying to scale, or if you’re trying to get ahead and move up in your career. However, it’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty glass, and not taking the time for the things you want to do may lead you to resent the role you’ve worked so hard for or the business you spent years building. 
Business leaders should remember to apply this logic to their teams too. If your entire team is suffering from burnout, and all they do is give to the company around the clock, they’re not going to have the energy or desire to make the company flourish. Make sure your business has policies, accommodations, benefits that will allow your employees to succeed at their jobs without sacrificing their lives outside of work. A robust support system is key, and it not only benefits your employees’ well-being, but your company’s well-being as well. From parental leave to flexible hybrid work options, there are a growing number of options available to help you look out for your people and create a healthy, balanced workplace.   
Balance isn’t an easy feat, especially if you’re an admitted workaholic with no off switch like myself. If you’re working toward something you’re passionate about or giving your work your all is simply in your DNA, thinking about balance is even more critical. Without finding equilibrium, something has to give and whether it’s your family, personal life, or work, something will suffer. Don’t let yourself get to the point of crashing and burning. 
Success is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to be able to stay in the race. You can’t win if your legs give out before you even reach the finish line. So give yourself permission to make time for the things that are important to you. Sign up for that running club, book that flight to your parents’ house for your mom’s birthday, or actually clock out at five to finish that crochet project catching dust or get home for family movie night. Because if you don’t do it now, when will you?


Liz Elting