Remember your partner and kids? Chances are that if you run your own business, you don’t see as much of them as you’d like – or should.

Finding the right work-life balance is crucial for small business owners. The Mental Health Foundation calls the growing demands of work “perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population”.

Smartphones and tablets might help us keep in touch when we’re on the move during the working day, but unless we are strict with ourselves, they can extend our working week into 24/7 and intrude into our holidays.

When I set my accountancy business Altus up, I was determined I would not be one of the many business owners who blurred the lines between work and home. So the mobile phone is switched off at evenings and weekends, and I will respond to any messages as soon as I can next day. Of course there will be times when you need to work that bit longer to meet deadlines, but unless you are a brain surgeon on call, the chances are that whatever issues arise outside office hours will not be a matter of life and death.

Busy-ness doesn’t equal success

Working long hours and at weekends can become a habit and we need to stop and ask ourselves if it is necessary, or do we do it because we feel we should? Being busy is not a barometer of how successful we are or how well our business is doing. The order book and P&L account will tell us that. It may have much more to say about our effectiveness.

It’s essential to honestly analyse your time – do you actually know what you have spent your time on? Spend a week faithfully noting down what you do and for how long – it may give you a shock.

There’s an old and true saying that sales are vanity, profit is sanity but cash is king. Are you spending your time chasing sales, running quicker and quicker to keep up, when it is profit you should be focusing on?

If you cannot get everything done in a usual working week, it can point to one of three things:

  1. You are trying to do too much yourself
  2. You are not working efficiently
  3. There is something fundamentally wrong with your business model

Remember the 3 Ds – delegate, dump, do. When you have analysed what you are doing, identify the things you have to do.

Learn to step back

In my experience many business owners are by their nature control freaks – you have to learn to accept that someone else will not do it quite the way you would, but their way is not necessarily wrong. Do you think Richard Branson does his own payroll?

The age-old excuse is that ‘I can’t afford to pay someone to do it’ – no wonder when you are spending all your time doing ineffective, unnecessary things. Spend that time making profit and you will have plenty of cash!

I was delighted recently when one of my clients said that thanks to Altus, he was now able to spend more time with his family, doing the things he loved.

A good accountant should be someone who wants to support your business throughout the year, providing services that leave you free to focus on what you do best.

Having worked in companies of varying sizes, and building up my own business from scratch, I know the pull to put in long hours, but it should never become the norm. At Altus we work with businesses to provide the services that they don’t have the time or expertise for, and I can also act as a ‘critical friend’, advising clients on how to be more effective.

There is some more advice on adjusting your work-life balance here.

Click here to find out how Altus can help you spend more time doing what you really want to do.