Being an entrepreneur is probably one of the most difficult things I have had to do. It consumes the bulk of my thinking and activity; even writing this blog post is part of being an entrepreneur. Everyone faces different circumstances related to starting a new business. Many mental health practitioners often work multiple jobs while getting their practice up and running. In this week’s post I want to discuss my own experience with getting a practice up and running, ways in which shifts in that business effected my work/life balance and provide a few suggestions for achieving and maintain your balance while getting your business up and running.
When I first opened my Marriage and Family Therapy Practice, I was also working full-time at a large research university where my primary role was Department Chair. Being the department chair of one of the largest degree programs on campus with ¼ of the faculty and staff of other departments on campus meant I was doing much more with much less and living in a state of burnout. Both of my children were still at home and my wife was finishing her graduate degree and moving on to her doctorate. To say we were all busy is an understatement.
In the beginning I spent a lot of weekends at the new one office clinic, getting it set up, working on documents I needed, vision planning, setting up systems, etc. It was a lot of work. As I started to see clients, I also spent several hours each evening at the clinic. I am not proud of the fact I was working 70-80 hours a week during this time. Other than the extreme imbalance between work and life, I had difficulty listening to my own body and mind. I loved the work I was doing so it was difficulty to pay attention to the signs of burnout.
After a few years of working like this, it became very clear that things needed to change. I needed to find a better work/life balance. I started to think about what bringing on a new clinician would mean for the practice. I gave it a try and had a few false starts with clinicians that were not really interested in what I was trying to build. Over time though, I was able to find clinicians who had complementary ideas and interest in helping me build HealingChoice. Although initially it was a lot of work to bring on new employees, it actually started to free up my time, significantly. I was able to grow the practice by having more clients be seen by other therapists. I was also able to balance my time by seeing fewer clients and focusing on those I truly wanted to work with and thought I could help.
The other major struggle I was having during this time was more cognitive. I wasn’t sure what my identity was, and this was having a huge impact on my work/life balance. I had identified as several different things over the course of my working life. I had spent a little more than a decade in retail and did a lot of different jobs but ultimately, I was a trainer. I then worked in full-time pastoral ministry and was able to identify as a minister. Now I was a Marriage and Family Therapist, a Minister, a Professor, a Husband, a Writer, a Business owner, a Father, etc. At the time none of those identities seem to come together and make sense for me.
I began to work seriously on a plan to integrate these multiple identities in a way that would help me think about how to best spend my time. I read books on business, on entrepreneurship, and strategic planning. I also read books on polymathy. As I began to read more (which was initially difficult because it was one more thing added to my daily to do list), I began to look for ways to experiment and try new ways of experiencing my daily life.
I started experimenting with different planners, I tried several with minimum effect until I found a system that really worked for me. Not only did it work for me, but I was able to get a number of my staff and colleagues to start using the system. It became a way for us to connect. While the system was great and extremely helpful there were some missing components that were important to my role as a business owner and coach in the mental health field. So, I did what any busy person does, added a new project to my life; the Therapy Practice Planning system.
The system helped me better manage my work/life balance. Though I think of such balance as somewhat mythical there are some ways, I was able to create an ongoing balancing act.
Is a work/life balance attainable? With enough thoughtful effort, I think anyone can utilize or develop a process that works for them. Here is a free form that can help you get started on your journey to finding more freedom in your day!