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Columbia Business Monthly

A few tips for achieving a good work-life balance

By Eddie Wales

In the bustling world we live in, it often feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day. How do we fit work, time with family and friends, community involvement and personal self-care into the span of a single day—especially when work consumes most of this time? Is it even possible to achieve a healthy work-life balance in this day and age? 

As a 30-year restaurateur who recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of my restaurant, Motor Supply Co. Bistro, I often get asked this question by others just starting in the industry and struggling to find time for anything outside of their day job. My simple answer is yes, it is possible to achieve a healthy work-life balance. Not only is it possible, but it’s necessary to living a happy, healthy life. 

You can’t necessarily have that balance right away, though. The advice I often give those starting out and working around the clock is to keep pushing on. You have to put in the hard work on the front end to receive the freedom that will come later. It’s true what they say about “the hustle”—it will get you places. 

I didn’t just wake up one day and have an excellent work-life balance. In my early years as a restaurant owner, I often worked more than 60 hours a week. As a sole proprietor, I spent those years building a business that I felt would later be solid enough to thrive without me physically there at all times. I knew that sacrificing my personal time would later reap great benefits. Now, I am able to manage many of the restaurant operations from my home office. This allows me to spend more time with my wife and kids and give myself breaks when I need to focus on personal growth.

Of course, no business can succeed without a reliable team. Hiring dependable staff and placing them in positions where they can succeed has been key to maintaining the work-life balance I have today. 

You have to be comfortable delegating duties to your team and trust that they have it under control in order to step back and enjoy time outside of the workplace. By hiring devoted staff, I am able to step back to fully focus on myself and my loved ones. This has allowed me to travel on the weekends, be present at my daughters’ club soccer games and enjoy pastimes like running and gardening. 

However, finding an ideal work-life balance can also have its challenges. When you have the freedom to take a few hours to yourself during the week, it can be easy to feel guilty that you’re not at work, and vice versa—if you stay too late at work, you might regret missing dinner with your family. You have to find a balance that works for you so that you can be fully present wherever you are.

That brings me to my last point—overscheduling. To have a solid work-life balance, you can’t overbook yourself in your professional or personal life. Be just as mindful with planning family activities as you are when you’re scheduling a month’s worth of meetings. Also, always plan in advance to avoid overscheduling. 

I always plan family vacations, for example, far enough in advance to know when I’ll be out of pocket and schedule work blocks outside of my vacation days. My family plans a trip out of the country every two years, and most trips are planned at least a year and a half in advance. By planning in advance, I know not to overlap future restaurant meetings with vacation days. Following this approach has allowed my family and I to travel to Costa Rica, Peru, Spain, Greece and France, and these trips hold some of my most cherished memories. 

It’s taken me years to find the right work-life balance. You might have already found it—or maybe you’re still searching. If finding a healthier work-life balance is important to you, make a plan that will help get you there. Finding the right balance isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. 

Eddie Wales is the owner of Motor Supply Co. Bistro in Columbia. The restaurant celebrated its 30th anniversary in December.