Work-Life Balance is a Startup Fallacy

work-life balanceWhen advising new founding teams, entertaining an investment in new startups, and even talking with entrepreneurs about our book, The Startup Playbook, the concept of achieving work-life balance comes up frequently. Almost always, what the founders mean by balance is they think they can work 50% of their time on their startup and have 50% remaining for their non-work, personal life.


Startups, at least ones on a path to success, take an insane amount of work. Initially, you’ll be struggling to carve out parts of the day to just get some sleep. And, when you’re not actually doing the work that has to get done on any given day, you’ll be worrying about how it’s going to get done. That worry will occupy a lot of any free time that you have (see our related post on Founder Sacrifices – Time).

Becoming a founder means that life will be unbalanced in favor of the company. Of course, it’s important to carve out time and to do the right thing for family and friends. Spending 100 percent of your mental, emotional, and physical energy on the company is unhealthy. But, founders don’t have the same kind of flexibility with time that other career paths provide.

If this is your first time starting a company and you have a growing family, then it’s likely you’ll find being a founder more difficult. As founders and parents, we often have to prioritize work over our children, spouses, families, friends, and important life events. We make these decisions daily, knowing we’ll never get that time back with our loved ones.

It’s much healthier, and more reasonable when building a startup to think about work-life balance in terms of primarily working and simply making time for personal matters and relationships. That is, thinking ahead about scheduling that time away from the startup so that you don’t miss major events and you give yourself space to think about things other than your new company.

In this way, balance isn’t defined in terms of being a percentage of your time, but more like, things outside of work are included from time to time – you’ve made time to step away. That balance is achievable and is critical to your mental well being as well as for the health of your relationships with your family and friends.

If you’re interested in learning more about what goes on inside a startup and the life of entrepreneurs, check out The Startup Playbook, our guide to building a successful startup from scratch. Written by founders for founders.

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