Navigating the Slippery Slope
Leith Hill, WE NYC Mentor

When I first dreamt of opening a healthy-sexy restaurant I had not owned my own business or been the lead manager at a job. I had always worked demanding jobs, but not ones in which the buck and all other responsibility started and stopped with me. In 2010, when I officially founded Ellary’s Greens, I thought I could maintain the work-life balance I had always enjoyed. After all, my two sons were out of the house and away at school. As long as I stayed committed to a balanced life, it would remain in balance, right?

Through the planning and building phases, the weekday work stopped at five or six p.m. Weekend work was not a part of this phase, so I preserved my evenings and weekends as personal time. While the decisions, planning and schedule were intense, they still allowed me to work out five days a week and spend weekends mooching around at farmers’ markets and visiting my sons at school.

Before you start, know the details of what is involved in the business so you can safeguard your personal time before you start.

Leith Hill

I clearly recall anxiously awaiting the opening of Ellary’s Greens so my life would be more “normal.” I would be in control of my work life, plus I would be pursuing my passions… or so I thought. I quickly learned that opening a restaurant in New York City requires that you know how to perform every job so you can jump in if the need arises. It also means that your work schedule mirrors the hours of operation of the business; in the restaurant industry, that is sunup to sundown, seven days a week.

Working out went by the wayside. Dinners with friends were always interrupted by texts, emails and calls coming in from the team on duty. Weekends away in the country or to see family were constantly interrupted and fraught with work worries. Manicures were a fond memory.

Business ownership is a marathon, not a sprint. It is key to maintain a work-life balance that is sustainable and does not lead to burnout. In the years since I opened Ellary’s Greens, I’ve learned a lot about maintaining that elusive balance.

  • Before you start, know the details of what is involved in the business so you can safeguard your personal time before you start. If you let workouts slide on Mondays because they are action-packed days to catch up after the weekend, you will probably not be able to regain that time without great effort.
  • Think carefully about the hours of operation of your business before you open. Be aware that you are the backup plan during all hours of operation whether you are scheduled to work or not.
  • Make sure your team or assistant knows your personal time goals to help you say no to others. Shut off your phone and your mind. If you need an outlet to get the running list of to-dos out of your mind, write them down. Those thoughts will be there later, and they may not be as critically important as you thought they were.
  • Leave your computer at the office as many nights as possible. It will save your back and your relationships.
  • Bring a good book on the subway and force yourself to get lost in another world during your commute.
  • Take vacations and truly leave – both mentally and physically.
  • Get outside, breathe, leave the office and change your scenery. Go for walks at lunch. Go to a museum after work or on weekends. Take yourself to a Wednesday matinee in NYC. There are plenty of shows that have inexpensive ticket services, and it’s a great escape!

Remember, it is difficult to balance work and life but critically important for your mental and physical health and for your relationships. Start with strict parameters around your personal time so your work does not choke your creativity, your professional growth and enjoyment, your ability to lead and the further development of your beloved business.