Life as a retail store owner or manager can be really tough.
Hours are long. Customers can be demanding. Sometimes the pile of things to do just never seems to stop growing.
On top of all of this “normal” retail struggle, the fact that the “buck stops with you” as the owner or manager can get you into a situation that eventually leads to burnout.
Strangely, many people seem to think that you can’t be effective in your work life while also being a happy, healthy human being.
We disagree. In fact, we would argue that being happy and healthy is crucial if you want to create a thriving retail store business.
The Trouble of Only Focusing On Work
Let’s be clear: hard work is not a bad thing.
Hard work can lead to some very, very good things in life, like creating a thriving retail store business. However, the buck doesn’t stop at working hard. If all you focus on is the hours you put in, you might not be able to sustain that pace.
You have to work hard AND work smart.
Part of “working smart” means taking actions to make sure that you can work hard for years to come.
Additionally, we don’t live in a black and white world where you can simply outwork your competition.
Your customers don’t directly care how hard you work unless it impacts their lives in a significant way. They’re tuned into radio station “WIIFM:” What’s In It For Me?
No, what your customers care about is getting their wants and needs met. This can happen as a consequence of hard work, but they’re not the same thing.
So a better definition of your success as a retail store manager is how effective you are. Effectiveness comes from a mixture of:
- Knowing your customers
- Knowing your market
- Knowing the retail industry’s ins and outs
- Innovative thinking
- People skills
And yes, hard work.
However, in order to be effective, you need to be thinking clearly. It’s really hard to think clearly when you’re not taking care of your body and your mind.
With this long intro aside, Let’s get into our first fundamental for retail store work-life balance:
#1: Prioritize Your Own Health Above All Else
In the international bestseller “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author Stephen Covey talks about four categories of work:
- Work that is urgent and important, as in you need to handle this situation RIGHT now.
- Work that is urgent and unimportant, like answering time sensitive emails that don’t lead to big results for your company.
- Work that is not urgent, but important, like working out and eating healthy.
- Work that is not urgent and not important, like answering non-crucial emails.
Covey argues that you should spend as little time as possible on non-urgent, non-important work, and try to reduce how much time you spend doing urgent, non important work.
He also stresses that you need to focus on doing non-urgent, but important work, as it’s easy to put off.
Since caring for your body leads to your work being more effective, you should view workouts, eating healthy, etc, as a form of work.
However, a workout never feels urgent, putting it squarely in Covey’s “important but not urgent” category.
This is an essential point of the book “The Power of Full Engagement” by Tony Schwartz, which details how top executives and “corporate athletes” hit their highest levels of performance.
In a nutshell, the book explains that quality and quantity of your personal energy determine how much you can get done each day. If you continually “invest” in the health of your body, you’ll have higher quality energy, and more of it.
Additionally, the costs of neglecting your body are quite high. If you are sick, in pain, or chronically tired, it’s going to be real hard to be effective at your job.
We’re not trying to preach here. You don’t need to be a personal trainer or a fitness nut to take care of your body.
Here are some actions you can take that will give you the most benefit for the least amount of effort:
- Get at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep impairs mental performance.
- Do 15 minutes of movement a day. This could be as simple as walking at a comfortable pace on a treadmill. Obviously, more is better (up to a point).
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables during at least one meal a day.
- See close friends or family members whom you enjoy spending time with at least once a week for 2-3 hours of “present moment time.” Humans are social animals and loneliness has been shown to be as dangerous as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
If you want to upgrade to “level 2,” consider these actions:
- Go to the gym or an exercise class 2-3 times a week.
- Do 30-40 minutes of easy movement a day (long walks are perfect).
- Schedule in 5-15 minutes of journaling time daily where you write down things that you’re thankful for in your life.
- Read books that inspire you on a daily basis for 10-30 minutes.
Enough with the preachy health stuff, though. Just know that this is by far your biggest fundamental.
#2: You Have Limited Time, Prioritize Accordingly
Often, we fall into the trap of “how can I get more done today?” The issue is that we only have so much time.
If you’re reading this, it’s unlikely that you’re a lazy person who simply needs to do more.
Instead, a better question to ask is, “What should I focus on today that will create the biggest impact for my business?”
As an owner/manager, you need to be strategic. You have to go into the trenches as well, depending on how big your business is.
However, never forget that you have to prioritize things.
An easy way to do this is to use the “3 Most Important Tasks” mindset.
It works like this: at the end of each work day, write down the 3 things that you want to get done the next day that will make the biggest impact in your business.
Either send these to yourself as an email (subject line: “3 for Thursday”) or write them in a journal where you will review them the next day.
The following day, make it your sole mission to accomplish these tasks BEFORE doing anything else.
We know this may not be possible at all times but do your best.
This process will help you to constantly refocus on what’s truly important, rather than just trying to get more stuff done.
#3: Understand the Power of Focus
In modern times, we’re being distracted to death.
Smartphones, email, social media, and the like are all our constantly pinging us for our attention.
In a retail store, you may have employees or customers to deal with as well.
The problem with this is that it prevents you from doing what author Cal Newport refers to as “deep work,” that is, important work that demands your full attention.
For example, maybe you’re coming up with a training program that will help your team sell more without turning customers away.
In the book “Deep Work,” Newport outlines several tips for doing your best work, including:
- Don’t look at email, social media, etc, until you’ve done your most important tasks. If you can’t avoid at least checking email, make it a point to only answer truly important ones until a later point in the day. An easy way to help with this is to disable notifications on your phone.
- Schedule some “office time” where employees know that they shouldn’t bother you. If this isn’t an option, schedule this time before or after you head into work (preferably before).
- Train your staff to be more self-sufficient and give them more power to make independent decisions so that they only bother you for things that absolutely require your attention.
#4: Schedule Time Off
If you are running the show, it can seem challenging to schedule time off.
You might fear that your employees will think you’re lazy, or maybe you’ll think that you’re lazy.
The truth is, if you burn out, you won’t be serving anyone—especially yourself.
That’s why it’s a good idea to take one full day off from work each week, at a minimum. Spend this day at a slower pace, and make sure to focus on rest and recovery.
Trust us; you’ll find that even taking one full day off a week will make the other six days much more productive.
#5: Realize Things Will Never Be Perfect
Work life balance isn’t something you can “achieve.” It’s not a milestone or a destination.
Instead, it’s a philosophy. It’s an idea that says, “Hey, work is really important but other things are important too.”
In this blog post, we may have made things seem simple and on paper, many things seem that way. But in the real world, things get messy. You might have a family emergency, or have a work emergency, or have a health scare.
Ultimately, you can’t control everything in life. All you can do is your best.
That’s why it’s important to cut yourself a little slack and realize that nothing human will ever be perfect.
Perfection is a myth. It doesn’t exist.
We hope this piece was useful for you and that it helps you to build not only a thriving retail business but a thriving life as well.Tags: balancing work, retail owner, work balance