Work-Life Balance, a hard lesson.

On April 16th, 2014 my father, an entrepreneur suffered a stroke and heart attack. He was 67 when I found him on his condo floor, nearly motionless. Today, he lives with a full time caregiver who helps him dress, bathe and eat. He can’t work or walk without assistance. The 20-year-old business he owns is dormant.

Like my father, I too own my own business. I’m married, and a new father to two beautiful children. Outside of my business, I now manage my father’s company and personal finances. There are weeks where I fight to keep my head above water, juggling the affairs of my business with those of my father’s. But, one thing I never neglect is my health. I put my health ahead of everything on the “to-do” list. Regular exercise, meditation, journaling, and good nutrition are the first profit and loss items I focus on. I don’t want to suffer the same destiny my father did.

When my father started his own business, his attention began to shift. Work became the mainstay, and within a couple of years of incorporating, he was pushing 18-hour days. It became an addiction, and worsened over time. I spent years trying to get him to create a better balance. I constantly nagged him about exercising, sleeping, and eating healthy, but the more I spoke up, the more guilt I felt projecting advice like a parent.

Since my father’s stroke, I pay close attention to the way fellow entrepreneurs live; many of them living the way my father did — little or no exercise, long hours, high amounts of caffeine, sugars, stimulants and supplements in the hopes of keeping up with the grind. What I see is a common theme: most people simply prioritize business and money over themselves.

Most of the corporate world has slipped into this trap of neglect for oneself. People continue to carry the naïve perspective that there won’t be a cost to this behavior — very scary.

We need to foster a new shift in behavior so we don’t continue to view personal wellness as a time waster. Admittedly, I fell into the trap when I started in the corporate world. I was concerned that partners, suppliers and clients would see my routines as lazy since I wasn’t in my office early like everybody else. But, after my father’s stroke, I no longer hide behind how I structure my day. I share it proudly, and raise a finger to those who don’t like it.

I put myself before my business — plain and simple. Rather than pretend I’m in a meeting (which I did for years) I freely share my morning routine with everyone I do business with. I start my mornings with a healthy breakfast with my kids, followed by some journaling and/or meditation and finally a workout. I am not at my desk before 9:30am: EVER. When I tell others about how I prioritize, the responses I get are mostly positive. The negative backlash is usually from those who are jealous, or generally pessimistic about everything.

As an entrepreneur, my daily routine has made me more productive, focused, and energized in my business life. I now know that if I take care of myself, everything else in business will follow suit.

My purpose is to share this story in hopes that everyone starts to put health first. Healthy living should fit into the daily schedule, and putting it into practice isn’t difficult. I’ve found it effective to block time in the calendar and never waver. I schedule everything in business around my personal time.

Work priorities can be endless, yet the list of health priorities should never be empty. As individuals, we all make choices, and we ultimately control how and when we do things. So, let’s take control of our health. Consider the obvious irrelevance of everything else when we don’t have it.

Adam J. Levinter

Adam is the founder of ScriberBase Inc., based in Toronto Canada.