Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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New Year’s Resolution for SMB – Better Work and Life Balance

Well the holidays are winding down, the “Ball” has dropped and it’s that time again. Time to reflect on the things that you achieved last year and to develop a plan for what you want to accomplish in 2013.  As entrepreneurs, we often make two sets of goals: one for our personal lives and one for our business.   When it comes to our personal lives, year after year, top New Year’s Resolutions include things like:


  • Staying (or getting) fit and healthy
  • Enjoying life to the fullest and reduce stress
  • Spending more time with family and friends
  • Traveling to new places

On the business side, the most common resolutions focus on things that will improve profitability, reduce costs and ultimately increase the bottom line.  Unfortunately, for many business owners – especially sole proprietors, independent contractors and small businesses with just a few employees – achieving these goals can be in direct conflict with our personal goals because it may mean putting more time in at work than at home.


Despite the fact that achieving a better work and life balance is often on both lists, it is easier said than done. As small business owners, we tend to be extremely overworked, taking on all or most of the responsibility of running our businesses. We worry that our businesses will suffer if we’re away for any extended period of time. We are notorious for not taking vacations. In fact, according to a survey commissioned by Sam’s Club, nearly 50 percent of small business owners take only major holidays off, or nothing at all. And of those small business owners who did say that they were taking vacation time, 66 percent will take only one week off.  Yet ignoring time off from the office can ultimately cause more havoc for small business owners than we may realize.  Being overworked can lead to serious health hazards, including higher stress, burnout, sleeplessness and more.


In a study of 13,000 middle-aged men at risk for heart disease, those who skipped vacations for five consecutive years were found to be 30 percent more likely to suffer heart attacks than those who took at least one week off each year. Even missing one year’s vacation was associated with a higher risk of heart disease.


A separate study found vacation deprivation may be equally hazardous for women. Researchers looked at 20 years worth of questionnaires given to 749 women. Their finding: Women who took a vacation once every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack than those who took at least two vacations a year.


Source: Want to Stay Healthy? Go Ahead and Take a Vacation


Working too hard and not taking time off regularly can impede relationships at home, causing greater feelings of guilt and greater stress. It also can inhibit productivity at work and create high turn-over. Vacations are as important as watching your cholesterol or your business’ bottom line, yet many business owners put it off for years or indefinitely. Overlooking the value of time off creates an unhealthy and unproductive business environment, negatively impacting your employees and the fate of their vacations.


For many business owners who do manage to get away, it is nearly impossible to completely disengage from work and relax while on vacation.  Monitor.Us mobile app can be great companions during the holiday, so that you don’t need to worry about how your system is performing.

 According to the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, two out of three entrepreneurs worry while on vacation, about everything from missed business opportunities through employees slacking off.  Throw in worries about the economy and ever-rising fuel and energy costs, and it’s no wonder that so many small business people are reluctant to take some downtime.  67% of business owners surveyed in 2009 reported that the economy had an effect their vacation plans. 32% of those people will choose to take a less expensive vacation.  A May 2010 survey by Discover Financial Services found 51% of the 750 small-business owners surveyed said that the sour economy had forced them to cancel or postpone their time off.   For consumers only 44% were willing to delay or cancel a vacation.


Does any of this sound familiar?  How did you spend the holidays?  What did do with your time off the last time you took a vacation?  Did you even take time off?


Make this year different.  Commit to yourself that you WILL do things that will improve your work-life balance.  You can’t afford not to.

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About Anne Balke

Outside of my freelance work as a writer, I provide business consulting, web design and online marketing services for small businesses – from one small business owner, to another. As an entrepreneur who has been through the struggles of learning how to succeed when resources were limited, I understand what it is like to build a small business from the ground up. My formal training is in Psychology and this background gives me a unique perspective on the world of marketing and behavior. I have been a work-at-home mother since 2002 and absolutely love the freedom that being self employed provides.