There are never enough hours in the day for an entrepreneur to do everything that needs doing, and that’s even before you consider responsibilities at home. Many entrepreneurs strike out in their own hoping it will give them more control over their office hours and allow them to better balance the professional and the personal. But starting a business can in fact leave you with even less flexibility than you had before.

While the traditional approach to work-life balance—business on one side, home on the other—is clearly broken, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement. The women of the PROFIT/Chatelaine W100 Ranking of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs run some of the country’s most successful businesses. None of them claim to have cracked the problem, but they do offer some excellent time-management tips and inspired productivity insights.

Here are ten tips for improving work-life balance from Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs.

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“I work hard in bursts and then allow myself to completely shutdown for a couple of days.”
—Jenny Bird (No. 77), Jenny Bird, Toronto

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“Plan your life with a single calendar, rather than keeping separate calendars for work and family commitments. Having a single calendar means that all your priorities are visible in one place, so when planning anything, you can easily see how the commitments fit together and adjust as necessary.”
—Janis Grantham (No. 30), Eagle Professional Resources, Toronto

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“My approach is: it will still be there when you get back. The world will not fall apart if I take a two-week vacation.”
—Kimberley Neeson (No. 55), Neeson Court Reporting, Toronto

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“I hate when I hear women say they did not have children because they couldn’t be a parent and have a career. I am completely transparent with my teams when I need to be at the school or I need to pick my children up for specific extracurricular activities. I instil the need to work hard, but also to play hard and enjoy your time with friends and family. Weekends are sacred and while I know there are times when we all need to work, but I try really hard to keep that time for me my kids. It makes me a better person, more patient and more thoughtful every day.”
—Mia Pearson (No. 4), North Strategic, Toronto

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“Pick the right partner who complements your career as an entrepreneur. And expensive single malt scotch.”
—Mandy Rennehan (No. 25), Freshco, Oakville, Ont.

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“I own two active businesses, and a number of holding companies. It is imperative to ensure my freedom to do what I need to do when I need to do it, whether that is getting my hair cut mid-day on a Monday, or working on a contract until midnight. I reserve the right to come and go when I want, and to to the work that needs to be done on my own terms.”
—Sue Bennett (No. 19), Bennett Design Associates, Uxbridge, Ont.

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“In the early days of the business, we had a policy not to check email or voicemail after 6 pm and before 8 am. Over the years this policy faded away, and my younger millennial staff seem horrified when I suggest they shouldn’t check work email after hours. But I’ve just re-instated a personal policy to not check work email in the evenings or on weekends anymore, unless I’m on a specific project deadline and plan to be working in that time.”
—Sarah English (No. 79), Usability Matters, Toronto

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“There are ways to balance your time, but the perception is that you could be more effective running your business if you didn’t have to raise your kids, or a better mother to your kids if you didn’t have to tend to your business. I’ve learned to not take shortcomings on either front too seriously, and to not beat myself up over the little things, like missing a class trip with my children.”
—Meighen Nehme (No. 18), The Job Shoppe, Tecumseh, Ont.

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“I dragon boat, so I have to be on the water at a certain time or I let down my team. That means I have to leave the office at a certain time, and can’t use my cell phone for the time I am working out.”
—Amanda Stewart (No. 85), Eventive Marketing, Markham, Ont.

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“My goal each week is to set aside one full day, generally a Saturday, completely free of work-related activities. I also dedicate an hour or two on Sunday nights to review my calendar for the upcoming week or two to review commitments and activities, so I can have clear judgement about where to focus my effort.”
—Kim Shannon (No. 37), Sionna Investment Managers, Toronto

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MORE ESSENTIAL ADVICE FROM THE PROFIT W100:

How do you achieve work-life balance—if it can be achieved at all? Share your strategies and tips using the comments section below.

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