Series on Work-Life Balance: Richard Branson style

“Running a business (or many of them!) can be a stressful endeavour,” says Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire chairman of the Virgin Group. “Looking back over my 50 years as an entrepreneur one of the major keys to my success has been my ability to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.”

Richard says that he has six habits that help him to achieve a healthy work-life balance, no matter where he is travelling at the time. Here’s his secrets:

1. Rise early- “I tend to wake up at 5am so that I can use the early morning hours to get some exercise and spend time with my family,” he says. “This routine helps put me in a positive mindset before I get down to business.” He admits that this won’t work for everyone but recommends finding a “routine that enables you to work on your most challenging tasks when you’re at your most productive”.

2. Limit screen time- Richard admits that he loves social media, email and the communication opportunities that technology provides, but says “you can’t let your devices take control, especially if you’re a busy entrepreneur”. He limits himself to checking email and social media only at the start of his working day, and then again at intervals that he determines for himself, rather than letting it take over his day. “If you’re not paying attention, social media can become a distraction and a hindrance, rather than a highly useful business tool and a fun way to communicate,” he warns. “Monitor your usage of your devices so that they don’t run your life.”

3. Write lists- It’s a well-known fact that Richard carries a notebook everywhere, he’s forever scribbling away and jotting things down. “This technique has helped to make Virgin what it its today,” he says. “Everything from our original logo to our first business plan all began as scribbles in a notebook.” He recommends finding what works for you – doodles, charts, bullet points. “Or, just write down what you need to accomplish and cross tasks off as you complete them,” he says. “There’s something very satisfying about ticking items off a list.”

4. Make time for sports- “I get up early to exercise because it gives me energy, improves my focus and concentration, and even helps me sleep better at the end of the day,” Richard says. He chooses to kite surf, saying it’s a “good opportunity to get away from all the other stresses of life and business”. But it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, Richard says, find “something you like doing, perhaps a sport or a routine at the gym, to keep yourself focused throughout the day”.

5. Make time for loved one- Virgin is a family business and Richard says he wouldn’t be where he is today if it wasn’t for his family. “I make it a priority to spend time with my wife Joan every single day,” he says. “It reminds me of why I do what I do.” He suggests setting some time aside every day for your loved ones – even if it’s just a phone call or a Skype chat. “Switch your emails off and give them your full attention, even if it’s just half an hour,” he says. “You’ll be more relaxed, and may even learn things from them that can help in your business.”

6. Embrace something new- Richard loves having new experiences and aims to learn at least one new thing every day. He views life as one long educational experience. “No matter what your career goals are, try to do something different each day,” he suggests. “See where it takes you, and what you can learn. This has made every day of my life an adventure – who knows where it might take you!”