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The truth about running a business is that the amount of time spent working does not necessarily correlate with success. You could spend every waking minute at work and not be closer to attaining your business goals. All that time not working smart, but working hard, will be at the expense of time spent with family. The trick is to work smart and strike a work-life balance.
You cannot get your time back and you don’t want to look back with regrets, wondering…
Could I have spent more time with my partner?
Could I have been more involved with my kids?
Could my business have been more successful?
Avoid you asking these questions later by ensuring you make the most of your time now. Make your working hours optimally meaningful and effective, while protecting cherished family time with these six tips on balancing business and family.
1. Set and Communicate Boundaries
First thing’s first: establish strict limits around working hours.
Without setting working hours, you can easily toil away into the evening or on weekends, robbing you of family time. Not having set work hours can also lead to spending too much time on work projects, because you have given yourself more time to complete them. Alternatively, set working hours forces you to be more focused and diligent to ensure work is completed efficiently, and family time is protected.
Established work hours are also needed for managing expectations and minimizing conflict with co-workers and family members. Let business partners and employees know that you should not be reached outside of work hours unless it is an emergency. Likewise, tell family members to not disturb you during work barring something urgent. Clearly communicating these boundaries will preserve your work-family balance.
2. Establish a Routine
Give structure to your days by implementing a daily routine that takes into account your business duties and family responsibilities. A routine will keep you organized and maximize productivity. The predictability of a routine can save a lot of time and energy too by reducing time spent spinning your wheels deciding what to do. Set aside a specific period of time for all business and personal tasks, but be flexible for when the unplanned eventually arises.
Here are examples of tasks that can be incorporated into a daily routine:
● Designate email time: choose a couple of times a day that you check and respond to emails.
● Prepare a to-do list: list out your priority tasks for the day either the evening before or that morning.
● Schedule breaks: ideally you are taking your eyes off the screen and your mind away from work for at least 15 minutes every 90 minutes.
● Meal time and meal prep: make time for meals with your family - ideally at least one a day - and schedule as much meal prep in the fewest number of blocks of time during the week.*
*Why Meal Time is Important - studies show that families who dine together have higher levels of health, happiness and stability. Family meals also improve children’s behaviour and literacy.
3. Focus on High-Value Work
Balancing business and family requires a laser focus on high-value tasks. Aim for 90 percent of your time spent on high-impact tasks that deliver on business goals. Approach your work in terms of quality, not quantity. Eliminate or delegate low-value duties. If you have trouble letting go of responsibility, view low-value tasks as they truly are: taking time away from your business and your family.
Also, learn to say no. Agreeing to most commitments will crowd your schedule with low-value tasks. Consider all ad hoc requests carefully and ensure they are a good use of your precious time as a business owner and family member. If the request does not meet the bar, simply say no, and where possible, offer an alternative person or team to help.
4. Be Fully Present
Business owners with families can easily get pulled too far in the direction of work at the expense of family, or vice versa. Some weeks the scale will tip towards business and other weeks towards family. It’s a balance to be mindful of and adjust when needed, but not to worry about getting into perfect harmony at all times. The key is to concentrate on the task at hand and be present in that moment.
The central problem in balancing business and family are distractions. Eliminate interruptions by focusing only on work during devoted work hours and exclusively on family during non-work hours. Of course, there will be some crossover but minimize this as much as possible and commit to being fully present for each role you play.
5. Keep Everything on One Calendar
Organizing your life - both work and family - on one calendar will help you make the most of every hour of every day. You can use categorizing tools that colour code scheduled time for a certain designation, such as family or work, so you easily identify these categories at a glance.
You are more likely to fit in all of your professional, family and personal goals if you plan your day as much as possible, preferably down to the hour. For example, if your set work hours end at 6:30pm and family dinner is planned for 7:30pm, schedule personal time in between.
If you do not slot something into this free hour in advance, it will likely be wasted by staying longer at work, messing around on your phone or another low-value time eater. Instead, when you have identified this hour as being available, fill it in with a value-add task like, call parents, go grocery shopping, or work-out.
6. Do Self-Care
Balancing business and family, even when done well, can wear you out. Giving everything to your business and family can overstretch you and reduce your ability to be a good boss and family member.
So take care of yourself. Schedule self-care time, whether it is meditation, massage, a favourite hobby or a night out with friends. You need some time regularly to destress and recharge to improve your patience, discipline, and creativity to tackle all of your responsibilities with agility and grace.
Stay Committed to Balancing Business and Family
The demands of running a business can easily cause a business owner to neglect other aspects of their life, including family commitments. Following these six tips above will go far in balancing business and family, but it is not a one-and-done activity. Essentially it requires committing yourself to this path of work-life harmony, keeping an eye on it and making adjustments as necessary to maintain equilibrium. With some planning, effort, and mindfulness, you can realize a happier and more productive version of yourself at work and at home.