Here’s the honest truth. It’s not really possible. Finding an acceptable work-life balance might not be happen until 4-5 years into your business. Instead of focusing on balance focus on being present instead. You don’t want your kid bending their face down to your computer to talk to you, and you don’t want to be that boss staring at a cellphone, when your employee to trying to talk. Believing you can accomplish greatness in everything you set out to do is a common reason entrepreneurs end up struggling for balance. While you might be able to do everything, it doesn’t mean you should. I have a rule I don’t spend my time doing $15/per hour work EVER. I focus on high value and revenue generating opportunities. Think about your priorities and what you can realistically accomplish in each day.
Be Realistic About the Challenge
When starting your own business, it is typically an illusion to believe you can isolate your work commitment to the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, especially in the first few years of the business. When you own and operate a company your own company, you must feed, nurture and support it as it requires, not as you desire. If a problem arises at your business during your “family time,” refusing to deal with it ultimately creates more pressure. The initial time investment is usually much more than you might intend in the long run. 60-80 hours weeks are not uncommon.
Focus on Priorities
The real key to finding some semblance of work-life balance is to make it about priorities. As an entrepreneur, it is highly likely that you must spend far more of your waking hours in your business than with your family or significant other.
As your start down the entrepreneurial road, do yourself a favor: Make a list of your priorities daily. I call it my Top 5 list. Focus on your five most valued tasks and get them done before 11am. Start with the one you consider most important. Common examples I see people use in priority lists include meditation, sales calls, staff meeting, proposals, date night.
Create rules on how your priorities will impact your decisions. A list of priorities without defined rules will limit their value. For instance, people who put faith as a top priority may believe Sunday is a day of rest. This particular value causes some entrepreneurs to keep their business closed on Sunday. This particular choice can also contribute to a desire to dedicate one day of the week to family or personal needs.
Another proactive strategy is to create a problem-response structure for your business. As you hire and develop trusted employees, you can delegate higher-level decision making responsibilities. Communicate which types of problems or situations should cause your team to contact you during your “non-work” time. A clear and effective problem-response plan and empowered staff will guard against your family dinner being ruined over a $50 decision.
Don’t start your day checking email. You’ll be working on someone else’s agenda and not your own. Minimizing unnecessary distractions is key to accomplishing your priorities. Mute notifications on all devices and avoid opening your work e-mails during quality time meant for the kids. Try not talking on your phone when your family is in the car with you. Teach your spouse, kids, and friends not to make non-emergency personal calls to you during work hours.
Work-life balance might not really be possible as a small business owner, but having quality experiences is certainly doable. You just have to re-frame your thinking and take the pressure off. True balance is unlikely for a successful entrepreneur. By carving out priorities, creating problem-response plans and minimizing distractions, you can at least find focus on your top five list each day and anything else you accomplish is a bonus.
Get the Become Your Own Boss Workbook for more help in finding success as an entrepreneur.