Ah, the Holy Grail for every entrepreneur: a perfect work-family balance. Equilibrium between the two is often fleeting, but work and family time can coexist in peace. Leverage these five essential strategies to help you juggle "bringing home the bacon" with those you share it with.
1. Build family time into your schedule.
You typically work 9 to 5, but where does family time fall on your agenda? Too many entrepreneurs wait until the work is done to hang out with family, but you should run your schedule, not the other way around.
Failing to schedule family time means it will be the first thing to fall off the table when life gets busy. As you piece together your calendar for the next week, consider how much time you'd like to spend with family on a regular basis. Don’t just write in the events you’ll look bad for skipping (AKA your spouse’s birthday bash or your kid’s dance recital); include casual, unspecified family time, too. Your loved ones will appreciate the extra dignity, and you'll never override family time with work time again.
2. Create a routine.
Leaving work early on Fridays or Skype calling the kiddos every day at lunch may help you to achieve that work-family balance. Social psychologist Wendy Wood of USC says healthy habits (oft used by some of the world's most successful figures) are key to reducing stress and deliberation. In this case, it lets family members know what to expect out of each day and puts them at ease, too.
You don't want to take this step alone. Instead, sit down with family and take note of everyone's needs, then build a reliable routine. If you'll be taking the kids to school in the mornings and your spouse will be picking them up, write it down. The bonus? If you succeed at this step, you'll be able to skip the one above.
3. Learn to say “no.”
Slow down, eager beaver; you don’t have to accept every project proposal or favor asked of you. Ambition is a wonderful thing, but not at the expense of yourself or your family.
Here, moderation is key: you'll want to learn to only bite off as much as you can chew. Can you become the occasional mentor to a friend’s startup instead of their number-one, in-house advisor? Are you able to chauffeur just one of your kid’s field trips and still create the ultimate bonding experience? By narrowing down responsibilities outside of family, you'll have more free time to spend with those you love.
Related: Great Entrepreneur, Lousy Lover?
4. Work smarter, not harder.
What if I told you there were hours’ worth of family time hidden throughout your workweek? It’s true -- and uncovering them will make every family member smile.
Outsourcing basic tasks frees up a good chunk of time, making it easier to accomplish the things you truly want to do. Are you responsible for tasks that can be outsourced? Sites like Fiverr make it easier to achieve a work-family balance by shifting impersonal duties to a virtual assistant. In contrast, platforms like TaskRabbit allow you to assign activities like housekeeping and grocery shopping to a pre-screened "tasker." Designating tasks to others opens your schedule and helps to conserve energy for fun time with family.
5. Schedule time for yourself.
Adding yet another thing to your calendar can only subtract from family time, right? Nope. Studies show that spending a little “me time” now and then can help to increase general life satisfaction and boost productivity once you get back to work. It also helps to enhance concentration, which allows you to better "enjoy the moment" when you're out with family. Rather than zoning out during a movie with the kids (or even falling asleep), you’ll be more attentive and aware, which is far more satisfying for you and your loved ones.
Take this as an explicit permission to enjoy the solo activities you love without guilt. Go ahead: reserve a window for a spa visit, a few laps in the pool, a cozy hour with your favorite novel, or whatever else makes you happy. Then soak in the wonderful feeling of being 100 percent present in anything that follows.
A comfortable work-family balance isn’t impossible to achieve. Though life happens and the scale will occasionally tip, it’s entirely realistic to create a balance that satisfies both you and your loved ones.