The elusive ‘Work-Life Balance.’ Sometimes it sounds like one of those nature shows when they’re deep in a rainforest looking for an animal that no one has ever seen. For some, there is no balance. Focusing on one side makes the other suffer, so you end up having two parts of your life be miserable. Not a great way to go through life.
And owning your own business makes it even harder. It’s not a 9-5 job where you can turn it on when you sit down on Monday and turn it off on Friday at 5 and enjoy the weekend. It’s an all-encompassing worry-fest that never ends. And that’s when things are going well. I shudder thinking about my amount of stress if things were to start not being great.
Bottom line – you can’t physically/mentally/spiritually be in all places at all times. So finding a way to separate the work from home from play is crucial to being successful and happy with your life choices (it’s possible, believe me!). Here are a few things that I’ve found successful over the years in balancing the craziness that is business ownership, marriage, fatherhood and some well-deserved ‘me’ time.
Of course, this is complicated for me since I actually work from home. But I try to leave my work upstairs and down the hall. I try not to bring my laptop out of the office, check my email during dinner or bore everyone with the battles of the day. I don’t have an official clock-in or clock-out time, but I try to make sure that the time I spend in my office has a ‘what happens in my office, stays in my office’ vibe to it.
For those of you who don’t work from home, I’d suggest a similar approach. You can think about work on the way to work and even the way home from work, if needed. But once you park the car, lock up the bike, get off the bus, whatever – you do your best to forget that you even have a job and commit fully to being engaged with your family.
I realize this is difficult or sometimes impossible depending on your job. It’s hard for me, too, believe me. It’s pretty easy for me to walk upstairs and jump right into that project I paused from earlier. But when you try to do both at the same time, both will suffer. You’ll be distracted from doing great work because you’re thinking about your family or you’ll be thinking about work stuff while you’re listening to your daughter talk about the part she got in the school play. You won’t get that moment back – so don’t be caught thinking of spreadsheets when it happens.
If you have a flexible schedule – you should make time during the week for you to spend time with your family. Don’t reserve family time just for evenings and weekends. A hour or two break in the middle of the day will keep your work-self and family-self energized for the rest of the work week.
Even taking your lunch break out one day a week will mean the world to your spouse or kid(s). Showing them that they’re important too (more important, if they were to ask) is a special treat that will go a long way.
Most articles that talk about how it’s easy to make time to head to the gym and work out can be viewed in the same light that you should make time to disengage from your work and your family (don’t tell my wife that!) But it’s true. I know you can find at the very least 15 minutes a day for yourself. Whether it’s in the middle of the work day or before everyone else in the house is up. Time to breathe, time to focus, time to golf, whatever you need. An unhealthy you means an unhealthy family and an unhealthy workplace.
When I’m at the top of my game, I stick to a pretty strict schedule throughout the week that allows a great work-life-self balance. It allows for some during the week time away from the office to plan, time away from the office for me and time away from the office for family. All while still maintaining some semblance of a work schedule to still not only get work done, but manage a growing business. It’s odd to say that I have a ‘schedule’ when one of the benefits of working from home is (generally) not having to be at any place at any time. But below is my weekly goal of a schedule:
During the ‘Work Week’
When I get away from this schedule, I tend to feel more stressed, more overworked and less organized. Having this sort of schedule might be more important because I’m working from home and need to separate in-office time from out-of-office time – but I think having things separated like this really helps me prioritize what can get done when and also have that work-life-self separation that I’m constantly aspiring to achieve.