There’s an ongoing battle that most entrepreneurs and high-flying business professionals wage within themselves. And that’s how to balance their time between their personal and professional lives.
When you’re building your own business or passionately pursuing the career of your dreams it’s all too easy to throw yourself into it all hours of the day and night, seven days a week. You become married to your work, often to the detriment of your home life-your relationships with your significant other, family, and your friends.
Let’s face it. While you obviously love your family the truth of the matter is that you also really love your work. But don’t forget the old adage that no-one goes to their grave saying “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
Later in life most executives look back ruefully on the times they missed a wedding anniversary or a special event at their child’s school because they were traveling on business or just “couldn’t get away” from a meeting or conference. Yes, you can convince yourself that you’re putting in all of those extra hours to support your family but don’t forget that whatever sacrifices you make, your family makes also.
So what can you do to try and strike the right balance between business demands and family?
Set aside some time every week that is “sacrosanct.” This is family time, no matter what. Maybe it’s all day Sunday. Maybe it’s a Friday night dinner at a neighborhood restaurant. Maybe it’s the kids’ soccer game Saturday morning followed by pizza. This is time that is a weekly event that all members of the family put on their calendar. Plan ahead to avoid conflicts as much as possible (bearing in mind if you’re an entrepreneur that the life you have chosen-by its very nature-means there is no such thing as a routine schedule).
MAKE UP FOR LOST TIME
Inevitably, there will be occasions when something business related crops up that is so critical it just has to take priority. Anyone with a commitment to success knows that there are times when your time is not your own and that you have to seize an opportunity when it presents itself. But don’t just cancel the family get-together. Make sure you reschedule it. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.
Have you ever been sitting down with a group of people for lunch and half of your companions-if not more-are texting or emailing? It happens at home, too. In this digital age we’re all multi-tasking and staying connected. I sometimes joke when I see this and say, “You know there is an app for that, and it’s called Respect.” Is it really necessary to have the phone in your hand when you’re sitting down for dinner with your loved ones? Agreed, there are certainly times when you might be expecting an urgent message that just can’t wait. But, by and large, when you’re with your family why not establish a phone-free time? All of our phones, believe it or not, can be turned off. You and the kids (if you have kids and if they’re old enough to have phones) should do just that. And have an old-fashioned conversation. Time is your most valuable asset. Go unplugged.
BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF
As I mentioned earlier, many times the busy executive rationalizes cancelled family get-togethers, trips (and even vacations) by saying to himself that he’s only really doing it for them and their future-so it is OK. You can rationalize all you want but deep down those of us who are driven to make it to the top know that it’s our passion. We have a work ethic that leads to long hours. We believe in what we’re doing and we want to be the best at what we’re doing. So let’s not kid ourselves. We do it because we enjoy it. We thrive on it. But at the same time let’s see if we can make a commitment to ease up on those extra hours that aren’t absolutely necessary and devote them to your family instead. They refuel our will to win.
SHARE THE JOURNEY
Open up to those closest to you about your work life. If you’re pursuing a lifelong dream explain it to them so they have a better appreciation of what drives you and what keeps you away from them. Significant others may well be on different but equally challenging career paths-so date nights are essential. If you have young children, nephews, nieces, talk to them in terms they will understand to explain your absence-and then make it up to them with surprise appearances and surprise treats.
LEAVE WORK AT WORK
Today’s technology enables us to work anywhere anytime. In the car. On the train. At home. The boundary between work and home is fuzzier than ever. More people than ever actually work from home. So try to bring the curtain down on the business day. Keep the computer turned off and the laptop in your briefcase. It’s up to you to recreate the boundary.
Finally, just go ahead and give it a shot. You probably already feel guilty about lost family time. So make a commitment to adjust your business-family balance. Chances are you’ll feel refreshed and reinvigorated and your work will benefit as much as your home relationships.
And, if you just finished reading this, you can do something now. Go tell them how much they mean to you and how much you love them. You’ll be surprised how much energy you gain back just from that response.