The good ol' American Dream may have been passed down many generations, but the spirit from which it was born is timeless. We were once explorers, settlers, and adventurers, and now entrepreneurs. People who strike gold today often do so by launching a unique business idea like an app, a social network or a successful e-commerce site. As exciting as that may sound, there are many struggles that come with being an entrepreneur. One of the most common challenges is learning how to balance running a business with having a family.
For those who find themselves facing this challenge today, or for those interested in pursuing the lifestyle of running their own business, here are a few pointers you should consider:
Set Clear Boundaries
While an employee can typically punch in and out, as a business owner, there is no such thing as “off the clock.” This is why setting clear boundaries is one of the most critical things you can do for yourself, your family and your business.
There are a variety of ways you can establish boundaries and be successful. If you work from home, it can be important to designate a specific area where the only thing you typically do is work. This will allow you to physically put yourself in, and remove yourself from your workspace. While you occupy this space, it can also act as a good indicator for family members who may be home to respect the fact that you need to be focused on work.
Although your business may run 24 hours a day, you shouldn’t let it run you. A common misconception entrepreneurs make when they first start working for themselves is that they are, essentially, “on-call” or that it is somehow expected of them that they be available to their business at all hours. This mentality is often a by-product of a lack of experience and poor planning. The reality is, entrepreneurs have complete control of how and when their business should be run. For most businesses, if you set your work hours according to when the business most needs you to operate and plan ahead, you can create a reasonable schedule that will allow for balance.
Learn to Love Routines
Some people associate the word “routine” with being boring. As a small business owner, you won’t need to worry about being bored. For you, even with a routine, it will be rare that any 2 days will look the same. However, routines will still be a critical tool for you to build the habits that will help make you successful in the long run.
Routines that build habits are essential to accomplishing more than you could in a single day. That is why they can be valuable in all aspects of your life. Here are some examples of routines that can help your personal life, family life, and your business:
5 Examples of Helpful Personal Routines
- Wake up early
- Make Time for Exercise
- Make Time for Hobbies
- Take Time to Reflect
- Prep a to-do list each night for the following day
5 Examples of Helpful Family Routines
- Try to have 1 sit down meal a day together (most likely breakfast or dinner)
- Go grocery shopping together
- Make meal planning fun: Create your menu for the week
- Pick a day every couple months to plan your next staycation, outing or vacation
- Rotate chores on a schedule so everyone is equally involved
5 Examples of Helpful Business Routines
- Plan out your week on Sunday so you can hit the ground running on Monday
- Automate Bill Payments as much as possible, but still, review bank and credit card statements at the end of each month
- Pick 2-5 industry experts to follow and spend 15-30 minutes each day reading content they’ve published for your own continued education
- Set up and follow a schedule for your own social media, blog, and email publishing each week.
- Designate a time of the day that you check and respond to email communications, so you don't get distracted in the middle of the day.
Celebrate Progress Together
It is easy to get caught up in what needs to be done next and forget to take a moment to celebrate any progress that has been made. This is especially true if the stresses from your business and family occur in the same space. If you are running a business and supporting a family, it is important to recognize that your business is their business too. Instead of keeping the details of the business to yourself, consider sharing at least 1 positive thing with your family regarding what happened at work that day, even if it is small. This can lighten stress, allow them an opportunity to support and engage with you, and make them feel like a part of a family “team.”
Next, try to get each family member to participate in the conversation by sharing one positive thing that happened in their day. Celebrating “little victories” like this together is a helpful tool you can use to remind each other that there are loved ones who are eager and interested in supporting one another.
In the end, being your own boss isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t for everyone. Successful entrepreneurs who have done this more than 50 years still struggle with striking a healthy work-life balance. The key is to constantly be prioritizing and maintaining self-discipline out of the sheer desire to do your personal best for yourself, for your family and for your business.
Andrew Tillery is the Marketing Director for MAP Communications, an employee-owned company that provides answering services and call center solutions. Born and raised in Oregon and having lived for several years in Seattle, Andrew has a damp, green place in his heart for the Pacific Northwest. After graduating from Portland State University with a double major in Marketing and Advertising, he spent some time learning Spanish and experiencing all that South America has to offer. It was while he was south of the equator that he uncovered an interest in writing that he strives to develop whenever the opportunity is presented.