When your new business is firing on all cylinders, you may wonder how in the world you can be successful without neglecting your family. But you can do it. It typically takes 18-36 months for the average small business to become sustainable, but no one wants to be rich and alone. This is an extremely demanding time for a small business owner, but you'll need to make sure your family is your number one customer. Some say running a business is like having a baby -- if you don't give it your undivided attention and energy, it won't thrive. The solution may take some work, but with a little planning, there are ways an entrepreneur can avoid work and family burn out.
Being a grinding workaholic may have kept your business afloat at the startup stage, but it's also a great way to burn out, ultimately losing your business and possibly your family. These six tips can help you better balance your life and your work as an entrepreneur.
- Focus on being present, wherever you are. Entrepreneurs always have a lot going on. We'll appear distracted at best, disrespectful at worst. Give people your full attention everywhere you go by setting appointments for meetings and phone calls when you know you won't be disturbed and taking care of anything pressing beforehand. Be present with your loved ones, too. Do not take calls once you pick up the kids from school, while you're out at the ball field or during dinner.
- Use the "5 before 11 a.m." principle. I learned this great technique from the book The 7 Minute Solution by Allyson Lewis. Simply make a list of five essential things that need doing each day, and focus on getting them all done by 11 a.m. Make your list the day before, so you can begin tackling the list immediately each morning.
- Take essential business trips only. Most business owners love to sell; I sure do. But not every interaction must be handled in person. Make sure you gauge a potential client's readiness to buy before investing your time and money in a face-to-face meeting. Time away is precious time you could spend with your family. If you must travel for business, try to stay away only one night to reduce chances you'll miss an important date, game or performance.
- Treat your family as if it's your number one client. Busy entrepreneurs typically use every free moment to move their businesses forward. But small moments are big ones to your family. Turn off your cell phone when your kids are in the car. Go home at a reasonable time, at least one day a week. Spend the evening getting to know your kids. Establish a date night with your sweetie, and do not cancel it. Make sure your spouse and kids never think your business is more important to you than they are.
- Do special things for your spouse and kids on work time. I had an amazing opportunity last year to lecture at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. I took my son out of school for a week and invited my mom to join us. We made a family vacation out of it by taking a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. Since I work a lot, and I'm away from home so often, when I can leverage work travel into family time, it means a lot to us all.
- Engage your family in your business. Give your kids little jobs appropriate to their ages so they appreciate and understand what you do. Share your strategy and successes with your spouse so he or she continues supporting your dream. The more you reach out for their help and advice, the less you'll meet with resistance and resentment. Be sure to share the rewards of everyone's hard work, too.
There are no free rides in life, but the cost of starting and running a profitable business shouldn't include sacrificing those who are closest to you. These are some simple ways for you to strike a balance between work and family that you can put to use right away.
How do you avoid work and family burn out?
Note: This article was first published under the title, 6 Steps to Mastering the Elusive Work Life Balance at Open Forum ©FedEx
Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America's #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com. Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.