Get a Life! 17 Ways to a Better Work/Life Balance
My wife and I have been arguing a lot since I started my own business. She thinks I'm a workaholic. How do I strike a better balance between my personal and professional life?
-- Carol, Michigan
1. Turn Off Your Phone!
Many entrepreneurs I know derive a lot of personal & professional satisfaction from what they do. As such, it can be hard to "get away" from work. Something that works well for me and my significant other is for us to have "no-phone zones" in our apartment. Phones and computers are off limits in the bedroom and living room. This way, the time that we spend together is isn't interrupted by email.
2. Integrate, Don't Separate
Balance can be tricky, especially if you're passionate about what you do. I tend to be of the opinion that work and life don't need to be separate, you just need to make sure that what you're doing still includes and benefits those you care about as much as it does you. If you can make your wife a part of your successes and adventures, she'll be less likely to want to pull you away from them.
3. Institute an Official Date Night
It can be easy for your partner to feel left out when you're carrying on a passionate love affair with your work. Which is why it's so imperative to make your partner a priority. So schedule a regular date night -- weekly, monthly, whatever -- and don't miss it for anything.
4. Set Some Ground Rules
It's easy to let your business take over everything -- you're constantly attached to your phone, customers start to take precedence and holidays become non-existent. Sit down with your wife and commit to some basic ground rules -- these can include no cell phone at mealtimes, a full day off each week and no laptop after 9 p.m. -- or whatever works for you both. Then you need to stick to them.
5. Help Her Understand Your Motivations
If she understands you and why you started the business and what your end goal is then it'll be a lot easier. If she knows that your motivations are to be able to provide a comfortable life for her, it'll be hard for her not to respect that. Also, having at least one date night every week can help a lot as well.
6. Don't Let Your Business Get the Best of Your Life
I broke an engagement because I had no work/life "balance" while I launched my business. Lesson? There is no "balance," only priorities. Have a conversation with your wife about WHY you're doing what you're doing and explain to her this is your dream and that initially it takes effort. But be sure to BUILD in time that focuses on just you two. Without her, business doesn't much matter, does it?
7. Go to Meetings
Many people get so involved in their business that they DO develop a workaholic addiction (WA). If it has really turned into a serious problem, try checking out a workaholic anonymous meeting where other people will share their experience, strength and hope with workaholism. I have met many business owners that plunged into workaholism and it is a very serious issue that breaks up relationships.
8. Cut Corners
Find more efficiencies in your work so you're not working so many hours, then you can start to realize that working 24/7 doesn't mean more productivity since you can probably get the same amount of work done in eight hours a day, five days a week, if you optimize your time and cut out the junk during work.
9. Time Your Activity-Engagement
This tip is two-fold: One, find out what time of day is most significant to your wife (breakfast, dinner, evening) and set aside a block of uninterrupted time. Two, once you have prioritized your day, set a time limit for each task. Entrepreneurs are prone to becoming addicted to "busy-ness" not just business. Start and end times improve focus, productivity and long-term creativity.
10. Prioritize at Work
As an entrepreneur, it's tempting to work 24/7 because there is always more work to be done, but the truth is that some of your work tasks are urgent and others are not. Make sure you begin each day by doing the urgent tasks so that, at the end of the day, you don't have things still to do that absolutely have to get done by the next day. That will make it easier to take time off at night.
11. Give Each the Focus They Deserve
When my wife and I had our little baby girl eight months ago, this magnified things for me. So, the greatest move I ever made was getting an office away from home. For me, work is done at the office (and every now and then at home on weekends or late at night) and the moment I step into the house ... my focus is on my family. Just make sure to have environments set up for both roles, so you can give each the focus they deserve.
12. Off Means Off, On Means On
It's all about setting clear boundaries ... and then sticking to them. Make sure when you're off, you're really off, versus being at home but still buried in your BlackBerry. By doing this you will ensure that your business doesn't get between you and your spouse. It will help you in the long run too. Entrepreneurship is a long haul. Strong boundaries build stamina and prevent burnout.
13. Manage the Expectations!
Strike the happy medium where you set time aside to spend with her, keep her in loop about your hours, plans and other important commitments. This is very easy if you know how to set the expectations at a level you can always meet, and then occasionally exceed them to WOW her.
14. Connectivity Does Not Equal Productivity
Do not think that because you are connected, you are productive. If you are worried about your wife and your marriage, you will not be doing your best work. Clients do not need 24 hour access to you -- they need you to be at the top of your game when you are working for them. Set a reasonable and specific time you will stop working at least three nights per week and stick to it!
15. Hire Your Wife
I had the exact same issue when I first started my business. I was working 70 hours a week on my startup (still do), and I was missing time with my wife. Once my business began pulling in steady revenue, I hired my wife as a business partner. This approach may not work for everyone, but I love working with my wife and seeing her every day.
16. Schedule Uninterrupted Family Time
As an entrepreneur, husband and father of two, I fully understand the problem. It's the give-and-take of making her understand this is what makes you happy and that's a 24/7 responsibility, but having pre-scheduled family time, when you shut off the crackberry and have a nice dinner at your favorite restaurant, is hugely important. To be blunt, you will never be as successful and efficient as you would have been as a workaholic, but remember, a happy family and quality time is far more important than the additional dollars you could earn working an extra hour. P.S. An unhappy wife will cost you a lot more in a divorce!
17. Creative Compromise for Optimal Compatibility
Relationships require compromise. Believing and acting otherwise is flat-out foolish. Since when were zero-sum games a viable long-term strategy for compatibility? So to strike the necessary balance with your spouse, first invite him/her into your world and then allow yourself to be taken fully into his/hers. Then, upon this common ground, engineer conditions that nurture the best of both.