As any entrepreneur knows, there aren’t enough hours in the day. Startup life can easily dominate one’s schedule, but, as some entrepreneurs forget, they aren’t the only ones with schedules, responsibilities, and needs. Life outside of a venture continues on, so learning how to balance work and home obligations is paramount.
As an entrepreneur and a non-entrepreneurial spouse*, we know personally that no one is perfect at maintaining this work-life balance. Like most, we often struggle with how we can best segment our time and devote enough energy to all aspects of our lives. From our experiences building a two-way street, here are six key steps that will help any entrepreneur ensure that s/he is able to best balance work and home.
1. Schedule downtime.
Whether you’re able to take as much as three hours or as little as 15 minutes of non-work time each day, be sure to set aside the time and message that plan to your family or significant other. Having a set time each day for downtime will give you, your partner, and anyone else in your household -- even pets -- something to look forward to.
But be realistic! There’s nothing worse than making a promise you can’t keep. Even if you can only sit down for a quick meal or a late drink, it’s better than nothing.
2. Separate work life and home life.
When you do have time away from your work responsibilities, be in the moment. Don’t check your phone for emails every two minutes or get distracted by what may be happening. The ability to dedicate yourself fully to whatever you’re doing is very meaningful.
Additionally, if you do work from home, having a designated space that is your “work space” reinforces these boundaries.
3. Always be sharing.
Communication is key to building understanding and appreciation. Be sure that you are constantly updating those at home with current projects, future goals, and a long term vision for your company. Even share your day-to-day successes and struggles.
Allowing your family to experience the highs and lows of your entrepreneurial journey aligns everyone’s interests and includes them in process (rather than causing them to feel left out).
4. But also know when to stop talking shop.
Your entrepreneurial journey and startup is likely all-consuming for you, but realistically (and in a good way) it is not for your friends and family. While it is vital -- as noted above -- to bring them into your world, it is equally important to know when to shut it off.
At home and in social situations be the driver of conversations beyond work. Not only is such give and take necessary so as not to alienate friends or those at home, but it can be a great mental break for you, too.
5. Learn the value of being patient (and ask for the same in return).
Everyone knows that entrepreneurial and startup life is an energy and time suck (that entrepreneurs gleefully sign up for). What many, especially those around you, are not prepared for is the sustained pace of startup life when you’re two, three or even five years into your journey.
Learn the value of patience and understand that it will take time for others to adjust and accept the needs of your chosen path. Similarly though, ask for patience from your friends and family. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t understand; simply take that as a challenge for you to better share your vision and goals.
6. Have an open conversation about needs.
Entrepreneurship is a unique journey and entrepreneurs have distinct fears, headaches, and goals. To ensure that you and those around you are all receiving and providing proper support, have an open conversation about needs.
Maybe it’s essential to your mental sanity that you come home and talk through the stresses of startup life; maybe you prefer to come home and completely unplug and unwind. Whatever your needs are, be honest and lay them out, but also similarly understand that your family, friends, or partner have needs, too. Having an open conversation about everyone’s needs will help you come to agreement about what will work best for the whole.
Overall, entrepreneurship can be a lonely and all-consuming journey without a one-size-fits-all solution for a sustainable work-home balance. While the above tips from our experiences may not work for everyone, they can hopefully spark some helpful ideas and conversations, leading you to find your own best practices.
*David is the co-founder of online group travel planner Travefy and Amanda, his wife, is an historic preservationist expecting their first child this summer and contributed to this article.