15 Ways to Better Manage Your Work-Life Balance as a Parent and Entrepreneur
Finding work-life balance is no easy task. I mean, how can you spend quality time with your children when you don’t get home until 7 p.m. each night? No wonder more and more people are demanding more flexibility in their schedules to help achieve this goal.
Unfortunately, running your own business is a different story. You can’t always clock-out as early as you would like when launching your business or a new project. Since the buck stops with you, it’s your responsibility to put out fires ASAP.
So, how can you still be there when your startup needs you without jeopardizing that valuable time with your family? Try out these fifteen tips to make that more manageable.
1. Scheduling is key
“Getting on a schedule is key if you’re going to run a business and balance it with your family and personal life,” writes Choncé Maddox in an article for Calendar. “It’s important to know what you’re going to do each day when you get up, so you don’t waste time and energy.”
“Plan things out on your calendar, so you set realistic expectations for the day,” adds Choncé. Get into the habit of creating a daily routine and schedule so that your days are predictable. I’ve found that this advanced preparation ensures you’re not caught off-guard. Most importantly, scheduling lets you, and others, know when you’ll be working, spending time with your kids, exercising or unplugging.
Choncé also recommends creating a schedule for your kids. A separate children's schedule not only keeps you organized and productive, but it also creates a structure that children respond to well. Examples of this could be establishing bedtimes and activities that they can do on their own while you work.
It’s important to note that you should create a schedule that works best for you. Often this is determined by factors like when you’re most productive or when the kids are at school. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a couple of different schedules until you’ve found a match. Once you’ve determined your schedule and you've filled out your calendar, make sure that it’s shared with both your team and family.
2. Know what to sacrifice -- and what’s non-negotiable
I’m not going to sugarcoat this. If you want to find a healthy balance between your startup and your family, then you’re going to have to make sacrifices. Trust me. It’s the only way that you’ll be able to manage your time.
However, you need to identify what to sacrifice and what is non-negotiable. For example, I love traveling for work. It’s a great way to get out of my comfort zone, do a little networking and let others know about my business. At the same, I’ve had to reduce the number of events I attend annually because I have a family at home. I’ve eliminated several events that ultimately not worth the investment -- both financially and time-wise.
But, I will also not skimp on quality time with my family. I’m home every day by 6 p.m. so that we can have dinner together. On weekends, the plan is not to work so that I can have quality time with my family. If they’re occupied or asleep, I may sneak away and catch up, or get ahead on some work -- but never when it’s family time.
3. Get the kids involved with your work
Obviously, this doesn’t mean putting them to work full-time. But, there are creative ways to spend time with your kids and your business at the same time. For example, a child could be included in marketing, product testing or focus groups. Depending on your business and their age, your child (teenager) could be more hands-on. I’ve heard stories of entrepreneurs who started businesses like making jewelry where their kids were able to make the product as well.
You could also involve them in other areas, such as establishing a daily routine. “Take or draw pictures of each step as a visual reminder of the next step in the process,” Ann DeWitt, marriage therapist and co-host of the Passport to Parenting podcast, told Fatherly. “Kids should be involved in making and adapting the routine, so they have buy-in and ownership of it. A skin-in-the-game or buy-in isn’t something we need to impose on our kids. You'll find they love it, and it's helping them to learn a great habit that will benefit them for a lifetime.”
4. Follow the “touch it once” rule
“We take so much time doing something and then redoing something because we didn’t really do it fully the first time,” productivity expert Nicole Bandes told CNBC. The solution? The “touch it once” rule.
The gist is straightforward, and it reminds me a bit of David Allen’s “2-minute” rule. Whenever you touch something, such as a piece of mail or folder that needs to be filed -- act on it immediately. If you do this small task quickly, you don’t have a gigantic list of things that you’ll get to later. Get them done and over with so that they’re not cluttering your mind or workspace.
5. Make the most of the time you have without the kids
What I mean here is that you should get as much work done as possible when the kids aren’t around. These little people need attention, and when you continually ignore them because you're busy, they feel it. Maybe this could mean you'll be setting your work hours while they’re at school. It could also be cleaning out your inbox during your morning commute. Or it would be waking up before everyone else in your home so that you aren’t distracted.
The idea is not to neglect your family when they’re around. Instead, it’s about getting things done when you’re not on parental duty.
6. Prioritize your well-being
I know what you’re thinking: “When do I have time to take care of myself?” The reality is that everyone can squeeze ten minutes a day to focus on activities like exercising or meditating. You can probably even do those activities right in your office when taking a much-deserved break in the afternoon.
On top of that, make sure that you get plenty of sleep and eat healthily. Like your kids, you should also have a bedtime so that you can get those six to eight hours of sleep each night. And, you should begin bringing your lunch to work and filling the office with healthy snacks.
By taking care of yourself, you’ll be less anxious, stressed, and will have the energy to be a parent and entrepreneur.
7. Use the Ivy Lee Method
The Ivy Lee Method was developed by, well, Ivy Lee back in 1918. And, ever since, it’s been a popular and effective productivity technique.
Here’s how it works. When the kids are in bed, take 15-minutes and write down the six most important things that you need to get done tomorrow. Next, prioritize them by order of importance. When you arrive to work in the morning, jump into the first task. After it’s complete, move on to the second and so forth. Whatever was unfinished gets moved to the next day.
This trick works because it lets you plan and prepare for tomorrow. As a result, you reduce decision fatigue and will always have enough energy to finish your most important tasks.
8. Delegate, outsource and automate
Want to know why so many of us struggle with work-life balance? It’s because we can’t let go of control. If that rings true for you, then it’s time to learn which activities can or should be delegated, outsourced or automated.
When it comes to delegation, if you’ve trained your team correctly and given them the tools and resources to succeed, then they should be more than capable of handling any work you throw their way. You need to state your expectations and trust them completely.
Outsourcing is similar to delegating. The difference is that you’re paying experts outside of your organization to complete a job. For instance, you could hire a freelance web developer to build your website if you don’t have a develope in-house.
As for automation, these are tools that do mundane and repetitive tasks for you. These could be chatbots or email responses that handle customer inquiries when you’re offline. Other examples could be accounting software that automatically issues invoices or smart calendars that make smart suggestions on how to plan your next meeting.
9. Master the art of batching
I’m a batching advocate. Personally, I think this is one of the best time management hacks for at home and work.
The idea is simple. Just group similar tasks together and knock them out at once. This way you’re not multitasking, wasting time putting things away, and it provides structure.
For example, as opposed to checking your email every time you receive an email schedule specific times throughout the day to go through your inbox. Instead of having daily meetings, set aside one day per week for all of them. And, do all of your cooking on Sundays so that you don’t have to make dinner every night.
10. Commit 100 percent and eliminate distractions
“People who are success-minded don’t want to just win in one area,” says author and sales expert Grant Cardone. “Who wants to succeed in business and fail at home? Whether it’s health, wealth, or parenthood, once you start being ‘average’ in one arena, that mediocrity spills over to other parts of your life.”
If you want to be like Grant and have your cake and eat it too, you need to be productive at work and home. “To get quality time in, I spend an hour with my kids in the morning without distractions before hitting my day,” he adds. “When I’m present, I’m present. When I’m doing work, I’m all in. Whatever you’re doing, go at it 100 percent.”
11. Use voice dictation
Every smartphone allows you to use your voice to create to-dos, add events to your calendar, and set reminders. That’s not mind-blowing. But, I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t use this technology. It’s so much faster and convenient than typing.
12. Build your village
Is this a cliche? Absolutely. But there’s a reason cliche are repeated so often. It actually does take a number of people to assist you with your parental and business obligations.
You probably can’t go wrong with friends and family in your personal life. They could stay home if your child is sick so that you can go into work. If you did have to stay home with your kids, your co-partner or trusted employee could run the show in your absence.
Additionally, your village could be other parents. Perhaps you could have a neighbor take your children to school so that you can get into your work at a decent time. But you have to return the favor. If there are days when you work from home, then you could watch their children after school.
13. Exercise your flexibility
One of the best things about being an entrepreneur is that you’re the boss. So, if that 9-to-5 schedule isn’t gelling with your home life, then you can establish your own schedule that’s more conducive to making life better for everyone. Entrepreneurs have a lot of flexibility -- use that flexibility to your advantage instead of sticking with the status quo.
14. Use stress and anxiety to your advantage
I’m not advocating for you to add stress and anxiety to your life. It’s not good for your productivity, health, family or business. However, there are times when these feelings can be beneficial.
If you’re speaking in front of others -- use that adrenaline rush to boost your energy and focus. If you’re concerned about not meeting a deadline, you could use that to overcome procrastination and drive motivation. Or, whenever you feel overwhelmed, you could exercise or conduct a mind dump to clear your head.
15. Take setbacks in stride
If there were just one piece of advice I could give, I’d tell budding entrepreneurs it would be that there’s no such thing as perfection. I’d also offer the same words of wisdom to parents.
No matter how hard you try, mistakes will be made. There will be days when life doesn’t care what you had in your calendar and will throw you a curveball. In situations like these, you have to accept it’s out of your hands. More importantly, don’t give up. Be willing to learn from these experiences and become more flexible.