How to Build a Business and a Family at the Same Time
The choice between work and life shouldn't be an accepted symptom of entrepreneurship.
It’s common for entrepreneurs to feel as though they need to choose between their personal and professional lives. Often times, young leaders are simultaneously growing their businesses and their families. As a result, your days can become taxing. From play time to board meetings and everything in between, learning how to juggle a successful life — both at home and in the office — can be challenging.
As a CEO and new father, I spend a lot of time reflecting on this demanding dynamic. Why are we led to believe that we must make familial sacrifices in order to succeed as entrepreneurs? Are we not able to nurture our family life while simultaneously embracing our careers? I think we are.
Here are five tactical habits that help me navigate being not only an entrepreneur, but also a husband, father, brother and son.
Wake up early
I know it sounds simple, but succeeding at your first task of the day will set a positive tone for the hours that follow. Don't just manage your time: Try to control it. By waking up early, you can complete important tasks while your kids remain asleep. Being proactive will give you a head start and save you time later on to spend with those you care about.
For instance, if you complete a few tasks early in the day, you can go on to enjoy breakfast with your spouse or kids once they’ve also risen. Mornings also tend to be a good time to practice mindfulness — a quiet interval of time to reflect, void of the mundane distractions that regularly vie for our attention. I set my intentions for the day each morning, then hit play. More often than not, this occurs during my morning workout.
Integrate work and life
“Work-life balance” is a common phrase that most of us have heard at one point or another throughout our careers. Frankly, I think the idea is dated. Treating work and life — especially nowadays — as two distinct entities is troubling. Setting up a business, particularly as an entrepreneur, requires harmony. That’s why I prefer work-life integration, a concept in which your job and family aren’t characterized as two incongruous forces competing against each other. Instead, they coexist somewhat synergistically.
In other words, work-life integration involves blending your personal and professional responsibilities. In a lot of ways, my business and family life are one in the same. The team members I hire tend to become my friends, confidantes and even family.
Block off time for family
It’s customary to have recurring blocks on our calendars for daily standups, weekly team meetings and company townhalls; the same should be done for our personal lives. For example, my phone intentionally breaks every evening so that I can spend uninterrupted time with my son. This way, I temporarily cut out all of the external noise (e.g., emails, texts, social-media notifications) using my iPhone’s Downtime functionality.
These calendar blocks serve a dual purpose. For those around me, they are a friendly reminder of where my personal priorities lie outside the office. For myself, they give me an opportunity to disconnect — even when business is busy. The truth is, work seldom ends when you’re an entrepreneur. The sooner you recognize this, the easier it will be to unplug when you absolutely need to.
Lead through people
Successful entrepreneurs recognize that they can’t do it all. You won’t be able to attend every employee onboarding session, client meeting or new business pitch — particularly when your company begins to scale. You must forge success by building world-class teams. For a business to both scale and persevere, a CEO must choose to stop leading people and start leading through people.
Leading people is the equivalent of being a team captain; leading through people is the equivalent of being a coach. Once you make the transition from captain to coach, the payoff for your organization —and your personal life — will materialize. Trusting your team gives you the freedom to delegate without pause and the flexibility to ensure adequate work-life integration.
Set clear boundaries and expectations
Unfortunately, your journey as an entrepreneur won’t be without sacrifice. At times, you will be compelled to make some. This could mean missing a weekend trip, sports game or board meeting. The goal, however, is to avoid this inevitability as much as possible. Putting boundaries in place is also a good way of identifying what you are (and aren’t) willing to sacrifice.
This strategy sheds light on what your deal-breakers as an entrepreneur are. What that looks like is different for everyone. Spend some time thinking about what your deal-breakers are. Once you’ve identified them, communicate them. Relaying your boundaries with both colleagues and loved ones alike affords you control and sets clear expectations — keeping everyone prepared and well-informed.
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