As a small business owner, you know all too well how hard it is to juggle all the demands on your time. Finding ways to manage all the different aspects of your business is tough enough-and figuring out how to have a happy, successful home life at the same time can sometimes seem impossible. Here are some tips that may help, especially with the busy winter holiday season upon us.
1. Concentrate on what’s important.
The late author and renowned leadership expert Stephen Covey (“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”) suggests that balance comes from aligning your priorities to be able to take care of what’s really important to you. Not what’s urgent. Or pressing. Or pleasant. Important.
The list of what’s important will look different for everyone, but be mindful of it when you’re scheduling tasks. Don’t sacrifice what’s important for everything else.
2. Schedule time away from work.
If the days (and nights) are getting away from you, pencil in some “me time” on your calendar, and stick to it. Often, it seems we can’t let go or step away for even an hour, but the truth is, we will usually be more productive and energetic if we do.
Take a lunch break. Meet a friend for coffee. Get to the gym. You will still find the time to meet with customers and do the payroll each week. Carve out time for yourself and make it non-negotiable.
3. Don’t define yourself by your business.
You are not your company. You work at the company, you may even have founded it, but you are not it, and you shouldn’t confuse the two. Maintain the boundaries that will help you keep your individual identity.
Shut off your business cell phone after hours. If you work from home, keep your work area separate from your living space. Shut the door at the end of the day. Use a separate email address for work. Keep shop talk to a minimum at the dinner table. It’s okay to share about your day, but it shouldn’t be all you talk about.
4. Learn the power of saying no.
It’s hard, we know. You’re so programmed to go after every opportunity to build the business, you want to sit on the committee, speak at the function, teach the workshop, etc. Before you know it, your circle of friends has narrowed to include mostly business relationships, and you see work associates more than you see your family.
To get things back in balance, you have to turn things down. (That may even mean turning down business that takes up too much of your time for too little return!) That’s okay. Do so pleasantly but firmly. If you feel the need to explain, say you couldn’t do the task justice right now and would never want to compromise the outcome. Then, don’t allow yourself to be talked into it.
5. Think longer term and be flexible.
It’s almost impossible to achieve a perfect work/life balance every day. Or sometimes, even every week or month. Part of the struggle is trying to hold onto unrealistic expectations during the times you can’t.
Some businesses make half their profit for the year during the holiday season. It’s understandable, then, that work may have to occasionally take precedence during that period. Go with it, but then promise yourself (and your family, if applicable) a reward when it’s over.
Understand that sometimes the balance sheet will show a credit, and other times a debit. The trick is to not have it permanently skewed one way or the other.
6. Get help.
You really don’t have to do everything yourself! When you can, delegate. This is a great opportunity to see what your employees are capable of and entrust them with some of the care and feeding of your business.
At home, buy some prepared foods instead of cooking your entire holiday dinner from scratch. If you can afford it, hire someone to clean the house so you can spend the afternoon at the park. Send the laundry out this week and read your kids a bedtime story instead. Choose one-size-fits-all gift cards instead of trying to squeeze in time for holiday shopping.
Know that you are not alone.
Whether your colleagues and competitors talk about it or not, achieving a balance between work and a personal life is important to most people. To women AND men. President Obama spoke with CNN about the issue in June of 2014. We may have a long way to go, but recognizing the importance of achieving and maintaining a balance in our lives is a big first step.