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Balancing Business And Family Life: Top Tips for Entrepreneurs

Barnaby

Barnaby Lashbrooke

Founder and CEO of Time etc, author of The Hard Work Myth

7 minute read

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Running your own business is one thing, but managing your family life can also often feel like a full-time job in and of itself. For those who are working remotely, this can be especially challenging. Are you working from home, or does it feel more like living at work?

The sad fact is that due to the “always-on” culture of entrepreneurship, many people believe that being successful in business and also being able to enjoy your life to the fullest outside of work is more of a pipe-dream than an achievable reality. According to recent findings, 49% of entrepreneurs work more than 50-hour workweeks, 86% of business owners work on weekends, and 53% work on major holidays. With only so many hours in a day, more time spent with your family can only mean less time you can spend working on your business. The less time you spend working on your business, the less likely you are to succeed, right?

Not exactly.

I found out the hard way that the amount of time spent behind a desk does not always correlate with the quality of work needed to push your business forward. You could hypothetically work from the minute you wake up in the morning to the minute you go to bed at night, but still be no closer to reaching your goals at the end of the day.

People say “time is money” to highlight its value, but there is a crucial difference that sets them both apart. There will always be opportunities to make more money, but once time has gone, you can never get it back. As important as this is to remember for growing your business, we need to remember this for our personal lives, too. As a father of three children, I’m reminded more of this fact with every passing day, which is why I’ve developed these strategies that help you do more meaningful work in less time and make the most out of both your work and home life.

These simple tips are ones that I follow myself, and not only am I spending much more quality time with my three children, my business grew by 65% last year into eight figures of annual revenue. So for those who say you can’t have it both ways, I say think again!

Even if you’re currently happy with your work/life balance or you don’t think this applies to you, remember that prevention is always better than cure. Arming yourself with these tips and strategies now will make it far less likely your work life will ever take over.

So let’s get started…

Set work limits

First, you will need to establish strict limits around the hours that you work.

If you ask any entrepreneur the reasons why they decided to start their own business, I’m sure that the freedom and flexibility that comes with being your own boss would be at the top of the list. However, this can often turn out to be a double-edged sword. The freedom to work the hours you choose, combined with the lack of structure that a typical employee’s workday provides, can make it all too easy to work increasingly longer and longer days.

Without setting these limits, there’s nothing to stop you from working well into the night or evening when you could be spending time with your family. Or for those who find it easier to work at night when their family is sleeping, work often creeps into the daytime. Either way, many say that one of the main reasons behind this is Parkinson's Law. This is the notion that “(the amount of) work expands to fill the time available for its completion”. Have you ever given yourself “plenty of time” to complete a relatively straightforward or easy task, only to find yourself still working on it right up until the last minute? That’s a prime example of this concept in action.

Setting a structure and strict schedule will help you avoid the pitfalls of Parkinson's Law, and transform the way you work in general. Having a set amount of time each day to work gives you little choice but to be more focused and efficient to make sure all your necessary work is completed. This leads to my second tip…

Do more of the work that matters

In order to make the most of your set working hours, you need to eliminate low-value tasks. These time-consuming tasks that don't add value to your company are what's keeping you from achieving success, and spending time with your loved ones. At its most basic, less distracting, low-value tasks eating up your time will mean less need to overwork!

Roughly 90% of your time should be spent on high-impact tasks that help your business grow and help you achieve the goals you have set. Think of your work in terms of quality instead of quantity, and you’ll find that you’ll start to see results much faster.

If a task on your to-do list isn’t the best use of your time as a business owner, you should consider delegating it. Our free to-do list optimizer can show you just how much (or how little, as is often the case!) of your workload actually needs to be done by you.

Organize your home life as much as your work life

Your calendar is about to become your new best friend. In my experience, you’ll struggle to make the most out of every hour each day if you don’t plan for it in advance.

Whereas previously you may have used your work calendar to keep track of meetings and deadlines, and your personal calendar to note birthdays and appointments, you should now make full use of your calendar to schedule everything.

Start planning your day down to the hour, or down to the minute if possible! This is one of the best ways of stopping work from creeping into your home life, intentionally or not. For example, if you plan to finish work at 6pm and dinner with your partner is scheduled for 7pm, there’s nothing to stop you working past 6pm as a way of filling that empty time slot before dinner. It’s Parkinson’s Law in action again! But if you have “take the kids to the park”, “video call with parents”, “go to the gym”, or “help with dinner” in the 6pm-7pm slot, you’ll be far less likely to forego those activities.

Establish clear boundaries

Finally, it can be helpful to practice your own assertiveness to help maintain your work-life balance. In practice, this often means needing to say “no” a lot more than you might be used to, which can be more challenging for the people-pleasers among us.

However, always agreeing to everything can lead to work and family life imbalance because it can crowd your schedule with additional tasks. Before agreeing to any new spontaneous work or ad hoc requests, ask yourself whether this is the best use of your time as the head of your business. If it falls within your remit and your schedule allows for it, only then should you agree to do it. If these criteria aren’t met, you can politely decline and offer an alternative if possible. For example, “I can’t help you with this right now, but these people may be able to help instead.” If you think you need to offer an explanation, this isn’t necessary. Adding this justification to your “no” gives people the chance to challenge your reasoning, putting you in a difficult position to maintain your original refusal.

Clear boundaries are also important for managing expectations and minimizing conflict, both at work and at home. You might have to let business partners know that you don't answer your phone on the weekends, or you might need to make it clear to your loved ones that you shouldn’t be disturbed during your set working hours. Clearly communicating your needs is essential for making sure that all parties are on the same page.

What’s The Bottom Line?

Unfortunately, a healthy work-life balance isn’t an automatic or natural state for many entrepreneurs in today’s hectic and competitive world. If we’re not careful, we can burn ourselves out, neglect our personal relationships, and miss out on making important memories, all without even realizing it.

But the good news is that a balanced home and work life is not only possible, it’s more attainable than you might have thought. Like so many things in life, it just needs a bit of planning and effort to put it into practice.

By addressing the small changes that can make a big difference and building these simple tips into your regular routine, you can regain control and give both your work and family life a happier and more productive version of yourself.

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About the author

Barnaby
Barnaby Lashbrooke is the founder and CEO of Virtual Assistant service Time etc as well as the author of The Hard Work Myth, recently recommended by Sir Richard Branson. Barnaby is a Forbes Columnist on productivity and is also an accomplished entrepreneur, selling more than $35 million worth of services.

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