There’s been a lot of talk about work-life balance lately. Over 70% of children in the U.S. live in a household in which both parents work, which makes parenting so much more challenging than it used to be. It’s tough to know how much work is too much, but overworking is a real problem. It takes a toll on both mental and physical health, but it’s tricky to avoid. This is especially true for business owners.
As a family-owned business, the BYX team is intimately familiar with the work-life balance struggle. It’s extra tricky today with an ongoing labor shortage. Fortunately, we’ve learned a thing or two in our decades of successful business ownership. These nine tips help us keep our work life and home life in equilibrium. (Well, most of the time!)
- Accept that work-life balance looks different for entrepreneurs
For an average employee, work is work and life is life. For entrepreneurs, work isn’t just something you do to make ends meet: It’s part of life, and one you care about very much. Your work is important, and it should be. Instead of trying to force yourself into a perfect schedule, look for a sustainable rhythm that keeps both your work life and your home life in good shape.
- Make a list of priorities
You can’t be everywhere at the same time. Try, and you’ll likely fall short everywhere. Instead, plan what takes precedence. For example, immediate family emergencies come before all else, but work emergencies take precedence over volunteering at your child’s school. (Even if you said you would.) There’s no one-size-fits-all list, so make your own and stand by it. Sorting out priorities is tougher as a parent. After having children, we quickly realized having clear priorities was going to be hugely important to our success and sanity. The success of our children depended on how much we could be present for them, but also on how well we could support them…And so began the perpetual game of tug-of-war between our top 2 priorities; our family and our business.They are both clear priorities, but also in constant conflict with each other. With 2 working parents who both love to and want to work but also love to and want to be present for our children, we’ve developed a system of “divide and conquer” that helps us keep all of our balls in the air.
3. Leave work at work as much as possible
Admittedly, this one isn’t always possible. Some things can’t wait, and we get that. Consider setting your phone to accept urgent calls only while you’re at home, or let staff members know they should only contact you if it’s absolutely necessary. Otherwise, quality family time loses the “quality” part.
This has been a huge struggle for us. We have learned that it’s not realistic for us to fully check out, even when on vacation, so we allow for a limited amount of time spent daily responding to only the urgent items that cannot wait and the rest of the time we focus on being together. This helps to minimizes the stress for our team and for us in our absence.
Additionally, dinners are spent as a family and devices must be silenced and put away during this time so we can check in with each other and make sure our kids feel our full presence when they are recapping their day.
4. Set boundaries
As a continuation of the last point set clear boundaries both at home and at work. If you work from home on some days, your family should know that being home doesn’t mean you’re available. Setting boundaries between work and home life enable you to focus on each of them individually, rather than feeling constantly pulled in multiple directions. Define and express your boundaries clearly, both at home and at work.
5. Be authentic and honest
While business owners conduct themselves with an elevated level of professionalism while in the workplace, there’s nothing wrong with allowing your identity to be part of that. Sharing tidbits about your spouse, kids, or dog while at work helps build connections and a sense of community. Plus, when you have to miss a meeting because the dog ate your kid’s iPhone and needs a trip to the emergency vet, everyone will get it. On the flip side, discussing your work with your family gives them a chance to respond with empathy when you have to work late for the third time this week.
There are days when childcare falls through at the last minute and our kids come to work with us. This used to really frustrate us but we’ve learned that it’s just part of our reality and being able to pivot quickly to keep going is important. Our team and kids all know and love each other. The kids actually beg to come to work over the summer as much as possible but we limit it for productivity purposes. I think this helps make us relatable and gives us a chance to empathize when the situation is reversed with a team member. And our dog comes to work with us most days and is a beloved team mascot!
6. Communicate like crazy
It might be overstated, but communication really is key. Communicating everything from deadlines, expectations, needs– all of it. Communicate with business partners, employees, family, and even yourself. You’re the one in the driver’s seat, and who goes on a road trip without a map?
7. Aim for balance in the long run, not a perfect 50/50 split
When people hear the word balance, they imagine a day in which they complete everything on their list and make everyone happy, every day. That’s not possible. Some days, you’ll have to pull an all-nighter. Make up for it by planning an extra special family day or a long weekend with your partner. You can’t strike a perfect balance every day, so search for harmony in the long term instead.
The biggest challenge to balancing work and family is constantly refocusing on the priorities, setting boundaries, and then accepting that there will be days when assuming a certain amount of flexibility to blur the lines you set up will happen and that’s okay. It’s easy to get sucked into deadlines and projects at work and feel frustrated when you have to fly out the door to drive the soccer carpool before you’re done with your day but seeing the smile on your kid’s face when you show up to catch the last 15 minutes of their practice is worth knowing that the computer is coming back out once they go to bed.
8. Learn to deal with failure
Let’s face it: No entrepreneur, spouse, or parent is perfect. If that were the case, this article would be pointless. We’re all just doing our best, and sometimes we’re going to fall short. When you’re trying to accomplish a lot, messing up now and then is inevitable. That’s okay. Instead of allowing failure to dent your confidence, consider it an opportunity for growth. Learn from the mistake and move on.
9. For a better work-life balance, learn to say no
As much as we’d love to do it all, trying to do everything will only lead to burnout. Don’t say yes to every opportunity just because it’s there. Look back at your priorities list and make sure “self-care” is included.
10. Plan ahead
As a business owner work never stops. You can’t just resign and go find another ladder to climb. You are the ladder and your success sits directly on your shoulders. Managing your time wisely and delegating when you can is the only way to pull it all off. Create a plan every day of the items that must be accomplished to help you stay focused in every facet of your life.
As partners, we also work together every day in every way. Heading both a family and a business together means we live by our calendars and are constantly passing the baton back and forth. We do not maintain a traditional division of labor. We both take after-dinner work calls and late nights or early mornings on the computer, and we also both cook, clean, drive soccer carpools, and put kids to bed. We both know we couldn’t do it without the other and we compromise daily to get it all done.