As I coach businesses, this is a common goal – to achieve work-life balance. We often go into business to have a better life, yet find ourselves having to work harder, longer and deal with more stress. If we have families, especially young children, comments like “You love your clients more than me” are not uncommon.
Here are my tips from decades of experience in not only growing successful businesses, but also raising (solo) three very balanced and successful young men.
How to Achieve Work-Life Balance:
Checklists & routines are your friend.
Getting organised and systemised will help you enormously. Using a checklist to not only track your tasks, but ensure things don’t get forgotten is really helpful. It takes less time to do something right the first time than to ‘put out fires’ and deal with problems because things go wrong. Having a daily routine is a blessing and part of that routine is scheduling in non-work and family time. If you have to put it into your diary to make it happen, then do so. I used to play netball (before my knee went) every Wednesday morning; I almost never skipped a game because it was in my schedule and I was as disciplined about going there, as I was seeing a client.
In business many people can do it all themselves. I know a very prominent doctor who did his own bookkeeping initially. Sure, he did it fine and was good at it, but that meant that every Sunday morning he was spending time with MYOB, rather than his children. I got a bookkeeper in, and she did the job twice as fast, and allowed him to get his Sunday morning back without having to cut back on patient appointments. Delegate what you are not good at, what is repetitive, what is simple/easy (ie cleaning or filing) or what is difficult (bookkeeping, marketing, maybe even social media). Delegation includes asking for help from your family.
Learn to say NO.
So you’ve set a routine and it’s ‘family time’ from 4pm to 6pm, except a prospective client wants to be with you at 5pm this afternoon. The ‘old you’ would say sure and apologise (again) to your kids and head off to get another client on board. The new you, says instead ‘I’d love to be able to see you this afternoon at 5pm, but I’ve already got an appointment booked in, could I do perhaps 9am tomorrow or 2pm?’ Invariably the client can be a little flexible and you don’t have to keep saying ‘no’ to your loved ones. It’s all about how you say no and giving the prospect alternatives. Work out a schedule and arrangement that will work for you and your family and your business and then stick to it.
Pre-book family activities.
Holidays are a typical thing that seem to get lost/missed/forgotten with newer business owners. The best way of keeping them happening is to book them a year in advance. Choose a date, book it and have the time off. I recommend 2 weeks; this allows you time to wind down without being absent too long. If you are the business, then make alternative arrangements; and if you have staff, don’t be surprised if the business actually runs as well (if not better) without you. Now, plan this well and do not take your laptop or phone – or if you must, work only before 8am and then you stop! It’s not a holiday if you are simply working from a different location. When I travel there is no laptop, no phone and only email via my iPad. When you go out for the day, leave the device in your hotel, unless it’s purely to take photos. Using local wifi only is a good way to stay un-connected.
Set aside ‘Me’ time.
As important as it is for you to be there for the business and for your family, it’s equally important for you to have ‘me time’. This can be a massage, going to the gym, or simply a solitary walk each morning to clear your head. Like everything else in a business person’s life, you often have to schedule this in so that it does happen. Like everything else, be disciplined that it happens. It’s important for you as the business owner to be healthy and happy and this will include some quality time spent on YOU.
Work smarter – not harder.
A number of strategies can be implemented; from avoiding distractions (such as the email thing going off every 2 seconds) and only access emails in batches, two or three times a day. Learn a new skillset that makes you more productive. If your typing speed is slow, learn to touch type properly if that’s going to make a big impact on your work day long term. Think long term. Sometimes some things take longer initially (like training a staff member) but the time invested will pay for itself later on. One part of working smarter is to do the hardest tasks when you are at your optimum. If you are a morning person, then get up early, do the mind challenging tasks first up and give yourself permission to finish up early. If you plan to work an 8 hour day, if that starts at 5am and finishes 2pm (allowing for a couple of breaks) then your day is done!
Set work boundaries.
If you have an office, don’t have a home office as well where you can simply come home and be back at work. If you are home based, then again, set the boundaries. I know at one stage I would be cooking dinner and checking emails … rather than cooking dinner and doing spelling homework with one of my sons. Set the boundary both ways. I have a deal with the kids that I worked till 5pm (when they were old enough to walk home from school) but when it came 5pm, pens down. They could easily tell the time, and the deal was they got home and let me work till 5pm, but at 5:01 I was theirs. They had permission to tell me it was 5pm and I did not give myself permission to tell them “just 5 more minutes”. In fact, I set an alarm on my phone for 4:55pm so I had 5 minutes to wind it up and at 5pm sharp, snap that laptop lid closed!
Sync these so that family time is linked in with business appointments and the schedule of everyone else. Use technology to make this happen, or at the very least ensure you have family/personal events in your schedule so that you never have to let down yourself, your clients or your family due to over commitment or forgetting something.
Manage Client Expectations.
If you put on your website that you are available 24/7, and you answer your phone at 10pm at night, then don’t get annoyed at the caller. You have set those expectations by what you have said and done. When I put a new client on, part of my welcome email says that I work 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Yes, I am often usually at my laptop more like 5am, but I don’t want calls till 8pm and I don’t take calls on the weekend. If I don’t answer a client on the weekend, I will text them back and ask if it’s urgent, or can I call them Monday? 99% of the time the call can wait and so it does. My expectations are reasonable, communicated and everyone respects them. I appreciate if you provide emergency services, it’s a little different, but good communication, information on your website and that quick text to touch base and ascertain urgency works a treat.
As I say to my business coaching clients, business is a marathon. Not a sprint, so we need to pace ourselves to be in it for the long haul. Look after yourself, your family and your staff… looking after business will become easier.
Need a business coach? Call me on 0411 622 666 now.