If you’ve worked in the corporate environment for years, you know one of the prime reasons people decide to start their own business is for more freedom, and more time with family.
Yet if you’ve actually made the transition, and work from home, you know balancing your work life and family life can raise its own set of unique challenges. How do you teach your family separation between your personal and work time? And how do you avoid becoming a workaholic, literally thinking and acting on your ideas 24 hours every day?
In a previous post, I wrote about working together as a husband and wife team. Working together has its own set of unique challenges. But when you throw kids in to the mix, you have an entirely different set of issues. How do you manage it all? And stay sane in the process?
Look At Your Day As A Block Of Time
Every single one of us gets a full 24 hours in the day. What you choose to do with that time is up to you. You can subdivide it any way you choose, and use your time wisely – or foolishly. Bill Gates gets the same amount of time as Jane Doe. Yet they each use their blocks of time in entirely different ways.
The key to great home office management is to set up your blocks of time in an efficient way. Customer contact has to be done during normal business hours – or whatever hours work best for your clientele. Production work can be done any time, day or night. So you can structure your day around your family.
I have always been an early riser, and get up between 5:30 and 6:00. I use the first hour of my day to check in get ideas down on paper, make plans for the day, and set up my goals. I look at social accounts, and answer any burning questions. Then I spend time with my family and have breakfast. School is my jamming time – I get a ton done every day while my daughter is at school. Then I squeeze things in based on her schedule. Do I have to run her to a club or activity? I may get reading done or work a little computer work done on my iPad.
Babies and toddlers require different amounts of time compared with an elementary student, or with a high school student. The important thing is to set priorities for spending quality time with them, and establishing quality time on your business. Family needs to depend on you during their block of time, just like your business will thrive by spending time on it during its own block of time.
Is It An Interruption, or An Opportunity?
Every day brings its own unique challenges. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a goal for the week completely flop because of interruptions. And its not that interruptions are a bad thing. If a new client wants to meet you, and you spend several hours that week with them, is that really an interruption?
If you’ve already blocked your daily schedule out, you know the importance of working at full speed during key times of your day. And when you have to take time out for a child that comes in with a homework question, or you have to pick up a sick child from school, you’ll know how to change your blocks of time, and work them out a bit differently.
Many people end up going back to an office environment because the interruptions become overwhelming. Instead of reaching that point, learn to manage them. What times of the day are best for working, and have the least possibility of having your family around? For me, its early morning. For you it may be late at night. I know I can easily have an hour or two of productive time – and there is no way my 15 year old daughter will jump out of bed before 9am unless it’s a school day. And if you find a way to get your own productive time in, you’ll feel less threatened when you do face those daily interruptions we all face.
Set Up A Family Calendar
I’m a firm believer in over-communication. In other words, you can never talk too much with your family. If you know their schedules, understand what’s important to them, and what is expected of you, you’ll never run a risk of double booking your life.
For instance, if your daughter has a huge project due on Friday, and you know she’ll need time at the library, and possible running to the store two or three times picking up supplies, you’ll be prepared for the questions and help sessions. Book those into your calendar. Know that this will be a busy week for both of you, so don’t agree to the 4 pm client meeting on Thursday afternoon.
Likewise, you can also explain to your spouse and kids important meetings to you. When I teach, I usually spend a day in heavy preparation, and add in the actual class time itself. It’s on the calendar, so everyone knows I’m coming up to a busy time. They know to give me extra space those few days, and allow me to time crunch to get everything done.
I also like doing it this way because it sets a precedent for my daughter. She sees how to balance work and family life, and how it’s possible to work at home and function as a family. She’s learned respect for work and life balance, and knows what is truly important.
What About You?
While everyone approaches working a bit different, the important thing is to keep working on building strong, healthy relationships with those you love and support. There is an opportunity with everything you do.
If you work at home, either with your spouse or without, with kids or without, what have you found that works for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.