Balance! Balance is what we all strive for in our lives. Never is that harder than when balancing a family and small business.
The free time, sleep, and flexibility of schedule that I enjoyed 2 ½ years ago before the birth of my daughter is a distant memory. These days all three are hard to come by as I strive to give both my family and work life the attention they need. As someone who has run a small business from home for over three years, it is clear that folks like myself who are also managing a household and handling the virtually endless list of other family requirements have a true challenge in carving out time to run a business.
I’ve come to realize that embracing the inherent challenges that come with having a family is the single most important aspect of successfully running a business from home. Simply acknowledging and proactively approaching these challenges has released me from unrealistic pressures and allowed me to be better at all three roles: business owner, parent and spouse. Trying to continually struggle for complete control and perfection would only add needless stress to my day.
1) Schedules always change.
The first thing to remember is that flexibility is key in balancing your home based business and family responsibilities. The only thing absolutely certain about my schedule these days is that it will be slightly different today than it was yesterday and certainly won’t match exactly what I had planned for the day. Working from home for any part of the day, you soon realize that your own personal goals are secondary by necessity and dedicated time to focus on work generally becomes available only when children are sleeping.
Even if you are able to follow a fairly steady schedule at home, a change is always looming around the corner (for example, think new activities, family visits and events, travel, or a case of the flu). I’ve found it more effective to outline a daily schedule with ideal times and outcomes. Generally, I’m able to accomplish the most important business-related activities at the top of my list even if it means staying up later or coordinating child care with my spouse or sitter. In a pinch, I admit to resorting to calculating a projects completion in terms of episodes of Calliou (a French-Canadian cartoon my daughter loves). In any case, life becomes much more satisfying when we set realistic goals, do the best that we can to meet them and celebrate the things that we do accomplish rather than become frustrated about what we can’t.
The takeaway: remain flexible in your schedule for tackling and achieving business and family objectives. It is a constant practice in letting go of perfection while working toward your ambitions and remembering what is important. Which leads me to…
2) With so much vying for your attention, focus is vital.
Make a clear decision each day what is most important for you to accomplish on that day. In terms of business, this will most likely include completing the activities that will most directly impact your revenue. What is great about this? You will know exactly what to complete when you have those chunks of time to focus on business. Most likely, this will not include surfing the internet or other low-importance activity. I hear so many people say that they focus best and accomplish the most when under pressure. Despite reading countless articles and books on time management, nothing has been nearly as effective at increasing my productivity than having to meet the demands of both a business and family.
The takeaway: organization is even more important as your home life demands increase so start every day with a clear outline of your objectives for the day ahead. Also, embrace the added benefit of forced time management that having a family entails.
3) It is easy to get lost in the routine of going from one activity to the next.
As any parent knows, time flies by at quantum speed and kids grow faster than you can comprehend. It goes without saying that we should appreciate every moment. Not to mention, studies have shown that we are more effective as parents and are able to create a more nurturing environment for our children when we are present in our interactions with them.
Similar can be said for running a business. Success really requires you to be wholly involved in the process and dedicated to attaining certain outcomes or goals. Running a business requires focused attention.
You can see why you are doing no one any favors by trying to both parent and run your business at the same time. If you stop to acknowledge it, you will quickly receive feedback in either realm when you are not 100% present. For example, if I try to tie up some business-related loose ends while my daughter eats lunch I am soon instead handling my daughter as she acts out in some way to get my attention. Alternatively, my business will suffer if I don’t give it my full attention as needed.
The takeaway: give yourself permission to be fully present whether you are with your family or with your business. Releasing yourself from the internal conflict and resulting guilt will allow you to be more effective at whichever you are working on at the moment.
As many parents will agree, while life does become busier it also becomes fuller, in a beautiful way. We all want to enjoy time with our family while also continuing to build a successful business. By gradually learning to embrace the above three challenges, we can be more effective at both.
I’ve definitely honed my focusing muscles over the past two years and now have no problem in quickly scratching low importance activities from my list. We are expecting our second arrival any week now and I will be facing schedule mayhem all over again. While I’m looking forward to getting settled back into some sort of balanced work/life schedule as soon as possible after the birth, I’m excited to be able to approach the coming changes with a more open mind and ready to embrace a bit of healthy turmoil in all of its life-changing beauty.
I would love to hear, how do you balance work and family life?
Rebecca Malik is the President at 17thandRiggs.com, an online source for contemporary furniture and lighting, where she helps you create a fresh, modern space. Her site has been featured in well-known publications such as Southern Living and online with sites such as the popular Daily Candy. She is a contributor for WomenGrowBusiness.com, where she shares ecommerce and small business management tips.