Any working parent knows the complexities and intricacies of balancing work and family life. But for entrepreneur parents, there is a whole other layer of responsibility, anxiety, and frustration that comes from running their own business.
Many “parentpreneurs” say they have two babies: Their own kids and their company. Arguably, one wins the attention more than the other, and that’s where the frustration begins. Both require constant nurturing, especially in the early years, and entrepreneurial parents must quickly learn how to efficiently manage both growing entities to survive (and thrive).
So how do they do it? By following some simple guidelines as listed below.
1 - Setting Parenting Boundaries
While there is still a clear unfair divide when it comes to household chores, according to a new study published in Springer Journal's Sex Roles, there IS some progress. [Also, disturbingly, this same study suggests that raising kids is considered a ‘household chore’ for men.]
For me, it was mandatory that my husband goes 50/50 on child rearing if I was already working 50+ hours each week. We decided that I would drop the kids off and he would pick them up from daycare every day. Night time waking was also scheduled (see below), and we divided our Sunday’s up to take advantage of some free work-time (9 am - 1 pm and 1 pm - 5 pm ‘shifts’)
2 - Prioritizing Sleep
As an entrepreneur, we think that the more we work, the more we will get done and the faster our business will grow. While there may be some truth to this in the early days when you are still figuring stuff out and trying to earn your first few dollars, the reality is quite real: It doesn’t work well in the long run!
Layer newborns and kids on top of this and it becomes increasingly harder to justify sleep. When can you get it all done if you’re sleeping, right?
If you aren’t getting a decent night's rest, you are leaving money on the table. Good sleep = increased productivity, cognitive performance (no more foggy brain), better overall health, better-eating habits, less likely to have a substance abuse problem and it makes you prettier (beauty sleep).
This was likely one of the toughest things to grasp for me as a parent: sleep schedules. But we worked it out in the beginning during those newborn days. I had from 8 pm - 1 am to sleep. If the kids woke up in that time, my husband would deal with them. He had from 1 am - 6 am to sleep, and I was on duty. There were a couple of months during the 8-week to 16-week stage of my second son's life that we hired a night nanny. She came in on the T-days (Tuesday and Thursday) to watch him and only woke me when he needed to nurse. I got my sleep back. Once he was able to sleep through the night, we canceled the night nanny and moved our focus on to other things.
If you schedule your life around your sleep habits, then you will not only be happier, you will be more successful.
3 - Scheduling Alone Time
If you're a lot like me, I need solitude. Time alone, in silence to reflect and get attuned to me. As an entrepreneur or parent, we get so consumed by our external priorities we neglect the internal things that make us who we are. For me, that's having baths, reading a great book or going for a walk in nature -- alone. I need this time, with no schedule, to just do whatever, whenever and however. The liberty of this set time is very freeing.
The same rules apply to work. When I ran an agency, I had scheduled alone time to write and brainstorm. Just to let my mind take me wherever it needed to go. Sometimes it made sense, other times I would write and plan things that never saw the light of day. But without that braindump time, I wouldn’t have even allowed myself the time to create, let alone invent new methods, come up with new ideas and otherwise actually see some great projects through.
If we are constantly scheduling our day without respect to some much needed mental downtime, we lose out on some incredible creative processes. New book ideas, new webinar plans, new product upsells and even, maybe just even you’ll come up with a solution to gain more downtime.
4 - Time Blocking
Also called chunking, this is the method of breaking up your day into larger chunks to work on similar tasks. Example: time chunked writing time, sales call time zones and family time. Since I am an avid Calendly user, if I am not time chunking my day (Scheduling necessary things and everything, even my alone time) anyone can compromise my day. When I ran my agency, we didn’t schedule any client or sales calls on Friday’s. Instead, we used this day to avidly complete our week’s tasks, to hang out and get to know each other more and to brainstorm new ideas for either our clients or the agency itself. Important calls and meetings were scheduled for Tuesday - Thursday even leaving Monday’s open for doing (it was also nice to have that buffer day free in the event something urgent came up). This allowed us to be more proactive and to minimize the risk of over scheduling, thus overworking. Rarely did my teamwork more than 40-hours / week because of this time blocking schedule.
5 - Balancing Balance
Balance won’t happen every day or every week for that matter. There will be times when projects and travel eat up your family time and kill your workout routine. Then there are weeks that are completely on point. But if you stood back and took a 30,000-foot view of your life what is the thing that stands out the most? Is it the balance or the chaos? That answer there can define you. If things are often too out of sorts, ask yourself why and when did this all begin? If everything is in order, ask yourself what foundation do I need to keep this all together?
On the days when work eats up family time, use it as an opportunity to show your kids that you are doing something you love. Your passion and purpose with inspire them. And then on days that you can ultimately connect with them, explain to them what you do every day and why that makes you happy. Relate it to their interests and have them understand why you do what you do. A little clarity will help everyone understand where your head's at and why you run for the Oreo cookies after a sales call sometimes ;)
6 - Stop Before Walking In
Whether you are coming home from work or stepping into a serious meeting, just stop and breath before you walk in. Whatever lies beyond that door requires a different level of energy from where you just came. From boss to mom, or wife to CEO, the shift happens, and you need to be mentally prepared for whatever lies beyond. Set a mental reminder or place a note in your car, front door or desk that reminds you who you are at this moment. Be that person.
There is a lot you can do, some things you should do, but it all starts with the little things. What’s the one thing you can do today to set boundaries with work and family? What should you stop doing?
I would love to know in the comments below.
Photo by Thought Catalog
If you require help in setting up family values, a family mission, and in finding your families why, please check out the guide: The Couples Retreat Playbook. In this guide, you will learn when and where to book your next couples retreat, how to schedule your time away, and even what to pack. More importantly, you’ll gain access to some helpful worksheets that will guide you through the process of completing an effective disconnected time away.