6 Steps to Mastering the Elusive Work-Life Balance

Melinda Emerson shares tips to balance the demands of your entrepreneurial work and personal life.
July 16, 2012

Is it possible to find work-life balance as an entrepreneur? The answer is yes and no. In its first few years, your business owns you. Like a newborn, it demands all your time and effort to survive. Since breaking even usually takes 18 to 36 months, you usually begin to see daylight around year four. That's when you start to get your life back, but that's also when you must learn to prioritize.

Being a grinding workaholic may have kept your business afloat at the startup stage, but it's also a great way to burn out, ultimately losing your business and possibly your family. These six tips can help you better balance your life and your work as an entrepreneur.

Focus on being present, wherever you are. Entrepreneurs always have a lot going on. We'll appear distracted at best, disrespectful at worst. Give people your full attention everywhere you go by setting appointments for meetings and phone calls when you know you won't be disturbed and taking care of anything pressing beforehand. Be present with your loved ones, too. Do not take calls once you pick up the kids from school, while you're out at the ball field or during dinner.

Use the "5 before 11 a.m." principle. I learned this great technique from the book The 7 Minute Solution by Allyson Lewis. Simply make a list of five essential things that need doing each day, and focus on getting them all done by 11 a.m. Make your list the day before, so you can begin tackling the list immediately each morning.

Take essential business trips only. Most business owners love to sell; I sure do. But not every interaction must be handled in person. Make sure you gauge a potential client’s readiness to buy before investing your time and money in a face-to-face meeting. Time away is precious time you could spend with your family. If you must travel for business, try to stay away only one night to reduce chances you'll miss an important date, game or performance.

Treat your family as if it’s your number-one client. Busy entrepreneurs typically use every free moment to move their businesses forward. But small moments are big ones to your family. Turn off your cell phone when your kids are in the car. Go home at a reasonable time, at least one day a week. Spend the evening getting to know your kids. Establish a date night with your sweetie, and do not cancel it. Make sure your spouse and kids never think your business is more important to you than they are.

Do special things for your spouse and kids on work time. I had an amazing opportunity last year to lecture at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming. I took my son out of school for a week and invited my mom to join us. We made a family vacation out of it by taking a side trip to Yellowstone National Park. Since I work a lot, and I'm away from home so often, when I can leverage work travel into family time, it means a lot to us all.

Engage your family in your business. Give your kids little jobs appropriate to their ages so they appreciate and understand what you do. Share your strategy and successes with your spouse so he or she continues supporting your dream. The more you reach out for their help and advice, the less you'll meet with resistance and resentment. Be sure to share the rewards of everyone's hard work, too.

Success always comes with a price, but that price should never be your personal life or family. If your dream life as a business owner includes a happy family life, you need to start working toward making it come true today.

Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is one of America’s leading small-business experts. Forbes Magazine named her the No. 1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog and is the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FedEx.

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