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With only 24 hours in a day, only a small number of tasks to our greater number of commitments can be accomplished. And, even less will be knocked off the to-do list if the kids are sick or if a client needs additional attention.
Since cloning ourselves is something that can only be left to science fiction, I've learned some ways to balance work and family life.
Focus on your family plan first and then on your business plan. I suggest the family plan first because your ability to keep everything going will depend on a solid foundation at home and the boost you will get from feeling that what you are doing is worthwhile.
Answer these questions for yourself:
Next, put together a formal business plan (see our Business Plan section for help) and map out how your business is going to work.
You’ll need a team at home and a team at work. Since, you are probably the coach of both teams, use your plan and let everyone know the plan details and how it will run. Let them know what part they have in the plan. Ask them about their plan and what role you play. Talk about what you will do when you reach certain milestones (celebrations!) and what you will do when the going gets tough. Practice your plan with your teams on a regular basis so everyone still knows what the plan is and can contribute the most to the effectiveness of the team.
Humans are creatures of habit and we tend to love schedules. Effective families have a number of traits, and a consistent schedule is usually one of them. Chaos is not effective and does not promote balance. Use visual reminders at home so that the family knows about the schedule. Laminated poster board works well so that everyone sees what everyone else is doing and what the family events will be. Too many family events such as sports, community activities, or chores? Consider limiting activities or outsourcing or delegating chores to others.
Use the concept of family meetings, so that everyone can check-in. In my family, we have dinner together every night of the week. The family dinner is a very important time for everyone to reconnect and express themselves.
This is a really difficult one for most of us. I started out with a home office that had no doors and was formerly my dining room. It was so easy to work at night and on weekends. There are times when I still do work on the weekends, but I try to pick times that my children are not going to want time with Mommy.
We call weekends “Family Days” to remind us that family is the most important thing on the weekends. If you are still working 60 hour weeks after your business is a couple of years old, make sure that those hours fit your plan from item #1. Burnout is around the corner if your situation does not match your plan and your team is clamoring for your missing attention.
If you worry about your home situation while you are working, your productivity will be significantly reduced. What can you do to help with the stresses at home? Refer back to your teams. Expand the size of the teams so that you have more flexibility to do what you need to. Enlist the help of a relative, spouse, neighbor, or trusted friend to cover those little emergencies that come up with a home and children.
Another option is to hire an assistant at the office that can cover for you there while to handle the little emergencies. Have back-up plans for when the sitter is sick or the daycare center won’t take your child because they have a fever.
So far you have some plans, teams, schedules, and the separation of home and work. Now lets look at how you can keep track of it all. If you don’t use a planner (paper) or PDA (personal digital assistant) you should seriously consider using one. I use a planner where I have my schedule, phone numbers, codes, notes, and pictures. The planner zips up so nothing falls out. The amount of time I’ve saved with this low-tech device has been remarkable.
As I've had a little more time to use these ideas and determine their value, I've found one more thing that makes a big difference in my personal life as well as my professional life. On the days that I checked off the most tasks or returned the most emails, I realized that I didn't feel as great as those days where I had something fun happen that day. I feel lucky. I have a great husband and kids who consistently "bring me back" to what is important and help me see the lighter side of life (I tend to be rather serious).
The longer I'm on the planet, the more I think we are not only here to learn but to also enjoy the ride. Put some fun into your day today, and enjoy the ride just a little more!
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