Whenever a person transitions to running their own business, they have to adjust their concept of work/life balance. In return for equity and the possibility of financial freedom, you’ve got more responsibility and much longer hours. This means that work/life balance as an entrepreneur is challenging, if not impossible, to achieve.
Now imagine adding an adorable newborn to the mix.
My wife and I recently welcomed our third child, and part of why I’m not completely frazzled by the demands of a new baby is because I’ve worked out some basic practices to balance work with family time. For any new parent who’s also an entrepreneur, these tips should help you maintain your sanity and also give you a little more time for your family.
Turn Off Work at Set Times
As entrepreneurs, we tend to forget that one of the best advantages of a typical 9-to-5 job is being able to stop working as soon as you leave the office. Early weekday mornings, evenings and weekends are off limits, and people who work normal jobs can fill those hours with leisure activity. In contrast, most entrepreneurs work long hours, on weekends, on national holidays — pretty much any time they can. Their main focus is growing their business, regardless of timing.
In my case, I also want to make sure I have time for my family, especially with a new baby. I do this by ensuring I have at least 2-4 hours each day when I can turn off work. I usually stop working around 5:30 p.m. My phone and laptop stay in my office while I help with dinner preparation, eat with my family and then spend some time on a leisure activity with the kids before putting them to bed. I don’t touch a computer or laptop until 8:45 or 9:00 p.m., and I only do serious work during this second shift if I’m in crunch mode. Otherwise, I’m usually doing low-touch things such as reviewing code, clearing out my inbox and other low-priority tasks.
Be Flexible With Weekends
I’m open to not working for the entire weekend so that I can be with my family. It helps that Hubstaff is business-centric, so our customers don’t tend to use it on the weekends and things are pretty quiet. Even when we were in the initial build phase, or when I’m in crunch mode, I’ll only work 4-6 hours on Saturday and 2-4 hours on Sunday, both during the day. My business is important, but so is my family — and I would urge every entrepreneur who’s also a new parent to view the situation similarly.
One important caveat is that these totals don’t include time I spend working after everyone is asleep. In fact, you can still manage to get a lot of work done on the weekends by asking what everyone wants to do and planning around it. It’s easy to take the kids to do something fun, eat together as a family and still fill in the gaps with enough work to move your business forward.
Both entrepreneurs and new parents are especially challenged to fit exercise into their routine, but when you’re in these two crucial phases of life, there’s more need than ever for the energy boost that only a good workout can offer. Get your spouse on board so they can cover with the kids when you need to work out. Then set a schedule and stick with it. If I didn’t work out, I’d have much less energy available for my kids, my wife and my business.
Give Each Spouse a Special Night
It’s stressful to run a business, and having a new baby is all-consuming, so it’s important to give yourself small breaks to recharge. Each spouse should have one special night just for them — it gives your significant other a reason to get out of the house, and it also lets you have one night a week that’s not completely dominated by work or kids. Even just going out with some friends for an hour or two for a drink is a great way to take a break.
If you can afford it, hire help. Get groceries or meals delivered; get help cleaning your house; get help with running your business. You might even hire a personal trainer to help you out with your workouts — whatever you need. As an entrepreneur and a new parent, there are more demands on your time than ever and you simply cannot do everything yourself. You’ll be increasing your personal expenses, but it will ensure that your lifestyle is sustainable. You’ll have more time and energy for your family, and for your business.
Communicate Your Priorities, Then Focus on Them
Now more than ever I can’t afford to waste time on something that’s not productive. And since my wife and I share responsibilities around the house, we have to be on the same team. That’s why it’s my job to figure out what my work priorities are for the short and long term, talk about them with her and then plan (together) accordingly. For example, if I’m asking her to handle the middle-of-the-night feedings because I’m in crunch mode and I need to sleep from 1:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., that means that while I’m working during the day, I really need to focus and get work done so I can be there for her and the kids later.
Being a parent and being an entrepreneur are both hard, and combining the two can be extra challenging. Creating small routines that help you spend more time with your family might seem like it won’t help your business, but family time will actually boost your energy and help you accomplish more.