We’ve only got 24 hours in a day. Aside from sleep, the time left can feel far too limited to juggle both work and family.
This is especially true for entrepreneurs who run their own small business, or those who work on an early-stage startup. It can often feel like there’s never enough time to get work done, let alone spend quality time with family and friends.
But for your emotional and mental health, it’s so important to find that balance of priorities. Here are four steps you can take to ensure an effective prioritization of your time between work and family.
1. Set goals for your business
One of the most effective ways to get your work life under control is to set clear targets. In addition to being an excellent motivator and bringing focus to your business, these goals will also moderate your own approach to work.
Without goals, you can be easily tempted to continue working simply for the sake of it. A goal is a clear indicator as to where you’re going, what’s required to reach it, and how much time you need to achieve it.
Goals should be SMART. That’s not capitalized for emphasis; it highlights five key things to keep in mind when setting your business goals:
You should be very clear about a goal. “Get more followers on social media” is a poor goal. “Reach 20,000 people per month through our key social media channels, Facebook and LinkedIn” is specific, actionable, and – if you’ve done your research right – a realistic target.
As above, you should be able to know when you’ve hit your goal. “Improve revenue” sounds good on paper, but is not a goal you can accurately track. “Improve margins on international shipping by 2%” is something measurable.
Make sure you do your research beforehand to be sure that you can achieve your goal in a realistic manner. Expecting a million followers on Twitter within a month when you’ve only just created an account is not a realistic goal.
You know what your business is about, what its strengths and weaknesses are. Set goals that are relevant to your businesses’ unique position.
Set healthy timelines for your goals. Avoid setting timelines that are too far down the track – break those up into more achievable short and medium-term goals to maintain your motivation.
2. Outsource key tasks
Don’t try and do everything by yourself. It can be tempting because it’s “free”, but having respect for your own time is more beneficial. Outsourcing tasks and roles that you find challenging, frustrating, or time-consuming can free up a lot more time to spend with your family.
For example; if you’re not an accountant taxes may be a nightmare. Rather than try to absorb the work yourself, outsource bookkeeping and accounting to a professional. Not only will their service greatly benefit your business, but you will be able to focus on what you do best, and ultimately avoid mulling over petty cash reports at home on a Sunday evening.
In addition to freeing up your time, and getting often complex tasks handled by experts that can manage them efficiently, you’ll also benefit from their depth of knowledge, providing your business with a greater competitive advantage.
3. Build a healthy workplace culture
Whether you have one employee or one hundred, establishing a company culture that protects your staff’s right to have family time, downtime, and time outside of work is important. Not only does it mean your staff will be happier and more productive when they are at work (improving workflow and employee retention), but you’ll also find yourself encouraged to adopt the same work habits.
There are four key benefits of promoting workplace well-being:
No one will be loyal to the workplace they hate. They’ll be more likely to move on, or in extreme circumstances sabotage your business. Having a team who are loyal to your business means they will be motivated to stay productive, innovate how they work and achieve their goals.
If you’ve got an organization of happy employees, they will watch each other’s backs. If someone is struggling with their work for some reason, others will pick up the slack. The work still gets done, and indeed people often much more quickly, because positive lines of communication help to identify challenges and opportunities more quickly.
As a business leader you’ll often feel the pressure to be the ideas person too, but if you’ve got a happy, positive workforce, you’ll find ideas coming in from all corners.
Access better hires
Word gets around. If your business is considered a good place to work, you’ll attract better talent, which will, in turn, ease the burden on you, as they’ll be more efficient and productive in their own work.
Establishing your business as a good place to work will ease the burdens on your own time.
4. Properly schedule time with family–and stick to it
Spending time with family has health and well-being benefits. It builds self-esteem, encourages greater empathy, and, importantly, gives your mind a rest from work. So many leaders come back from a holiday, sabbatical or work-free weekend with family and discover some of their most inspired ideas.
It can be difficult to see family time as a priority; work deadlines are set in stone, and family time can always be “pushed back,” but that’s a poor way to look at it. Set aside family time, and stick to it as you would meetings or other work obligations. Add it to the calendar if necessary.
If you’re an entrepreneur, there are all kinds of things that you can do to establish more time for your family. Allow yourself to work from home (allow employees you can trust to do so too!). You’re probably working 15, 16 hour days, so giving yourself a three day weekend where you’re minimally available through the day is another option.
Establishing a separate workspace at home, which is dedicated to work, is another good idea. At home, with family around, the pressure will be on not to use that room unless it’s essential.
Ultimately, your ability to prioritize work and family time is something that takes practice and fine-tuning. Make it a life priority, and then work hard to find a system that works well for you. If you succeed, you’ll find that you’re both happier at home, and getting a lot more done at work.
Luke Fitzpatrick is a Forbes contributor and a guest lecturer at Sydney University—in his past, he worked for startups in both South Korea and Australia.
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