If we learned one thing in the last year, it’s that everyone is human.
Those of us who’ve switched to remote working in the pandemic have found ourselves running businesses from our kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms or home offices, all while fitting in childcare demands and homeschooling.
If you’re used to having that physical sense of separation from home and work, managing the two from the same place can take a while to get used to. And it’s hard to keep up a strictly professional appearance when your video call has just been interrupted by a screaming toddler or children playing in the background.
But why keep up the façade? Instead of trying to do business as if we haven’t all got kids and mortgages, why don’t we start talking openly about how you balance work and family?
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Plan, but be flexible
Anyone who starts their own business knows they’re probably not going to have a typical 9-5, Monday-to-Friday work schedule.
The benefit of that is flexibility. You can decide when you work and how long for, which gives you the freedom to fit your working day around childcare and other commitments.
The downside is it’s up to you to limit the time you spend working, so you’re not pouring every hour of every day into your business to no end.
A good way to manage this is to create a plan, so that certain periods of time are purely dedicated to your work, and other times are family-only.
This will, of course, need to remain fairly flexible in case of unexpected appointments or urgent deadlines, but try and stick to it as best you can.
Be honest with your family if you know there’ll be busy periods or times when you might need to be on call for work, and look for ways to compromise where possible.
You could set aside hours in which you don’t check your work emails, for example, but agree that you’re contactable by phone in the case of a real emergency.
Know your goals
Being completely clear about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it will help you to make sure your time is spent wisely.
This applies to broad, lifestyle goals – why are you running a business, what do you want to get from it and ultimately what do you want to spend most of your time doing? – as much as it does to smaller, short-term financial goals.
Be as realistic as you can about your business goals and the timeframe you set for them. You could even give your plan a reality-check by going back to your schedule, making a note of how long each task usually takes you, then adding it all up. Including your family responsibilities, do you have time to fit it all in?
If not, you might need to revisit your goals, allowing yourself more time or focusing on fewer jobs at a time.
It’s easy to find yourself putting up with slow, inefficient processes just because you haven’t got around to fixing them. But the longer you put off dealing with those problems, the more of your time is taken away from family commitments.
Investing the time now to make those processes run smoothly will pay off in the long-term.
Look for manual and repetitive tasks, like data entry you carry out on a regular basis or simple emails that you send all the time, and think about how you might be able to automate those.
If your time is being taken up by something more complex that’s not within your particular field of expertise – accounting or HR, for example – it could be worth hiring a member of staff who can handle it, or outsourcing to a reliable professional.
This is understandably a difficult step to take. After building a business from the ground up, most owner-managers want to make sure everything’s done to the right standard. But delegating effectively is essential as your business grows.
Make time for yourself
Finally, as well as finding time for your business, your family and your friends, it’s important to make time for yourself.
A lot of business owners and parents find this hardest of all. But whether it’s a quiet walk, a book or a hobby, setting aside some time to unwind is hugely important to your mental health.
It also means you’ll be in a better position to manage the other parts of your life, even when things get busy.
Talk to us about a sustainable growth plan for your business.