Congratulations on your decision to go into business for yourself! (Or maybe you are an idea away.) Not everyone has what it takes to follow their dream. Entrepreneurs are unique individuals. You have likely spent hours, months, even years planning.
You feel SO prepared.
You probably discussed your ideas with family and friends. If you are like many new entrepreneurs, you received support and encouragement from most of the people who know your plans. Along with you, they are dreaming about what it will be like when you decide the hours you will be working, having time for more vacations, and making a big profit.
(If you have been in business for a while, you know what happens next... )
Life Is Full of Surprises
No matter how much planning you do, how many people you ask for advice, and how much due diligence you do, starting your own business is going to present you with surprises. You are going to be surprised with how difficult it is, how hard you will have to work, and the toll those hours of working will take on your health. Leisure activities will vanish.
That is all part of entrepreneurship. You risked everything to become an entrepreneur. Your business is your passion, and you are willing to make sacrifices for it. But more than your financial security is at stake. Your relationships with family and friends will change in ways that will catch you by surprise.
You Have to Be in Two Places at The Same Time
Just as maintaining a relationship requires your presence, your time, and your energy, running your business requires your presence, your time and your energy. You are committed to being a successful entrepreneur and you are devoted to your family. Is it right for them to expect you to be there for them right now?
Your business is just getting started. You cannot take time away from it. Everything depends on you. There will be other birthdays, other ball games, other trips to the emergency room, other vacations. “They” don’t understand. Making your business a success will benefit them in the long run. Unfortunately, it is not just your family. Friends are fading away too. Everyone is accusing you of neglecting them. Resentment grows because no one’s expectations are being met.
You are only one person, not some esoteric quantum particle that physicists say can be both here and over there simultaneously. So, what can you do? Without exception, experts recommend setting priorities.
Who, or What, Comes First?
Setting priorities takes time and thought. You start by compiling a list of what’s important and establishing goals. Family relationships will likely come out on top. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Here is the surprise: People take their families for granted, even those who say family comes first. Family is always there, in the background. You “know” they support you. You wouldn’t intentionally ignore or neglect your family, but if they aren’t your top priority, you will overlook their needs when the needs of your business consume you.
From the beginning, just as you schedule business meetings and appointments, also include family time in your schedule. It is hard to argue with Richard Branson’s success in business, and he is quoted as suggesting that you “put family time into your appointment calendar.” He further “stresses the importance of finding the time for friends, family and whatever else is important to you.”
Your priority is to ensure that you have quality time with your family. How you spend that time is a personal choice. Incidentally, sprawling on the couch with a drink and watching television is rarely regarded as quality family time. It might be the “me time” that you need, and that’s fine. Put it in your schedule in addition to, not in place of, family activity.
It’s A Matter of Time
Most people accept that doctors over-schedule and airlines overbook. No surprises there for anyone. But over-scheduling your time will destroy the balance you are trying to achieve between business and family. Developing effective time management skills is the key you need for balance, as well as for maintaining your sanity.
The drumbeat of setting priorities accompanies time management. Without a clear understanding of what comes first, you end up reacting to whatever comes at you. Knowing what takes priority keeps you proactive. You’re better able to give your business adequate amounts of time without sacrificing your family. After all, what’s the use of being successful when there is no one that you care about to share it with?
As one experienced entrepreneur puts it, “business without family is lonely.” His advice is to avoid separating family and business. Make them an integrated whole. That doesn’t necessarily mean you bring young children to your work. It means not only spending time with family but also giving them your full attention when you’re with them. Being physically present for a family dinner doesn’t count if you’re mentally still at work.
Get yourself organized. Good organization is part of how you manage time management. Time itself is immutable. You are incapable of speeding it up, slowing it down, or managing it in any way. The management part is what you’re doing as those minutes tick inexorably by. Choose to organize so that you are spending your time on your priorities rather than searching for something that should be at hand. Or not. If not, your only surprise is how you will feel when your workday is done well before your work is done. Say “Hello” to exhaustion and burnout and “Goodbye” to friends and family.
One Last Surprise for A New Entrepreneur
There are always going to be pressing business matters and urgent family matters. There will always be demands for your attention. Some of those demands will be easy to meet, and some will be impossible. But you know your personal, family, and business goals. You are organized, and you manage your time wisely.
You have learned that
"Healthy family relationships and being a successful entrepreneur are not mutually exclusive events. You can do both."
You are an entrepreneur, you are unique, and you can balance family and work.
Surprise! You really can have it all.