Running a business is hard enough, but building a brand while serving as president for another company, trying to be a good husband and fathering 2 small children is like running an Ironman every day. I cannot expect to give 100 percent to every leg of the race without burning out.
Staying accessible to my team often means missing out on T-ball practices, family dinners and personal time. And when the day is over, I often feel like I have been running in place instead of moving forward.
I still struggle to make time for big-picture thinking while being a family man and juggling day-to-day tasks, but I have found a few methods for balancing these competing priorities. As a founder of my own company, I cannot afford to ignore — or give up on — time that allows for reflection or innovation: Without those things, I am not a leader. Without those things, my company (and the hope of a balanced lifestyle) will not succeed. As a leader, I have learned to combat letting “must do” tasks overwhelm the “want to do,” and make time for big-picture thinking. Here are the strategies I have found to help:
Explicitly Define Work-Life Balance
No one wants to live and die behind a desk, watching their revenue grow instead of their kids. But for those who are passionate about what they do, work is their life, so the concept of balance can get a little skewed.
As an entrepreneur, you must define a reasonable amount of time for you to spend working. Otherwise, you are going to miss a lot of important moments. Think about the type of life you want, and talk to your spouse about what he or she considers a reasonable workweek. Set a limit for yourself and stick to it.
Lead by Example
As a leader, you have to be willing to get your hands dirty and make the same sacrifices as others on your team. There are plenty of times when I stay late at the office when I should be home enjoying time with my family. I believe my employees see this dedication and return it twofold.
However, it is equally important to show employees it is okay to go home early some nights. Rather than holding individuals accountable to specific tasks or 40-hour weeks, I assign tasks to my teams and leave it to them to divvy up the work however they see fit.
For instance, if one task should take 2 hours, I let the development team determine which member can complete the task within the time allotted. I believe that allowing for self-regulation gives my teams an opportunity to find balance. Further, it motivates them to contribute more than they would in a micromanaged environment.
Find Your Guilt-Free Hours
I get my best work done between midnight and 6 a.m. after putting my kids to bed and discussing the day with my wife. Since everyone is asleep in the middle of the night, I do not feel guilty about sitting alone at my desk. I have learned to take advantage of these quiet hours to really delve into big ideas and organize my thoughts.
Lower Your Expectations for Focus
One of my biggest breakthroughs was realizing I will never have enough time to do all of the things I would like. Lowering expectations for myself was honestly very freeing. As a father and a business owner, it is not realistic to expect three hours free of distractions to explore an innovative new idea, so I never attempt to indulge in anything that requires more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted attention.
Make Your Time Work for You (Even When You Cannot be Working)
As a leader, I often have days of back-to-back meetings. But just because I am on the phone or in a conference room does not mean I cannot be testing new ideas.
For example, if I have 2 days of meetings — or projects in the works that require testing and evaluation — I will rearrange my schedule to meet one-on-one with my developers. I will get them started on the new projects so I can measure their results within that 2-day window when I am essentially MIA. This allows me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business and keep new ideas moving forward.
Time is the original nonrenewable resource — we never have enough of it. Sometimes I still feel paralyzed by competing priorities, but I have made peace with the fact that I will never be 100 percent in all aspects of my life. Strive for progress, not perfection. And when in doubt, head home a little early for T-ball practice.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Ken Teegardin