Balance isn't just about having more time to spend with your family. For entrepreneurs, it's also about running a smart business. Here are ten steps that can help business owners find balance in their busy lives:
1. Create a vision. When you have a roadmap, it's easier to plan how to get from point A to point B. It's also important to be truthful about your goals. Are you going to make a commitment to attend all your child's hockey games in a month? Perhaps it is more realistic to attend two or three per month. Communicate your plan with others to avoid unclear expectations and disappointment.
2. Organize your time. Streamline similar activities and block off specific amounts of time for each. For example, establishing a designated time to respond to e-mail and another to respond to voicemail is an effective way to minimize distractions and stay focused.
3. Use the resources and tools available to you. Many small business owners use financial software management tools like QuickBooks, Peachtree or Salesforce.com to help them stay organized and manage the backend of the business. If you're investing in technology like software, take time to learn how to use the tools effectively and realize the full benefits.
4. Ask for help. If there are jobs to perform that friends and family can do, ask them to lend a hand. This way, it is easier to check items off your list faster, and you then have quality time together to do an activity that is more enjoyable.
5. Manage your own expectations. If you set your standards higher than you can obtain, you will never feel like anything is complete. If you can only realistically be home one day a week for dinner, make that clear. Turn that into quality time by turning off your phone and being present.
6. Communicate. Family members may have different ideas on work-life balance and it's important to take time to truly understand each perspective. This cuts down on unnecessary frustration between each other and helps to build understanding and support.
7. Live by your values. Do a mental check and be clear to others on what is important to you. If you value family but keep putting work first by staying late every night, you are sending a contradictory message. This also affects your own psyche and can bring feelings of negativity into your work or home life.
8. Prioritize. Make a task list and then mark each task either as a 'Nice To Do' or a 'Need To Do.' Adjusting your schedule accordingly will ease the pressure of trying to get everything done in one day. Tomorrow, after all, is another day.
9. Be proactive. Don't wait for people to get back to you. Also, let people know upfront what you need. After a meeting, be clear on expectations with others and follow up with e-mail if necessary on action items and next steps. This will ultimately save time and needless back and forth.
10. Stay healthy. Eat a healthy lunch, exercise and stretch regularly, even if it's for five minutes at your desk. These small breaks will maintain your energy level so you can accomplish all the tasks you want to during the day.
Ellen White is an experienced and sought after international life coach. She has been a columnist for one of Canada's largest daily newspapers, and currently is writing her first book. She has recently partnered with Intuit, the makers QuickBooks, to address work-life balance issues in Canada.