Here are some quick and easy tips to help you create a balance between your work and personal lives. None of them are new or rocket science, but all are things we easily forget in our zeal to grow our businesses.
1. At work, sort through your to-do pile every morning and make a stack of any item that you can touch once and complete. Tackle this pile first. You will be surprised by how having accomplished something at the beginning of each day sets the tone to get more things done as the day progresses, allowing you to leave with a clear conscience and enjoy your personal time more.
2. Set measurable goals for your business growth or the level of success you wish to achieve this year. Each goal must have a time frame to be considered a goal and not a wish. Learn to limit the time you spend on your business to just enough to achieve these goals. Remember that doubling your goal is not a positive if it causes you to give up too much of your personal life. You must look at this set of goals on a routine basis and adjust them to the reality of what you have already achieved. Replace those you have completed with new ones to continue the process. You will find that if you stop this exercise, it becomes very easy to fall back into the trap of high achievement outranking all other goals in your life.
3. The corollary to No.2 is to set measurable goals for your personal life, as well. Give this list the same priority as the business list. You must also monitor your progress against this list or you won’t achieve the balance you are striving to create.
4. Choose a time each day when you turn off all your electronics and have some quiet time. When you do this depends on your personal situation. If you have a family, create a time before dinner when the family gathers to share their day. Keep your electronics off through dinner.
When I was growing up, my dad returned home from work at 5:30 every evening and “libated” (had a drink). My siblings and I were expected to be home by 5:30 and share time with Dad and then have a family meal. We had lively discussions and ate a lovingly prepared home-cooked meal. None of us grew up thinking we took second place to Dad’s jewelry business. If you are one of those who tweets and answers emails until you turn out the light, take an hour before bedtime and put your phone, PDA and laptop away. You’ll be surprised at how much better you sleep when your brain has some time to decompress before bedtime, and how much more refreshed you are in the morning, ready to hit those business-related goals.
5. Schedule time for yourself, your family and your friends with the same priority that you schedule your work. Date nights work well for young married couples. If you are single or your kids are grown, sign up for a class that will help you learn a new hobby or skill. Take a weekly yoga or exercise class that requires you to be somewhere at a given time. Find a TV program that will be a weekly commitment for you to watch with your children. It is not what you do that is important, but that you create a routine that teaches you to turn off your “work brain” and think about yourself.
6. Multitask your errands. If you have children, take one child with you each time you go out to run a list of errands. It enables you to spend some one-on-one time with your children and lets them know they are important to you while accomplishing items on your to-do list.
7. Take short breaks. My business/life partner and I once went into the city for a baseball game, taking a hotel room for the night. We left work at noon and returned at noon the next day, but it seemed like we were gone a much longer time. Just the change in scenery for 24 hours along with a different focus gave as much refreshment as a much longer trip. Schedule a weekend with a friend or friends a short distance from your home town. You’ll be amazed at what it does for your outlook.
Remember that you are not trying to put your work life after your personal life, but to create a balance so that some day when you retire you will not look back on your working years and ask where your life has gone.
It’s going to take practice to achieve your goal of balance, so don’t get discouraged if at midyear you look at your two lists of goals and find you are doing better at the work list. Keep trying and adjusting the balance point until you are satisfied with the result.
-Broff is the chapter president of SCORE San Diego, a volunteer nonprofit organization that provides free small business advice. Visit https://sandiego.score.org for more information.