Every business owner finds it difficult to separate business and family time, but it’s even more critical when you’re involved in a family-run company.
The business is your family’s livelihood and several generations might be counting on you to keep the company thriving. Some business owners not only deal with that pressure, but find that immediate family members resent the tremendous amount of time they devote to work.
If you’re in this situation, you may be thinking, “Something’s got to give.” Adhering to a few simple techniques can help you find the right balance between family and business and allow you devote enough time to both. Here are a some suggestions:
Step One: Gauge activities in terms of importance and urgency.
A helpful way to do this is found in Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” (Simon & Schuster, New York.) Covey breaks down tasks into four quadrants:
Quadrant I: Urgent and important. This category includes major challenges and crises. For example, you might have a contract review with your biggest customer, a critical meeting with a new customer, or other pressing commitments or issues that could potentially affect the success of the business. Time spent here is indisputably important. However, if you only focus on this quadrant, it can grow out of control and eventually dominate every aspect of your life.
Quadrant II: Important but not urgent. This is where you should focus most of your energy; yet these tasks and activities are often overlooked. They include relationship building, strategic planning and, yes, even rest and relaxation. If done well and consistently, these activities make a huge difference in both your professional and personal life. The time spent here should outweigh that spent in the following two quadrants.
Quadrant III: Urgent but not important. Many family business owners find themselves stuck here, handling tasks that are time sensitive but not important. This is where good hiring practices (which includes employing family members) and effective delegation really comes into play.
Quadrant IV: Not urgent and not important. This includes complete time wasters that have no relevance to your life. Examples include non-business Internet surfing for long periods of time and watching too much television.
Step Two: Develop a viable schedule.
Outline the critical elements of your workload, as well as personal/family time. If your son or daughter has a soccer game or other important event, include it on your calendar along with vital business deadlines and meetings. Add an occasional weekend getaway, vacation, dinner out or family gathering.
Remember, you can delegate business responsibilities, but it’s more difficult when it comes to your family. Keep to the schedule and think carefully before you back out of a personal event or let your spouse handle a family errand you planned to do.
Of course, you have to be flexible. A family or business crisis may require you to reconsider other matters.
Step Three: Set boundaries of separation.
This is especially important if you work from home. Having a separate place in your home helps you keep boundaries, both mentally and physically, between work and family demands. (It also may help you secure home office tax breaks since the IRS requires a deductible workspace to be used “exclusively” for business.)
If working from home is too difficult, consider moving the business out of the house. Weigh the projected additional overhead against the expected additional productivity and family peace.
Bottom line: If you set up a simple plan for managing time and stick to it, you’ll ultimately get more done each day with less stress. In other words, you successfully deal with the dilemma of “too much to do, so little time.”