Four ways to manage work-life challenges

It’s Valentine’s Day, and so a lot of people are focused on romance. But, what happens after the day is done? How do you keep focused on an important relationship when “things go back to normal?” A recent article in The Wall Street Journal suggests that finding the right (dare I say) balance between your work and personal lives can be difficult, particularly for entrepreneurs.

When starting a business, managing a relationship with a significant other can be tough. Entrepreneurs often need to work long hours, weekends and holidays. They may have to travel unexpectedly and answer calls in the middle of the night. That kind of dedication — combined with the emotional highs and lows commonly associated with starting a business — can take a toll on an entrepreneur’s love life.

The article goes on to say how frustrating it can be for those in relationships with entrepreneurs, particularly when their partners estimate that “a business task will take just a minute when in reality it takes a few hours.” Sound familiar? Of course, work-life challenges are not unique to business owners.

Whether you work for yourself or someone else, there are specific steps you can take to create some boundaries between your work and personal responsibilities. That’s not to say that there won’t be hiccups along the way, but if you incorporate one or more of the strategies listed below, you’re likely to notice an improvement in how well you manage both your personal and business lives. Where should you begin? A good starting point is to come up with a reasonable plan:

Create ground rules

The hectic nature of one’s job probably will not go away, but you do have some control over the frequency with which business tasks interrupt your personal time. Create and stick to some general rules of thumb that you find reasonable to follow, like putting away your cell phone while having dinner with your family or limiting business calls and emails while you’re on vacation. You can practice unplugging from your mobile phone by turning it off (or leaving it in another room) for short periods and then work your way up to longer time frames.

Create a realistic schedule

It’s not very probable that you can completely turn off all thoughts about work. On the other hand, you can’t realistically spend every waking moment working. Set a reasonable schedule and consider creating blocks of time when you’re “on” and when you’re “off.” It’s also a good idea to test out the schedule that you come up with. Can you stop working at 6 pm, spend time with your significant other for two hours, and then continue working for another two hours? You’ll probably need to try out several scenarios before finding the one that works best for you.

Share your calendar

A calendar (digital or paper) can help keep close friends and family members up to date on times when you’ll be unavailable. If there’s an important project that will require quite a bit of your attention, the calendar is a great way to communicate that. That way, you’ll reduce the possibility of having personal events scheduled during times when your focus needs to primarily be on work tasks. You’ll also be able to pinpoint and block off the best opportunities for personal activities (vacations, daily personal time).

Find alternate ways to get things done

Business owners sometimes get caught in the trap of doing everything themselves. Sure, there may be things that only the company owner can do. But, there are a myriad of other things that can be delegated either to a business partner, virtual assistant, or an intern. You can also use technology tools to streamline processes and automate some tasks. And, of course, there are a number of apps you can rely on to help you be productive once it’s time to get back to work.

6 Comments for “Four ways to manage work-life challenges”

  1. posted by Jeannette on

    Sadly, many people find more security and “comfort” in their work lives than their personal relationships. They also, especially if it is their own business, have more control as in a sense of control over process and outcome. Something you do not have with a person and a relationship (well, if it’s a healthy, mature one).

    Relationships require focus, attention and time. And their is no guarantee of the “result.” This is scary for a lot of people and thus it is easier to place your time, focus and attention on work, where there is often a (perceived) better “payback” for that investment.

    Humans are unpredictable, uncontrollable and creatures of both habit and change. They’re emotional, frustrating, sometimes demanding and all sorts of things that a lot of men/women simply don’t want to deal with (but are loathe to admit if they are even that self-aware).

    For those of us who have “been there, done that” with work dominating our lives and who have paid the price and then learned that no matter what you do, real-life relationships trump work. A lot of folks are so focused on fame or greed or even, in rare cases, doing good that they do not have any need or desire to create, maintain and grow human relationships. And that is just sad.

    Our lives as human beings are about far more than work, no matter how meaningful. It’s about people. Given our society, it’s no wonder we live in a world of high-achievers on the work front but total failures on the relationship front.

    Every day, men, women and children give the love and support that is needed for these high-achievers to do the work. Sadly, way too many of these folks are present for these folks. Now, that is a waste of human “capital.”

  2. posted by Jeannette on

    Meant to say:
    Every day, men, women and children give the love and support that is needed for these high-achievers to do the work. Sadly, way too many of these folks are NOT present for these folks. Now, that is a waste of human “capital.”

  3. posted by purpleBee on

    People who cannot balance their home and business lives need, in my opinion, to ask themselves one question – if I was incapacitated by illness or injury for 5 days, or in some way unable to use my phone etc, would my business collapse into ruin?

    If the answer is yes, then your business model is flawed. 48 hour viriuses, extreme weather knocking out power, airport closures, children injuring themselves and requiring your undivided attention, earthquakes, death of a family member, public holidays and religious events, family or frind’s wedding, your birthday, birth of children, Life, etc, etc, all happen or could happen.

    If your business can’t function without a word out of you for 48 hours for any reason then you don’t have a viable business.

    If the answer is -no, it would survive and be OK. Then why in the world are you talking to clients

  4. posted by purpleBee on

    Sorry, that post was meant to end with…

    If tge answer is No then why are you talking to clients during your grandmother’s funeral service, or at your brother’s wedding, or after 6pm?

  5. posted by Michaela on

    This is something I struggle with everyday right now. I have been self employed for the last 13 years, and I am naturally a hard worker.

    One thing not mentioned here which I have learned in the last year or so is saying NO more often. I spent a couple years struggling due to real estate doing a nosedive. In the last year my work has drastically picked up. Its scary and unpredictable (especially being the main breadwinner of the family) but I am beginning to realize I can’t do it all. I just called a few really GOOD clients and informed them I could not do their work because I am so busy – it is what it is! I am contemplating quitting one client because of the mental hassle it is giving me (and I most likely will, but I want to be professional about it). I have also had to assert that I am going on vacation coming up and will NOT be available. And to add to the icing, I am thinking of employing a relative to be essentially my part time assistant. Its a tough gig, but I want to spend time with my family and its a sacrifice you have to be willing to make. You can’t do it all, so just say NO more often. Ask for help. Give yourself a break, and let the guilt go. Life it too short.

  6. posted by Leslie on

    I went into business for myself in the 90s. It’s unfortunate that I did not have the support of family members (who didn’t live at home). My mother, for example, felt that because I wasn’t working for someone else, in an office building and earning a paycheck with benefits, I was playing around (to this day, when people ask her what I do for a living, she still says, “something on the internet”, despite me explaining it and showing her physical copies of my work). That said, she would call or stop by whenever she wanted, because I was home playing around, after all. Despite setting “office hours” and asking/pleading for cooperation, fell on deaf ears. When I added caller ID to my landline, I was able to ignore family/personal calls during my “client time”, which helped me concentrate and get done what I needed to get done.

    Cell phones were only then shifting from big and clunky to small and manageable and texting was relatively new. That said, it did afford me the ability to leave my office to do family/personal activities as I could forward the landline to my cell. But I was tethered to the phone every time it beeped.

    It took me 6 years to agree to (try to) take one Saturday off. I was sweating the entire time and it was only about 4 hours. I survived it. Tried it again, survived. Slowly I became more comfortable with taking time off.

    Today, with smart phone, skype, wifi everywhere, apps, you name it, my work life is much easier. I can set ringtones and prioritize calls. In a pinch, I can review a file on my phone or nook without having to go to my office. My life is easier and I do spend more time with family, but it took a long time for me to accept that it was ok not to be a fixture in my office.

    The downside is I still have family who doesn’t accept that what I do IS my job because I can do it from my car, their livingroom, my office or the beach.

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