On the outside, entrepreneurship might look like a glamorous lifestyle where you enjoy almost every possible freedom en route to building a thriving business. Some parts are certainly true: you get to play by your own rules and be your own boss. If there ever was an attractive business proposition, this is the epitome of it.
However, perception is one thing and the actual truth far less appealing to those who want to earn the right to call themselves entrepreneurs. It all comes at a cost, one that reflects in the huge amount of work and sacrifice that takes a toll on you, especially on relationships with those closest to you.
All of that hard work and missing out is largely what defines entrepreneurship, along with the resulting success if you have what it takes to keep on going. Finding quality time for your family is something everyone in this trade grapples with, and it’s extremely important for an entrepreneur’s physical and mental health.
It’s a game of balance
When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re basically taking responsibility for everyone. You have a responsibility to the business but also to the people that work with you as there are countless things you have to take care of. It’s about the day-to-day operation and the future of business at the same time. It’s about “putting out fires” when need be, as well as managing clients and investors in a variety of moods.
The thing is: there’s no timetable for it. You can’t quit at exactly 6 PM and head home. Work-life balance will always be a challenge as there is a finite amount of attention you can provide.
The somewhat disheartening truth is that there will be situations where you will have to put aside your need and/or desire to be home with your family because there is an important work issue. Sometimes, you can’t afford to come back home every day of the week and spend time with your kids. That’s not how it works. As entrepreneurs, we don’t live in a utopian environment.
That being said – family comes first. Every entrepreneur juggles multiple different things at the same time, whether these are personal, business, or family things. It’s your responsibility to spend your time effectively. One of the things I’m trying to do is build an organized schedule where I make sure I spend enough time with my family. It’s not easy but it can be done by exploiting even the smallest windows of opportunity.
For example, Sunday is the beginning of the workweek in Israel but not in the rest of the world. That means that roughly 90% of our clients aren’t working so I can’t do any serious business (usually). It’s a day when I try to come back home early, meaning I have almost three consecutive days where I mostly hang out with my family.
On a side note: I find that you don’t have to be present all the time but you must put an effort to be present, like coming home an hour before the kids go to bed. The same goes for working from home if your business facilitates such M.O. The beauty of being an entrepreneur today is that you don’t have to be physically present all the time. It’s enough to be online and you can work from anywhere – one perk you can leverage a lot.
There are phases to running a business
Mastering your personal temporal efficiency is a lot about timing. Not every day is chaotic and stressful in the office. Sure, things like business development, current problems, or future outcomes have to be on your mind all the time but they don’t have to require your immediate involvement by default. If the machine is working, let it work.
In other words – there will be times where your focus will have to be 100% on the business side. For instance, when you’re establishing a business, you have to be fully focused as there’s no room for error. But when the business starts kind of growing itself and maturing, there’s less pressure and more opportunities for the family. Understand what situation your business is at and what is its level of maturity so you know at what point you will need to push the throttle all the way.
Being organized means you can see in your calendar that there isn’t anything strategic or super important in the next few days. Such periods occur routinely so during these times, I try to take a day off here or an extended weekend there – whenever I don’t have any pressing matters at work that require my immediate attention. The same principle holds for busy periods – you should prepare yourself ahead.
Don’t be afraid to give up some of the responsibilities
A good work-life balance demands that you give up on certain things on both sides. I try to remove myself from most of the day-to-day logistics when it comes to my kids. My wife is a stay-at-home mom and she handles most of that stuff but I still try to attend most of the meetings at the kindergarten and school.
In the context of business, you can let go of some of the control and empower people to be better. It’s what running a scalable business means. You don’t want to find yourself in 10 or 20 years’ time working just as hard as you do now – if not harder. That’s not how a scalable business works. Savvy entrepreneurs seize the opportunity to either hire or train (or both) people they can rely on so that they regain more time for themselves.
It’s important to check out mentally
Once you leave work and step into your home, tune out. Be 100% with your family. When I’m playing with my daughters, I put my phone aside. Me not being available for an hour is not going to trigger some catastrophic event. Nothing is going to happen, but it means the world to my girls. Plus, if you have to be on call 24/7 – what does that say about you as an entrepreneur and about your team and business?
Regardless of how busy you are or feel you need to be, remember that your family is affected too. It’s a trade-off that not many are willing to concede so carefully consider the intensity of your work and start thinking about how you can squeeze your loved ones more into your schedule. It’s a lonely gig otherwise.