I once made the mistake of letting work consume my life, resulting in me neglecting my family, and forcing me into a corner where I had to one day make a choice:
Work or family.
The choice is simple. Family first, always. But being forced to leave your business is not a successful outcome for any entrepreneur.
Since that inflection point I’ve been super-focused on ensuring that my business and family lives never diverge, so that I’m hopefully never faced with the choice again.
The keys to work/life balance are:
- Wake up early
There is no getting away from the main ingredient for entrepreneurial success: Hard work. If you want to succeed you need to put in the hours. The problem is that if you want to see your wife and kids you need to put in the hours too. So many hours, so little time.
There is only one way to work hard enough and spend enough time with family.
Wake up early.
Ben Franklin said it best, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
For 6 years I’ve been getting up at 5am. Sometimes I get up at 4am. Sometimes 3am. Depends on how much work I have. If you wake up at 5am every day, 6 days a week, that equates to 12 extra hours a week, 50hrs a month (assuming you used to wake up at 7am).
50 hours a month is a lot of working time. Especially as those hours are completely undistracted by email, phone calls or kids. Wake up early and the rest of the world will sleep whilst you get ahead.
The life of an entrepreneur is uncertain. The only way to enable a work/life balance is to establish a routine and stick to it. My routine is every day, Monday to Saturday, home by 6pm, phone off, 100% focused on family.
The trick is to focus on spending 100% quality time with the family. Unplug from work as soon as you’re home. Plug back in when you wake up the next morning (5am).
Sundays are family days, sacrosanct.
Travel is unavoidable, but here are a couple rules to minimize family damage:
- If you can spend the night at home, do so. Don’t stay the night in Joburg for “just one more meeting”. Rather get home at 11pm and sleep in your own bed and wake with your family.
- Never more than 7 nights away from home.
- I try to take a family member on my business trips. Sometimes my wife joins, sometimes I take one of my daughters. At least time away from home can be time with family.
- Quality time
No matter what, time with kids and spouse must be undistracted. Smartphones have made the world a better place, but can lead to divorce. Phone off. Do not look at it. Focus on your loved ones.
- Business partners
Its important that your business partners gel with your spouse. If your wife doesn’t like your business partners or shareholders you’ll find yourself having to split your time.
That way lies disaster.
Business partners are like spouses. You have to enjoy spending time with them, or at the very least not dislike spending time with them. If your spouse doesn’t like your partners you’re screwed.
The final ingredient to a successful work/life balance is your spouse. You need a spouse who’s willing to pay the price for being married to an entrepreneur.
She (or he) has to be tough. She has to be resilient. She has to loyal. She has to be strong.
If your spouse doesn’t have these attributes you can’t be an entrepreneur.
Accept that, or change your spouse.