When your company sells a tangible product, you can often confine your work to office hours unless you produce the product from your home. This allows you the ability to keep work and home separate. On the other hand, if you’re a service-based business, you – the product – are always at work. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday afternoon or Saturday night. Clients who need you are still likely to call.
If that sounds like your business, these three tips for balancing your business and personal lives can help when you are the product.
1. Work from a detailed schedule
When you’re always at work, the temptation exists to slip in personal tasks. Multitasking is a beneficial skill, but employed too often, it can throw your work into chaos. Simple work tasks can take three times as long when you must shift focus to other areas.
If you have control over your office hours, you may not have to work the “typical” business day. Consider what works best for you. Are you rarely productive before noon? Schedule personal tasks for mornings. Do you need to spend time with your family five hours into your workday? Split the day into two segments and return to work after the kids are asleep. You may see a big productivity boost if you make your schedule flexible.
2. Be sure to communicate your availability
Once you design the optimal schedule for balancing your business and personal lives, make sure you communicate the schedule to everyone who needs to know. If you plan to only answer calls from noon until dinner and again after the kids are in bed, make sure your clients are aware. If you’ve set the precedent of accepting phone calls during dinner in the past, communicating the change in advance will help clients understand you aren’t ignoring them.
Training your family may be more difficult. Young children may not understand that you’re at work when you don’t leave the house. Your spouse can help occupy them, but using a visual cue can be more effective. Maybe you’re kids can pick out a coffee mug for you to use at work. When they see you using their mug, they’ll know it’s not time to play. But it may be time to pack up your laptop and head for a local wifi hotspot if your home environment just won’t permit you to focus on work.
3. Even with a schedule, you’ll need to be flexible
As soon as you create the schedule that balances your business and personal lives, things will crop up that won’t allow you to stick to it. Kids get sick, spouses get stranded on the side of the road during rush hour and clients have emergencies only you can fix. Once you separate work and home, you may have to blur the lines as needed.
For instance, if you have to work on a special client project each night during family time, you may decide to take a day off to make up that family time. If a sick child derails your usual office hours, clients will typically understand that you’re exchanging the day for night, or even spending a Saturday catching up.
Meeting the needs of your clients and your family aren’t mutually exclusive goals, even when it’s challenging to find that balance.