Reaching a work-life balance

Resolutions made in a brand new year are often lost at the end of January. But a few years back, when I had been burnt from running my own company, I made one resolution that I kept: to maintain a work-life equilibrium.

When I was beginning my business, I was hungry to be successful. And I’d do anything I could to help, even if that meant putting in 12-to-18 hour days. I created my company for one reason: I did not want my kids to be in day care, with both parents working outside the house. I wanted them to understand their mother. As I launched my company, I’d work nonstop while my son napped and continue after he went to sleep sometimes until 4 a.m. I got by on very little sleep. But in the long run, I had achieved what I wanted: a successful ecommerce business.

As the years went by, I saw both my company and my son grow. Frequently, he would sit by my side watching TV or playing on the ground as I diligently attended to my business. Gone were the days where I could pull all-nighters and dismiss the company during the day. Then it struck me: What was I teaching by dismissing him while I worked at a computer all day? Sure, I had been home with him, but what good was that when he did not have his mom?

Working all day, seven days a week, did not allow for much time for anything else. I made a resolution to balance my job, life, family, and hobbies. In the beginning it wasn’t a simple transition. But over time I realized that I could do it. Now, twelve years later I started my company, I can separate my business from my life.

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Below are a few of the measures I took to achieve it.

  • Set up a specific place for work. When I had my offices and showroom locations where my workers were, I worked from home regularly — it was important to keep a home office. I work completely from home. It’s in a different room, with a door I can close — ideal to keep quiet during telephone calls or shut when the day is done. When the door is shut for the day, I do not enter it until the following working day.
  • Establish certain hours to your work day. These hours may vary according to my summit and off-peak seasons, but either way my program remains basically the same. I work a set schedule and that I do not deviate from it. Unless an emergency happens, I don’t work outside of these hours. There’s not anything that can not be done the following day. And while I used to sneak in a couple of hours on the weekends, I leave those alone also. Family time is family time, which is just as important — if not more important — than my job. That means I’m done working at 4 pm so that I can help with homework, cook dinner, and spend some time with my children.
  • Setup another phone line. I do not want my private cell or home phone called at all hours of the night and day. If you are running a business from your home office, establish a dedicated line that goes directly to an out-of-office response outside your normal business hours.
  • Give yourself a lunch break and a coffee break. Going 8 hours straight isn’t great for the soul or the gut. I spent many days eating in front of my computer and immediately choking down a snack to answer the telephone. I step away and eat — in a desk, away from my PC. My mind requires the break even if it’s only for 5 or 20 minutes.
  • Stop thinking about work. This is most likely the hardest to achieve, for me. My mind is continually churning out new ideas, things to try, or adding things to my to-do list. During my downtime I might be studying a variety of ecommerce or SEO blogs and catching up on the latest trends. Rather than letting it consume me, I allow myself the opportunity to catch up on my reading through the afternoon over coffee. In the day, I attempt to turn off all work-related distractions, including my thoughts.
  • Do not ignore your loved ones or your hobbies. I learned that continuous work, even if this is something you are passionate about, could be monotonous and dull if you do it too long. I am a workaholic. I can not stay idle for a long time. I am not one to sit in front of the TV for hours and vegetate. I must do something at all times. But when my ecommerce company consumed all of my time, it burnt me and made me miss out on time spent with my loved ones and myself. After the children are asleep, the dishes have been done, and the house is quiet, I go back to work. I pursue a new hobby: writing. Even if it’s for an hour or two before bed, I am doing something for me.
  • Be flexible. Nothing is carved in stone. Children get sick; crises arise. You get a really gorgeous day in the middle of winter and you would like to take off and go outside. That is the beauty of being self explanatory; you can change the rules to fit your program if necessary. Do not be afraid to be flexible.
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It turns out that balancing my work and family was not as hard as I thought it’d be. I’m much more satisfied and happy, having dedicated time for family, work, and play.

What things do you do to help balance your career and your own time?

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