Balancing family life with business

Family life versus business life? No, it needn’t be a competition. In my experience, it’s possible to have both; it’s possible to achieve balance. Of course everyone’s circumstances are different, but I know that — like me — most business people will worry about how to get balance in their lives, and whether or not they’ve got it right.

I am fortunate to have an understanding wife. We got together when we were 21, and since learning at 27 that we were soon to have our first, unplanned, child we’ve worked hard to structure our life around our family. There have been challenges. We had to sell our first house to fund our first Goodness Gracious cafe, and by the time it opened we had a second child. Along the way we — again, like most people — have suffered personal tragedies (the deaths of my mother and friends).

Successfully balancing my business and personal lives has itself taken work. I’m happy to share the lessons I’ve learned.

The importance of setting values

Clear goals are one thing. Clear values are another. It’s important to seek success in business (both failure and success can certainly affect family life), but if you value things other than business success, this will necessarily involve redirecting part of your focus onto what else is important.

In my case, the loss of friends and loved ones helped me to decide what was truly important to me. In other words, to establish my values. While I definitely want to be successful in business, I don’t seek, or value, super wealth. But I do value meaningful relationships with my daughters, and I do put value on their being able to grow up in a close and loving family.

I’m not suggesting everyone else’s values will align with mine. What I do suggest is that it’s important to set values, and to live up to them.

The importance of being time-fluid

When it comes to carefully dividing my time between my working life and my family life, I have a solution: I don’t! Let me explain: I regard my working life and my family life as just one life. Hospitality has long involved working irregular days and varied hours, but many other industries have also moved on from the nine-to-five workday.

So I don’t regard myself as having a set workday. I simply have a day, about 16 hours, and I alternate fluidly between my business life and my family life. One day I might work five hours — spend two hours with family — work again for four hours — have two more hours with family — then do three hours’ more work before bed. And the next day will be entirely different! I acknowledge it won’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

But, despite the fluidity, what won’t change is the proportion of my time I currently give my business. My family’s life depends on it!

The importance of communication

In business, communication is most important when it may seem least convenient. That’s been my experience anyway. Whenever my business has been under unusual pressure, my natural reaction has been to put all my focus on the task at hand — in effect, to block my family out until the problem is solved.

What I’ve learned is the importance of remembering my values and therefore overcoming that natural reaction. I’ve learned the benefits of discussing the issues/pressures with my family, and seeking solutions together. I admit it’s sometimes easier said than done — but it’s always well worth doing!

The importance of no regrets

When I look back on my life (so far — it’s far from over!) I try not to regret decisions made. Every choice I made helped me reach the point I’m at now.

As Steve Jobs apparently believed, we can only make individual decisions in the hope they’ll all prove logical in retrospect: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward,” he said, “you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

When I look back, I can trace how life’s experiences (good and bad) and choices made (wisely and, occasionally, unwisely!) have shaped my life today. And I’m happy to say I’m probably happier with that life than I’ve ever been.

That’s family life and business life!

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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