Some people suggest that you don’t bring your work home with you. Others say that you shouldn’t check email at night or on the weekends. A spouse might suggest you leave your work-supplied smart phone in the office when you come home at night.
Right. Like I’m not going to want to play Words With Friends tonight.
It’s even tougher for small business owners. So much of our ego, our creativity, and our livelihood are wrapped up in our business.
It’s impossible to leave those things behind at the office, so creating a hard line between work and the rest of our life is blurry at best.
Add in our—well, at least my—need to be connected on social media, it opens up channels for people to see my activity on Twitter or Facebook at any hour of the day. Suddenly they feel free to ask me how a project is going or when they can expect that proposal
My work/life balance is further complicated by working with my beautiful wife. (The beautiful part isn’t complicating, but I know she reads most of my stuff.)
It’s a rare evening or weekend when we don’t discuss a work agreement coming in, or finding a good PCI-compliant hosting company, or how we can better market our mobile-friendly websites.
So with all that in mind, I want to share with you some of the ways I’ve found some work/life balance, when there doesn’t seem to be a line between work and life.
Do Something You Love.
Honestly, this can make all the difference in the world. I’ve always been fascinated by technology and how it impacts the way we humans behave and interact. The web and social media are a giant playground for me.
Even the grind doesn’t really get me down. I’ll sit in front of the Red Sox game and catch up on emails, or respond to LinkedIn requests, or answer questions at the Social Media Examiner’s Small Business Club and it doesn’t feel like work.
Mix Business and Pleasure
While I’m not a natural networker (at least offline), I do like going to quasi-business events and chatting people up. Whether it’s a Social Media Breakfast, an AIGA mixer or one of our Maine Tweetups, getting to know someone personally who I rub elbows with professionally makes the business day more enjoyable.
Get Some Exercise
When we get overly busy, exercise and eating right is often the first thing to go. However, I find that working out before I go to the office is one of the most rewarding things I can do for myself. I’m still in by 8 or 8:30 in the morning, can do a full day’s work, and feel great when five o’clock rolls around. (Or six. Maybe 6:30.)
Other days I might take a long lunch and find someone with whom to play squash. I know that sounds highfalutin’, especially since I didn’t dangle a participle at the end of that sentence, but squash at the Y is a decidedly blue-collar sport and the best exercise I’ve ever enjoyed.
Don’t Respond to Work Requests on Facebook
Sometimes I’m active on Facebook or it’s open in another tab. Regardless, I get business requests via Facebook chat on a Tuesday night or the middle of the day on Sunday.
Depending on the mood I’m in, I either ignore the chat window or suggest they reach out to me on Monday in the office. If it’s an unsolicited chat, bordering on spam, I’ve been known to unfriend and block that person.
Have a Safe Word.
Married friends of ours who work together have a rule that they never discuss work after dinner. That would never work for us. I get some of my best ideas late at night, and need to share them immediately with Cybele for feedback.
Instead, we have an agreement that if the other person says they can’t deal with any shop talk right then, the conversation stops abruptly.
Know When to Put Down the Electronics
I’ve got two girls, 8 and 10. It’s a great age, and a delicate age. The littlest thing can set off a temper tantrum, emotional outburst, or meltdown.
And yes, I’m talking about me.
To better focus on them, I try to make sure that I’m 100% present when we’re getting ready for school, or at the end of the day when things are winding down.
I’m not always perfect, and we do have quiet time when we each do our respective homework.
But this is time you don’t get back, regardless of how clear or blurry your work/life dividing line is, and you need to take full advantage of it.
Small business owners can’t always make a clean break from work. It takes a love of what you do, an understanding spouse, flexibility in your schedule, exercise, and ultimately knowing when to put down your iPhone.
If you’ve got any other suggestions how you manage the balance, please let me know in the comments below.
I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/