by guest blogger Katie Parsons
Like other entrepreneurs and small business owners, I have a pretty hectic household. Between my unstable schedule, my husband’s stable-but-crazy-busy schedule and the comings and goings of my four kids, life is… well, interesting. It is tough to strike the balance between “putting family first” and still making enough money to grocery shop on a relatively regular basis. I work at home. I eat at home. I sleep at home. I write articles, bid on freelance projects and change diapers within the same 20 feet.
You would think that my professionalism would be affected by this setup but I’ve found it is actually just the opposite. You are much more likely to find me shirking household or parenting responsibilities than the other way around. I thought that it was just me but I’ve discovered in talking with other small business owners that their personal lives often suffer as a result of the relationship they have with their work.
So I asked myself “why?” The whole reason that most people become their own boss is to have more flexibility in other areas of life and not have to bend to the constraints of working for the man, or woman, or machine. The best answer I can come up with is that the professional and personal sides of entrepreneurs inherently blend. The ideas and goals associated with small business ownership are often so integral to a person’s personality that there is no real way to separate them from private life.
Be that as it may, owning a business does not give the professional aspects of life priority. Here are a few ways to keep the best parts of your life from suffering at the hands of your business:
- Stay calm in the face of everyday crisis. I’m using the term “crisis” loosely to prove a point: the things that we view as catastrophic in the moment generally do not end up that way in the long run. Details get overlooked. Clients and customers get angry and sometimes move on. Office equipment malfunctions at the most inopportune time, forcing you need to buy a new one when funds may be low. Smartphones get dropped in puddles and you can’t make that important phone call. You name it and it will happen to you or a small business owner you know. Learn the difference between minor annoyances and major setbacks. In both cases, maintain a cool head and avoid letting it taint your personal life.
- Learn to delegate. If you have more work than you will ever possibly be able to finish on a consistent basis, it might be time to hire an employee or two. Sites like Guru are in place to help connect contractors with businesses that need an extra hand, whether that is on a temporary or permanent basis. Remember that hiring help does not completely alleviate your workload; there is a lot of effort that goes into delegating tasks, quality checking them and handling the administrative tasks that are related to employees. Decide if handing out work will be helpful, or more trouble than it is worth.
- Just say “no.” – The problem that I have as a freelancer is that I hate turning down any assignment – large or small – just because I happen to be busy that particular week. I know that one hectic, lucrative month does not guarantee even one assignment in the next one. So I’m often hesitant to say no to a project, even if there are negative hours in my day to devote to it. That is fear talking, though, and it can wreak havoc on my personal time. As small business owners, sometimes we need to say “no,” or at the very least ask for the extra time we need to complete a task. Money is nice but so is sanity.
- Look at the big picture. If a client or customer is snarky or threatening to take business elsewhere, try not to lose sleep over it. If you make a mistake, fix it as quickly as possible but do not beat yourself up. A question that I try to ask myself regarding any business problem is this: Will this matter in five years? I think you can probably guess the usual answer. On the other hand, will the attitude I demonstrate today towards my kids, husband and friends matter in five years? Which part of my life will keep me happy and healthy in the coming decades? Think about your life in terms of a lifetime, not just a particular day, and keep your perspective in check.
Katie Parsons is a part-time writer for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes in business news affecting major markets. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She is also the administrator for a community blog for moms.