Many people start their own business thinking that it will be the key to allow them a better work-life balance. No more bosses and no more commuting means that you can go and pick up the little ones from school, be there when your partner arrives home and enjoy long evenings with the family. However, the reality is often different, with many entrepreneurs spending more time working as a business owners than they did when they worked at an office. If you want to avoid alienating your better half and truly achieve a work-life balance you will need to pay attention to several things:
Communication is key. Starting your own business is often stressful and requires lots of dedication and time. But if you don't tell your family why is it important to you and how can they support you, chances are they won't understand your drive and the long hours. The first years of a new business can be slow in terms of money, and your better half may think that you are working too much for nothing, or risking the family economic stability after a crazy dream. Work hard to communicate why being your own boss is so important for you, and make them part of your enterprise by at least keeping them informed.
Set clear goals and measure them
One of risks of having your own business is not knowing where you stand and just keep on working and working. While it's true that all your hard work is going to be for your benefit as the business owner, success shouldn't come at the expense of your family. Writing a business plan is a specially useful exercise, since it will help you see where you are and where are you going in terms of your business success. Do not take on so much work that your family or your health suffers, and try to plan your business around your life and not the other way round. It's easier said than done, and most business owners find themselves working extremely long hours just to keep afloat. If that's your case, you may need to take a look at how to you set your freelancing rates or learn to work smarter instead of longer.
Stop the interruptions
Some people think that working from home is not really working, and feel like they can just interrupt you at any time, ask you for favours or to run errands for them and other minor but inconvenient tasks they cannot do because they are... working. To achieve true work-life balance you need to be able to work full-time on your new home based business. And that means making everybody understand that you are working exactly like them, just from a nicer office. For example, if you are a writer and you need concentration to write explain everybody that during office hours you are not to be disturbed, and don't get caught chatting on the phone with a friend or doing errands for somebody else when you should be working. If you do, you'll need to recover the time later during family time, and your family won't be happy.
Work on your time management and organization skills
Better time management means accomplishing more in less time. It also means being able to spend more time doing what you like, instead of working. There are many time management systems, such as the Pomodoro technique, that focus on achieving single-minded focused effort for short periods of time. Read around and choose the one that works best for you. If you don't believe in time management techniques consider at least reducing your distractions such as Facebook or compulsive email checking to your breaks. Self motivation and willpower are two of the key character traits of a succesful entrepreneur (link). Organization will also help you make better use of your working time, so make sure everything you need is easy to find and there's nothing on your work area distracting you from your daily tasks.
Learn to delegate and ask for help
If you feel your workload is spiraling out of control and it's affecting your life away from work it's time to learn how to delegate and ask for help. Being a small business owner means wearing many hats, but also knowing when to ask somebody else to do things for you, as a favour or paying a freelancer. It's highly likely that your family members can be convinced to help with preparing a mailing, doing research or buying office stationery for you while you work on something else. It's often the small things that take away more of your time, unnoticed.
At the end of the day, the only way of achieving work-life balance is setting limits on the work part of it. No matter how much you love your job and how much you want your business to succeed, if you promised your children to read them a bedtime story you should do exactly that and stop working. Unless your family is happy with you being a workaholic, set your own business hours and try to stick to them. If you make it part of your routine to work 15 hours a day you will burn out and damage your health. Avoid overworking and save your energy for when you really need to put those extra hours on an emergency. Your family will be much more supportive if it's an exception and not a regular occurrence.