How to spend more time with your family and not decrease your performance at work
Fitting your work and family life together is not always easy. This is especially true when you work at home. You have to find a fine balance between these two worlds.
Interesting work can suck you in, projects require you to work on the weekends, or you’ll be tempted to check your e-mail with your smartphone even when you are with your family … all these things are a threat to proper work-life balance.
In order to enjoy your work and have quality time with your family, I suggest that you try these five tips to reach the optimum balance between them.
1. Create rules and boundaries
One of the most important things to do when balancing your time between work-life and family-life is to define boundaries between the two.
These boundaries clearly state when you are working and when you are available for your family. To define them, do the following:
Sit down with your family and let them know your working times. Communicate clearly what you do and what your schedule is (without any need for second-guessing from their part).
Display your working schedule on a place where everyone can see it. For instance, this could be on a fridge door or on a separate info board in your kitchen.
Make sure your family understands and respects your working time as “sacred.” In other words, their interruptions should be kept to a minimum and only in emergency situations.
Have a family calendar where you mark the important meetings, business trips, or other events that require your family’s attention.
Set a rule that no e-mail checking is allowed after working hours (only when you do the work).
When you define the rules and everyone agrees on them, you set the expectations right away and your family knows when you are truly available for them.
2. Ruthlessly block off some time
Sometimes you just have to make the time for your family. The best way to do this is by using time blocking.
Rather than defining your tasks for the time block period and planning it by the minute, you can use a looser version of this technique. What you do together with your family is solely up to you, and this can even be decided when the time block begins.
The important thing to understand is that this allocated time is not execution time. If you feel like going to get ice cream, you go get ice cream. If you feel like going swimming, you do that.
The time is for relaxation and fun, not trying to compete with a task list or plan every minute in advance.
In order to block off some time in your calendar, do the following:
- Figure out the time for your time block together.
- Either decide in advance what you want to do or decide it when the time begins.
- Protect the time block in every way you can. Make sure that no client work, meetings, interviews, or other work activity occurs at the same time.
With these steps, you can dedicate a decent block of time just for you and your family, keeping the work-related matters at bay during that time.
3. Cut the clutter in your life
Normally decluttering is understood as getting rid of unnecessary stuff in your life. However, in this particular instance, I’m talking about a different matter entirely.
I’m talking about reducing the commitments that can eat into your time and that you could potentially spend with your family instead.
To reduce the commitments, do the following:
- List all the commitments you have in your life into a document.
- Go through each one of them and ask yourself these questions: “Is this commitment valuable to me?” If it’s not, ask yourself, “How am I able to eliminate this activity in my life?”
- If you have defined your goals or your vision, make sure that your commitments are related to them.
- Say “no” to most new commitments as they arise. Remember that every new commitment consumes your time, and eventually, it will come to reduce available time you have for your family.
4. Join forces
Why not “join forces” and doing the things together — especially when the household chores are concerned?
For instance, when I was single, it was very easy to skip cleaning my home. However, now that I have a family, the messy home affects everyone’s mood, so why not work on this important project together?
When you do this, you get to hit two birds with one stone: your home is in good shape, and you avoid procrastination as the task can be done easier and faster.
To join forces, do the following:
- Define the day of the week when you have your “household maintenance day.” That’s when the whole family takes care of the household things only.
- Define the roles and who does what on that day. For instance, one might vacuum the house while someone else takes care of the lawn.
- Reward yourself for finishing the work. Go to a restaurant together, to the movies, or do something else after the household is back in order.
5. Work when your family is “offline”
Sometimes you just have to find uninterrupted time for doing your work. This is especially true when you don’t have a dedicated work space in your home.
One way to increase your focus is to do work when your family is sleeping (or out of the home). If your family members are not taking naps, the only option in this situation is then to work either early in the morning or late at night.
I prefer the former, since I pretty much feel like going to bed early enough.
To work when your family is “offline,” do the following:
- Understand your family’s sleeping patterns — when they wake up and when they go to bed.
- Take advantage of these times and work during those times.
- Plan your working sessions in advance, so that you can maximize the working time. Make sure that all the research material and equipment is ready before you start working.
These five ways are the strategies I used when I was building my online business and working full-time. Even today as a full-time blogger, I use these very techniques in my daily life.
Be sure to take these strategies for a test drive and see if they work for you. If they don’t work as-is, make sure to adjust the advice to suit your needs.
The fact is that when you balance work and family, your life will become more fulfilling and you’ll be happier. With good balance, you get more energy and productivity towards your daily tasks.
Photo: Flickr / CHAIN12 CC BY-NC-ND 2.0