02 May Secrets to Balancing Your Career With Your Love Life
Ah, February. The snow is blasting down upon New York as I write this, while my wife and children are still snuggling in bed, excited for yet another snow day. Groundhog Day predicted another 6 weeks of winter. But another holiday is here that can warm any heart: Valentine’s Day.
I recently wrote about the importance of being in love with your job. But many people also get too caught up in the careers, and as I learned from the amazing late Senator Frank Lautenberg on an unforgettable plane ride, career highlights won’t be on your tombstone– your loved ones’ names will be.
Balancing your career with your love life is daunting task, to say the least, but Valentine’s Day is as good a time as any to take stock of how you manage both and learn from others on how they do it. I asked people who are squarely focused on their careers – young entrepreneurs – how they balance their careers with their love life. These are the answers I got from members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), followed by my own answer to the question:
How do you balance your career with your love life? What are your secrets?
1. Make the Commitment
I’m an entrepreneur, so my business life is going to be in flux for years. One of the best things you can do for yourself is commit to another person. Marriage teaches you as much as growing a business does. Be committed to both, and the lessons will intermingle and support one another. Plus, you’ll need the stability of another person. It’s good for the soul.
2. Balance Is Impossible
As an entrepreneur, balance is impossible, but work-life integration is crucial. There will be days you have to work 14 hours or more and others when you can take the day off to do something special with your significant other. If you have to travel for work, take him or her with you, stay a few extra days and make a mini vacation out of it. If they have to travel, go with them and do the same.
3. Make It a Priority
I’m still figuring that one out. At the end of the day, though we all strive to leave a legacy through our work, it’s no secret that having someone to share your life with is an equally important goal. So, just as you prioritize time in your day for important work-related goals, you have to do the same to create or maintain goals as they pertain to your love life.
4. Be Present
Although I may not keep “normal” hours or always be available to loved ones, I make a point of being present when I am present. That means when I spend time with those I love, I’m there for them — I’m not checking my email or making one last call. It’s hard to shut off work, and it can’t always be done. But my relationships deserve my devoted attention just as much as my work does.
5. Plan Like Crazy
When I was building my first startup in my 20s, I did a very poor job balancing my work and personal life. All I did was work on building my company, and I let everything else slide. Now that I’m in my 30s and have a family, that really isn’t an option. Now, I religiously adhere to my calendar and to-do list to plan each day and ensure proper balance.
6. Choose the Right Partners
I do my best to carve out time for my love life, but sometimes that time does not always align with the rest of the world’s schedule. The best thing I did was find someone who was flexible and didn’t need set “together hours” throughout the year.
7. Sleep Less
I have a wonderful spouse and two school-aged children, so balancing my attention as an entrepreneur is very difficult. When I get home at night, I try to devote all my attention to them. I oftentimes sacrifice my sleep to work while they’re sleeping. It’s not ideal, but it works. You just have to find a comfortable routine and a loving spouse and work it out.
8. Celebrate Together
Getting your partner to support you is great, but getting your partner to understand your success and what it means to you is even better. The entrepreneurial lifestyle makes your life hectic enough, but having a partner who understands the impact you are making in the world with your business gives you more confidence and overall confidence in the relationship.
9. Have Date Nights
I met my wife-to-be the same summer my cofounders started our company. She watched us succeed, fail and pivot from day one. One commitment we made to each other in the beginning was a weekly date night. It’s usually on Fridays, and we try to schedule our calendars around it, rather than vice versa. It helps to always have something special for the two of us on the books.
10. Live by the Three Non-Negotiables
As a married mother of two, a professor and business owner with a husband working full-time and pursuing a PhD, I know a healthy relationship is possible with three things — respect, commitment and negotiation. That means enthusiastically supporting the other’s goals, scheduling and keeping “together time” religiously and remembering that the other partner’s needs must come first at times.
11. Don’t Balance; Prioritize
At the end of the day, I’d rather have loving relationships than a career. You can always start a career over or launch a new company. My relationships with my family are the most important thing to me and are the things you don’t get to start over.
12. Be Deliberate
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to “be deliberate about spending personal time.” I love what I do and get caught up in the passion of running my company. However, I try to schedule time and plan special events so my wife knows she is a focus and that I’m not going to spend time with her in my spare time, but she is a priority.
13. Communicate Often
One of the best takeaways from Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor’s book, “Startup Life,” is planning communication time. My husband and I have monthly family meetings where we deal with all of the administrative issues like banking, family trips and other to-do items. I keep a running agenda of items to deal with. This frees up our limited time together to have fun and be a couple.
14. Measure Personal Balance by the Times You Smiled
You can’t begin to be kind to others until you learn to support yourself. Don’t focus on the to-do list — focus on encouraging yourself. Beginning each day, meeting or call with a smile will be contagious to the rest of your life and lead to strengthened relationships.
15. Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
My solution isn’t for everyone, but I accidentally combined my love life and career by cofounding my company with my wife, Gaby, who was also an entrepreneur. I really hit the jackpot; it’s wonderful to be able to share every aspect of my life with her.
16. Leave Business at the Office
When I started out, I was working 24/7 — either in front of the computer or tethered to a smartphone. Now when I leave the office, I am fully unplugged. While daunting at first, in the past seven years there has never been an issue that could not wait until the next business day. The improvement to your personal life will end up benefiting your work life as well.
– Nicolas Gremion, CEO, Free-eBooks.net
Those are the secrets of 16 young entrepreneurs balancing their careers with their love lives. As for this 37 year-old entrepreneur, married to my young entrepreneur Carrie, here are our 3 secrets:
1) Overcommunicate. Whether it’s phone calls, texts, emails, or tweets, find a way to communicate with your loved ones during the day. Many communications only take a few seconds, so you won’t be distracted from your work – but the thought goes a long way.
2) Dinners are sacred. We try to do a family dinner as often as possible – meaning no phones or electronic devices or work or homework at the table – just loved ones paying attention to each other.
3) Keep the phones out of bed. The cell phone has become the tools of choice for most business people- and I get it- there’s always something to do or catch up on. But the bedroom is for intimacy. That’s why we keep our television out of the bedroom, as well as phones, computers, tablets, and any other electronic devices. There will be time for those in the morning.