They say you can have two out of three: business success, time off, and high-quality relationships.
While saying two out of three isn’t bad might make for a great song, it’s unfair (and untrue) in reality. You got into business to give yourself more freedom, not to push yourself into a terrible choice between your success, free time, and relationships. Here are six ways to help balance your entrepreneurial ambition with your relationship goals (in ways that don’t eat up all of your time).
1. Clarify what kind of relationships you want
Ok, so you want great relationships. But what kind?
There are so many types of healthy relationships out there––it’s not always about finding a spouse or partner. In fact, people have known for years that entrepreneurs with friendships do better than entrepreneurs who try to ride solo. The same goes for entrepreneurs with healthy romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean you need to rush to the altar anytime soon.
Before worrying about how to balance your relationship goals with your business ambition, first identify what those relationship goals are and realize these goals will change over time as people move in and out of your life.
2. Realize clients can become friends
Just because someone starts off as a client doesn’t mean they can’t become a friend.
Of course, you will have boundaries as long as you work together in a professional capacity. However, don’t write off a client just because they are a client.
Instead of compartmentalizing a person based on their role in your life right now, think of each conversation as a chance to grow. That may mean more client work on a professional level, but it could also mean a blossoming friendship.
If you’re concerned about crossing a line, you can hold off on becoming besties and sharing all your secrets. You don’t need to be that level of friend with a client, but you can still get enormous relationship fulfillment and a sense of connection.
3. Identify your non-negotiables
Running a business will take every second you have and every ounce of energy you give it. So if you truly want to balance your business with your relationships, you need to set your own ground rules.
Some boundaries or “non-negotiables” entrepreneurs set, depending on their lives:
- Being home for dinner with their kids (or taking kids to school/picking them up).
- Spending at least one hour a day hanging out with their partner alone.
- Prioritizing a hobby or going to the gym a few times a week (bonus points if you do this with others, but even doing it alone can help you refresh for the moments you spend with others).
After you know your non-negotiables, you can figure out what’s necessary to make them a reality:
- Outsource some work to free up your time.
- Turn down some work so you don’t get overwhelmed.
- Take days off (you don’t need to communicate this with your clients in every case. As long as you meet clients’ deadlines, they don’t necessarily need to know whether you’re working every day).
When you name and prioritize the things that matter in your relationships, it’s a lot easier to let the little things––like working late on a random Tuesday––slide.
4. Use technology
If you’ve got a lot on the go and are worried your brain can’t handle it, use technology.
Entrepreneurs make tons of little decisions every day and do a bunch of seemingly random tasks depending on what pops up. That doesn’t leave much mental energy for remembering the small details of multiple relationships. Technology helps solve this problem.
Use a personal “customer” relationship management tool to save information like:
- Momentous occasions (graduations, etc.).
- Reminders to touch base if it’s been a while.
By using technology to remember things like birthdays, anniversaries, or how long it’s been since you last spoke to someone, you outsource the “thinking” part of relationship management so you can focus on the “doing” part with all your energy.
5. Remember why you got into business
Relationships aren’t an afterthought to business; they are why you got into business in the first place.
When you started your business, did you only do it for money?
Or did you also do it for:
- The ability to control your time?
- The power to work when you want?
- More control over your life?
Choosing to prioritize your relationships doesn’t take away from your entrepreneurial ambition. You are not less ambitious for wanting your relationships to thrive. If anything, you are more ambitious for wanting to achieve things in a shorter amount of time so you can focus on your relationships.
6. Time-block your way to relationship success
Entrepreneurs often live and die by their calendars. Use that to your advantage when it comes to balancing relationships with business.
In your calendar, block off times to focus on relationships. These can align to your non-negotiables, too. For example, if a non-negotiable is having dinner with your kids, then block off 4 to 7 p.m. so you can eat with them and relax a bit before jumping back into work for the evening. Or, if you want to spend a whole day with your partner or family, you could even try not working Fridays.
Some time-block strategies you can use:
- Recurring meetings: the same time every week (e.g. Friday nights are date nights).
- Recurring blocks: the same time every day (e.g. 4 to 6 p.m. is dinner time).
- Ad-hoc in advance: knowing when something is coming up (e.g. every March 17th is your anniversary so you don’t work that day).
The key is to respect your calendar’s personal times just as you would a client meeting or open business hours. In other words, you have to do it. This isn’t an appointment you can skip at will; it’s an obligation just like any other.
Relationships are business drivers
We are hardwired as humans to desire and value relationships. They not only keep our minds sharp, but they literally keep us alive longer.
Not all relationships are the same––just as not all businesses are the same––but every entrepreneur faces the common thread of needing to prioritize relationships. However, it’s critical to remember that relationships can actually fuel your ambition to make more money and have more free time in which to enjoy it.
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