How to Balance Work and Family Life

Creating harmony between your career and family life can sometimes be a bit difficult, especially for those of us who are freelancers, in management and/or have a full-time job as well as side-work that can consume your family time.

I’m no expert on the topic, but after having virtually neglected my family life for many years and “losing the love I loved the most”, I feel that I can at least speak on the topic.

Freelancers

This is the way I am currently making my living.  I am 100% freelance and while making enough money to survive,  I hope to continue being more successful in the future so I can support my kids and have some savings when I get older.

For freelancers, the most important aspect of life is being able to delineate your time between work and family.  Stick by it as “religiously” as possible. Things will come up occasionally “after hours”, but make sure your significant other understands that fact and make sure (100%) that he/she is OK with these occasions. Perhaps even have an associate on call who can help if you are completely indisposed.

Since I unfortunately don’t have many day-to-day familial responsibilities as I used to, most of my work is performed in the afternoon and late at night. I usually sleep from 5-6am to 12-1pm.  I get my work done and still have time in the early evening to visit my daughters, family and participate in social activities.

If married, getting your work done during normal business hours is key. Have a dedicated office space to stay “in the zone” or if possible, rent a low cost office outside the home so you can separate your work location from home.

Fulltime + sidework

This was the way I operated for many years before and after I was married and had children.  I worked for many corporations, contractors and agencies and still had a “side job” hosting websites for friends, family and numerous clients.  Before I streamlined my hosting operations, it was consuming MANY evenings, sometimes days of my time when problems arose.

The actual design work wasn’t too time consuming, but the fact that I was on call virtually 24/7 could overshadow a vacation when the phone rang or during a holiday when it was hard to assist clients.  Laptops started going with me on vacation, to visit family and virtually anytime I was away from home.  Sometimes I even had to “clock out” of my day job to serve my personal clients.

This was probably the most stressful period in my life. Work, kids, wife, more work, then finally sleep for 3-6 hours. It took it’s toll on my health and due to bad handling, it also played a part in destroying my relationship.

For this category, I give the same advice as I did for freelancers. Streamline, follow a schedule, make sure there is truly an understanding with your spouse and have some backup if needed.

Managers

I know many people who are in management, from team leads to program managers and VP/CEO’s of companies.  Some of them are able to balance their lives well, but many others are hopelessly attached to their smartphones or work laptops, checking and responding to email at all hours of the night, even from bed, while still being at work before anyone else.  Some are “heroes” to their families, some have had their life crumble before their eyes.

The managers that are usually the worse offenders are  younger ones (25-45) who feel like they HAVE to work unlimited hours for “the company” so they don’t lose favor in the eyes of their superiors.  In extreme emergencies, I agree they should respond, but for normal daily operations, disconnect and enjoy life a little.  There’s always tomorrow and most likely nothing major is going to change from 7pm to 7am.

Conclusion

I’ve made many mistakes in the past, many mentioned above, and am doing my best so they never happen again.  My hosting operations are solid and streamlined.  I rarely have problems with that unless it’s an upstream provider.  I’ll send out one email to the affected parties and just wait for service to return. Design work can be scheduled appropriately.  As long as my clients don’t expect a full website whipped out in 24 hours, I am able to schedule and get them done in a reasonable timeframe.  Prioritize your work based on income, urgency, etc. and you shouldn’t run into many problems.

Full, honest and open 2-way communications is KEY in a relationship. Whether or not you have children, your significant other still needs to know that you are giving him/her adequate time without “pining” to be back on the PC.  Offer as much time as possible outside of work obligations.  Make a plan, understand his/her needs, keep a normal schedule… Don’t be creeping into bed at 2am, disturbing their sleep.  Be sure to make the time you spend quality time. Not just sitting around watching TV.  Make dinner, go for a walk, go to the movies, visit extended family or friends, find a mutual hobby, etc.  Turn off the phone or silence it.  Stay away from computers.

Losing one impatient client is better than losing your family.