But First, a Story…
In the early days of my business, I attended a small and informal mastermind in California with other business professionals. I wanted to go on a business trip, but I couldn’t because I had to take care of my 7-month-old baby. The most logical solution to the problem was to take a plane with her to the mastermind.
The plan was that both my husband and I would attend the mastermind and I would either hold the baby or take her out depending on how she was behaving.
The problem was, on the first day, the person facilitating the mastermind (not the host) asked us to leave because it was distracting to have her in there… even though she wasn’t speaking loudly.
I was angry at first when I realized that in many professional settings, having a baby is not looked upon favorably. Even perfectly quiet sleeping or nursing babies. Although it was a private event and they had every right to make this request, it still hurt that we weren’t able to attend the rest of the event.
The Silver Lining…
In hindsight, being “kicked out” of a mastermind was one of the best things that ever happened for us and our business for two reasons:
- We became determined to win at business in a family-friendly way. This experience made us realize that many people become successful at the expense of family time. But, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. We resolved after that experience to become even more efficient and successful at business and to do so while keeping family always the first priority.
- We started our own mastermind founded on the idea of family first… and it has been amazing. The second amazing thing that happened as a result of this experience was that we decided to create our own mastermind that didn’t just allow kids, it required them. We formed a group of a handful of families and we now meet twice a year… with our kids. We’ve become lifelong friends and our children have become lifelong friends. And our businesses have all evolved and are thriving over the years of meeting together.
Clarifying the Focus & Priorities
The beauty of the experience was that it helped us to see our priorities more clearly and realize that business was always going to come second to family. Our business wasn’t just a way to make money—it was how we were able to feed our family, so it was important to us.
We realized that if we wanted to do both, we would have to focus on the most effective parts of each one.
It helped us narrow down our focus and figure out how to not only balance but integrate the two.
80/20 Your Life
What are the most important things in your family life and business life? Once you know what they are, you can start finding ways to balance your time so that you don’t have to sacrifice anything important. We often find ourselves going through the motions in business and parenting, without any real sense of purpose or intention. We just do things the way we’ve always done them.
The most important thing to do in order to improve any aspect of your life is to focus on the things that have the most impact and do more of those things while reducing distractions and unimportant activities. The idea that you can work less and achieve more is one that has been popularized by Tim Ferriss and his book The Four-Hour Workweek. This idea can be applied to many different areas of life, such as cleaning, cooking, business, and investing.
The so-called “Pareto principle” posits that in many situations, 80% of the consequences stem from 20% of the causes. This rule of thumb apparently applies to both positive and negative outcomes. Most of a company’s profits come from a relatively small percentage of its customers, while most of its customer service problems are caused by a relatively small percentage of customers. Additionally, focusing on the 20% that is successful in any given area and duplicating the results of this segment can improve the business across the board.
Clear and Measurable Goals
Because traditional school subjects are becoming less important and the ability to learn new skills quickly is becoming more vital, we felt that it takes more intentionality to raise great kids.
We created trackable and measurable goals for business and family so that we would be able to hopefully achieve them. We created:
- A detailed list of practical life skills we want our kids to have before leaving home. (still working on these)
- Detailed goals for each business that we wanted to achieve by a certain point. (We accomplished these and are working on the process again with new measurable goals.
Define your why
The importance of understanding your motivations for starting a business – your “why” – is something that many successful entrepreneurs agree on, and it’s not likely to become less important any time soon. The reason is simple: it works. It helps ensure that everyone involved is on the same page, regardless of their role or how new they are to the situation. If you have a clear goal in mind, you will take active steps to achieve it.
If you understand your purpose and make sure everyone else does too, then other people can make decisions without you. If you had been in the room while the decisions were being deliberated, you would have made the same decisions. You have put your own passion and determination into your employees. And that’s how you scale. Delegating allows you to free up your time while still maintaining your company’s original vision.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you and your partner were on the same page? If you both had a clear understanding of each other’s goals and what is important to each other. It would be much easier to work together harmoniously without needing to keep track of each other’s actions.
In other words, you’ve decided that your top priority is being able to financially support your children. While talking with your partner, you discover that they have always wanted to raise children in multiple countries.
With this information, hundreds of tiny decisions become no-brainers. This kind of transparency is a great way to set expectations for both you and your partner. You can figure out what kind of sacrifice each of you will need to make in order to achieve your personal goals.
If you were in the situation above where you needed to spend more time working to grow your company and support your family, your partner should be understanding if you explain that stable company finances will allow you to travel the world as a family.
Over the weekends, it’s an easy decision between going on a road trip or staying home to watch cartoons. What activity will give your children experience packing, traveling, being on the move, and working as a team? When you and your partner are on the same page, communicating is simpler because you are both working together towards a common goal. You can both easily find areas where your personal motivations are in line with each other.
If you have a clear goal, you will know which direction to go. Gone is the discrepancy between your desired outcome and what you have said or written about that goal. All the people involved in this new endeavor are working together towards a common goal.
And everything else? Eliminate it. Here’s how…
Scheduling, Boundaries, and Learning to Say No
Focused, Quality Attention
Every day, at around 4:30 PM, the front door flies open, and I have to stop what I’m working on. Emma is now the most important thing in the world, no matter what else was happening. She is my daughter and she has just finished a long day at preschool. For the next ninety minutes, I will give her all of my attention.
This is her time.
For me, one of the reasons I do what I do is that I want to be a good father who is caring and attentive. I would not be able to view my daughter as a distraction to my work if this were not the case. When she comes home, I change what I’m doing and give her all my attention. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work if I thought about it during this time.
I can be more focused when it’s important if I plan how I use my time wisely. Is it time to work? Great. I’ll disable all social media notifications, lock my office door, and begin my work. Everything else can wait.
Focusing deeply and structurally is what truly brings results. It allows me to be my best self in every area of my life.
Setting Clear Boundaries
Use the words and phrases you learned in Part 1 to have a conversation with your partner. What is their most important goal? What can you do to help them achieve it? Creating a structure in your life that makes it easy to meet expectations is a huge part of this. What can you do to make it easier for you and your partner to support each other?
I devote 100% of my focused attention to my daughter, Emma, for a certain period of time each day. What is important to note is that this is a time I have talked about with my wife. My wife is very supportive and understanding of my need for “Emma Time.” For 90 minutes each week, she either works on her own priorities or joins us. This time is very important to me. Our goal is to make sure that we can still give our daughter our full attention every day no matter what else is going on.
This applies to work, too. Make sure that you’re not letting work get in the way of things that are important to your relationship. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to use two different cell phones, one for work and one for personal use, and to leave the work phone at home when they’re out with their partner.
Eliminate What You Hate
I would like to briefly mention the importance of a two-letter word that is not said enough.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to learn how to say “no” if they want to create a more balanced and stress-free lifestyle. There isn’t enough time for you to work on every project. Stay focused on your goals and only agree to things that will help you achieve them.
Try to find things in your relationship that you don’t need to spend time on. How can you outsource aspects of your relationship that you don’t enjoy?
I have a virtual assistant who helps me with things that I’m not good at. This includes suggesting fun activities for anniversaries and important events, as well as buying presents and planning fun dates around the city.
What kind of things could you outsource? This is a good question and the answer will vary depending on your specific circumstances. For now, just try to be aware of everything you’re doing in your relationship. Consider outsourcing activities that are not essential. A few ideas:
- Hiring a nanny or childcare worker.
- Having someone clean your house.
- Don’t iron your shirts; use a dry cleaner.
- Have somebody cook or prep meals.
- Use Amazon for most of your shopping. Just not the fruits and veggies… they suck!
It is important to be focused and attentive in the areas that matter most to you and your partner. For everything else, there’s outsourcing.
Techniques and Routines
BEING PRESENT AT HOME
Don’t divide your attention. As you come home, try to remember to shift your focus to your family and give them your undivided attention.
The host of the Slow Hustle podcast, Peter Awad, is very good at this.
He wears a wristband that has the word “Slow” on one side and the word “Hustle” on the other side. He changes his mindset from work mode to family mode before he goes into his house.
Peter places importance on both his business and his family.
I slip into different characters depending on where I am and what I need to present, repressing certain emotions and highlighting others,” The band allows me to escape from my normal life and be someone else for a while. I have to act differently depending on the situation, and I suppress some emotions while exaggerating others. I was reminded that I was entering a sacred place and needed to clear my mind for that. I want to be prepared for all of the stories my kids will tell me and to really listen to them. Not just hear them but really listen. “I need to take a break so that I don’t dwell on that last phone call or email.”
I have learned to come home and put my phone on the charger (in silent mode) so that I am not distracted by it. By disconnecting from work, I am able to focus on my family and spend time with them without thinking about work. If people want to contact me, they will need to call my home phone.
If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro technique, it could be what really boosts your productivity. The technique is to work in short, 25-minute sprints, each separated by a 5-minute break. Get up from your desk during the break and walk around to relax.
This way of working allows you to focus solely on the task at hand.