By Kenny Markwardt, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor
A pair of freewheeling, self-employed entrepreneurs will have a dream family life, right?
They have a flexible schedule, they can walk the kids to school together, and they’ll be able to spend a ton of time together as a family. What could be better?
Unfortunately, the reality is that while “couple-preneurs” can be flexible, they also have lots of work to do—No Sweat Intros, client meetings, staff meetings, classes to coach, fires to put out, personal workouts, etc. Add all the child-care responsibilities—practices, play dates, homework, doctor’s appointments—and business owners who feel like they’re “always working” might wonder how it’s even possible to do it all without a full-time staff to manage the family.
Some might even start to question if it’s possible to provide kids with all the resources and attention they deserve while operating a business with a spouse.
I’m here to tell you that it is possible. It just requires diligent use of four key strategies that my wife and I have found effective.
Strategy 1: Calendars
One strategy is to be relentless with your work and family calendars.
Jenn and I sit down every Sunday and look at the week ahead during our weekly personal meeting. We typically have all our work stuff scheduled in by then, so we just need to plug in the family and kid stuff and make sure we’re available to do everything on the list. We make sure someone is assigned for drop-offs, pick-ups and child care.
As we enter these appointments into our calendars, inevitably a conflict or two arises. At that point, we usually reach out to one of our generous friends to see if they can help out. If they cannot, we move our appointments around.
Strategy 2: Pomodoros
The second tool that we find particularly rewarding is the “pomodoro.”
A pomodoro is generally 25 minutes of focused, undistracted work followed by five minutes of rest. We use them in our personal and professional lives, but we’ve found them surprisingly effective for balancing our work and our relationship with our son.
I have some guilt about admitting this, but I find it very challenging to sit down and play with him when I feel like there are a million other things I could be doing to advance our business. Given any idle moment, my mind reels with my to-do and should-be lists. However, I know that he needs time with me, and I need time with him to feel fulfilled. I hate the guilt I feel when I reflect on my day and realize I didn’t spend any focused, quality time with him.
By organizing this play time into sets of pomodoros, I can check all my boxes. I take at least 25 minutes to devote myself completely to him. We play Legos, shoot hoops—whatever. No phones, no email, no distractions at all. I get a five-minute break to check in (if I feel like I need it), and then I take another set of 25 minutes with absolutely no distractions.
Repeat as often as you need. I find that if I devote at least one pomodoro (and often more) to my son every single day, I can look back and be proud of what I did as a dad.
Strategy 3: Ride-Alongs
The third strategy we utilize is recognizing that our son is completely capable of tagging along with us for most of the day.
Some of our tasks look different with him along for the ride, but that’s just the way life is as couple-prenuers. Workouts, gym projects, errands and more are all totally feasible with a kid in tow.
Sure, what used to be 90 minutes of regimented CrossFit work is often a leisurely 45-minute bike ride, gym-improvement projects take twice as long, and sometimes errands get diverted due to tantrums or accidents, but everything gets done eventually.
Strategy 4: Technology
The last tool we utilize is the one we like least but have come to accept as just part of the deal: our digital babysitter. Most people know this as a tablet or phone.
Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get things done without any distractions. The most reliable tool for holding your kid’s attention is often an age-appropriate game or show. Unfortunately, we all know that unbridled screen time is not the best thing for our kids, and we usually don’t feel good about that glazed-over look they get as they sit and stare into the abyss.
We’ve come to treat screen time like any other special treats in life: Use in moderation and everything will probably be just fine.
We try to limit our son’s screen time to an hour a day. This works well in conjunction with the pomodoro idea as well. By granting an hour on the screen, you get an hour of completely focused work time—and you don’t need to feel bad about. The kid will be grateful for the time on the device and you’ll be grateful for the time you get to work without distraction. Then you’ll be more present when you sit down to play with your child.
Succeed—As Parents and Entrepreneurs
We’ve been using this plan for seven years now, and it works quite well. Obviously, there’s a lot of give and take and compromise, but in the end, we’re quite proud of what we’ve been able to achieve professionally and as parents.
By utilizing the tools I’ve outlined above, you can devote yourself to raising your kids, growing your business, maintaining your relationship with your spouse and creating the ultimate expression of the dream family life.
Other Media in This Series
“Couple-Preneurship: How to Work With Your Spouse”
“Couple-Preneurship: How to Hire Your Spouse”
“Couple-Preneurship: What to Do When Things Go Wrong”
Podcast: “Working With a Spouse: The Secrets to Ending Stress”