How do you balance work and family life?


Here it is, 1:06 AM on a Friday night... and I'm still doing business stuff (well, technically, meta-business stuff here with OnStartups). I have a feeling that I probably should have went to bed with the wife an hour ago when she asked... but I didn't, and I constantly make decisions like this. And as expected, it tends to create downstream problems.

What do you do to balance the work-family life? What tips and tricks have you found helpful to peel yourself away? Do you ever really stop thinking about business?

Work Life

asked Oct 10 '09 at 14:35
Alex Papadimoulis
5,901 points

13 Answers


You admit that your obsession is creating problems with your family. If you were creating problems with your business would you just let that happen? No, you'd probably do something about it.

You can still work long hours but it's not unreasonable for a wife to ask you to come to bed on a Friday night. Oh, what a burden to go to bed with your wife! Do you realize how that sounds? Also, working on business that needs to get done now and working on "meta business" that can wait are two different things. Don't confuse the two.

You will need your family's support to succeed. Agree on a work schedule with your family and stick to it. (As in not working on Friday nights but you can work Saturday morning all you want.) That doesn't mean you can't work a lot. Just define expectations so you're both on the same page.

answered Oct 11 '09 at 07:31
126 points
  • Thanks Darla; when you frame it that way, it does seem a little excessive. I mean, after all, the "meta business" never ends. – Alex Papadimoulis 14 years ago


I have a wife and three kids (4,2,1 that is what happens when you work from home) I would say that I could do a better job and balancing work and family but I do the following things

  • I work from home that way I have breakfast, lunch and supper with my wife and kids
  • Kids activities like soccer, school, swimming etc get top propiority and trump everything
  • When I need a break I try to spend it with my kids and wife.
  • When I am burned out for a day I take the day off and spend it with my wife and kids
  • Personal fun time happens after I spend time with the family
  • Always go to bed with your wife and get up and work when she has fallen asleep.
  • Lastly lots and lots of coffee since I spend most nights working Lastly I have a very very understanding wife that understands that I love to work.
  • answered Oct 11 '09 at 11:16
    John Soer
    596 points


    Work always expands to fill the time you give it. I find the only thing to do is to set strict time limits and that forces me to prioritise.

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 17:12
    Mark Stephens
    976 points


    You do not "balance" work and family. Set and meet your obligations to your family; set and adhere to boundaries for your work. Where you feel that you lack time to get your work done, substitute cleverness — always pursue the simplest, most direct solution.

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 17:53
    Paul Brown
    31 points


    (This is a reaction to some of the responses, more so than to the question itself.)

    If you are so obsessed with your business that you have no time for your spouse and children, then, forgive me, but you have a problem that needs to be addressed. If the situation lasts only briefly, or pops up intermittently, that's normal; however, if "obsessed with work" is your normal mode, then you risk losing the people you love.

    There is another dimension here as well. As an employee, I would not want to work for anybody who was willing to give up his family for his business. I want to work for an individual whose priorities I admire and share, not somebody I fear is going to expect me to make the same sacrifice he has made. So, in the end, your obsession can also hurt your business, as you alienate your employees even as you disengage from your family.

    I'm not immune to this challenge; none of us are. But as human beings, and as "people-centered leaders," we owe it to ourselves and to our employees to keep our priorities straight. Starting a new business is hard. Starting a new family is much harder.


    answered Oct 12 '09 at 13:13
    784 points


    work. life. sleep. choose two.

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 23:41
    744 points


    It's an obsession. No other way to say it.

    There's a quote (I don't know the origin): "Sleep is that time when you work on your business while being unconscious."

    Is there a balance? I'm not sure. There wasn't for me. My wife had a lifestyle business and eventually there was a good balance but it took years for her to get there.

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 14:38
    16,231 points
    • I can't thank you enough for the "Sacrifice" article - not to say I used it as "ammo", but I think it helped put a legitimate perspective on what entrepreneurs need to do. She's not happy about it, but at least she understands that I'm not the *only* one out there doing this. – Alex Papadimoulis 14 years ago


    LOL - and you are asking other entrepreneurs like me who would answer your question at 1:11 am?

    Shotokan Karate is my best escape. I'll find myself thinking about business in the inital meditation, but by the time a class is done my mind has been wiped clean ... fully ready for another major business session! (But even in Karate I tend to be a bit obsessive ... must be an entrepreneurial character trait!)

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 14:44
    Julie King
    871 points


    Don't waste time while in work. Finish the work on time so that you can have time for the family.

    answered Oct 11 '09 at 04:11
    Dragon Born
    111 points


    I use a Task manager application on my iPhone. I add some business tasks like meetings, new product ideas. Some personal goals like reading, listening to audiobooks, working out. Then some family goals like going on day trips, dinners our etc.

    The real goal is just to remind me to balance my life.

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 18:19
    Derek Beda
    221 points


    It depends on the situation. If your wise knew that you are an entrepreneur when you got married, then she made a concise choice (for better or for worst). That being said, you want to make sure you don't loose her or miss out on your children growing up.

    As long as you keep your promises (don't miss any birthdays or anniversaries) and you keep her informed about your plans in advanced, you should be fine. Make sure that you set aside some quality time with her, and the rest of the time is yours to use (you can meet friends or watch a game on TV, or you can work on your own time)

    answered Oct 10 '09 at 20:02
    Ron Ga
    2,181 points


    The most important thing is to have a personal vision. Write down in detail what you expect from running your business. Probably financial security i one thing, but what do you want your family life to be? Your influence on your children? Your relationships? What about personal development? Community or social causes? If you clearly think through what you are seeking from your life, balance becomes fairly simple. The priorities are plain.

    answered Oct 11 '09 at 07:26
    John F. Dini
    96 points


    Badly. You can only have one number-one priority, after all. Sometimes it's work, and sometimes it's something else.

    But I know I'd be less satisfied with myself and my life if I weren't working on an engaging and absorbing project.

    answered Oct 11 '09 at 03:10
    D Thrasher
    894 points

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