For the past three-and-a-half years, I've faced a challenge many entrepreneurs know well: How do you juggle the demands of friends and family, a day job and running your own business? In 2012, I founded IC3D Printers, a 3-D printer manufacturer based in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, I've maintained a packed schedule running my small business while also raising a young daughter and holding down a challenging full-time job as a senior engineer for Honda, where I'm part of a team designing a super sports car.
But my experience shows that you can pull off this difficult balance. With a few key strategies, technological tools and the right values and expectations, you can succeed in both your day job and your entrepreneurial venture while also building strong personal relationships. Here's how I do it.
I block out times for tasks and people and then remain 100 percent committed to them—no exceptions. This applies to my day job, side business, family and friends. For instance, I dedicate 20 hours a week to my 2-year-old daughter. That means absolutely no working, playing on my laptop or any other distractions when I'm with her.
I make lots of lists: short-term goals, long-term goals, daily objectives, among other things. To organize and manage my lists, I use the app Trello, a free project-management tool that you can use to collaborate with colleagues and syncs across various devices.
I aim to get around 6-7 hours of sleep a night. I used to aim for about 8 hours, but I've been able to maximize my sleep (and give myself a little more time for my demanding schedule) through an app called Sleep Cycle, which essentially monitors your sleep patterns and wakes you up at the optimal time in your alarm range. It allows me to get the most out of my sleep.
Use virtual assistants
Freelance VAs are a big part of my productivity. They help me with daily operations, such as inventory and order management, as well as research, bookkeeping, graphic design, video production and various website work. I use Upwork to hire and work with VAs. I also use Trello to keep my team of freelancers organized and focused.
Follow “Pareto's Principle"
Pareto's Principle—named for the Italian engineer and economist Vilfredo Pareto—notes an unequal balance between inputs and outputs. For many phenomena, 20 percent of the invested input is responsible for 80 percent of the results. I apply this rule in several ways in my life and business—for instance, identifying top customers and prioritizing them to make sure they're happy. I also use the principle to make “gut decisions." When I achieve 80 percent confidence, I'm ready to go forward. Spending more time on the decision can result in overanalyzing and wasting time.
Like lots of small business owners and entrepreneurs, I try to maximize every waking hour. During a typical week, I work about 45 hours at my day job and another 25 hours on evenings and weekends on IC3D. But careful and thoughtful time management has helped me to enjoy a fulfilling personal life, too. Not only do I make sure to spend time with my family, but I also go out with close friends most Fridays and Saturdays for dinner and drinks and spend a few hours each week gaming online with good friends. These personal commitments—along with another commitment to grow in my learning through listening to audio books during my long commutes—gives my life balance.