It's second nature for ambitious entrepreneurs to put everything they have into their companies. During the fledgling years of a startup, founders work almost nonstop and focus the bulk of their attention on building a consistent, smooth-running organization with high customer satisfaction and high employee morale. It's no wonder that, with so much attention paid to every detail of a company, many leaders let personal responsibilities slip because they seem to have fewer immediate consequences than business responsibilities.
The danger in a lax, back-burner personal life is that discontent at home, aside from being dreadful in itself, can seep into the way you run your business. Personal stressors or feelings of stagnancy outside the office can make you more irritable, less decisive, and less reliable as a leader. If the office has become more comfortable and appealing than your home, ask yourself the same questions about your personal life that you'd ask if you felt out of control in your business.
1. What is the highest impact priority?
As a leader, it's your responsibility to identify the issues or opportunities that could have the greatest effects on your business and tackle them. The same logic applies to your personal life. Whether you have kids who need care and coaching through a challenging time, your friends need you to show support for their endeavors, or you just need to clean your house, there is almost always a personal goal that hangs in the back of your mind more prominently than everything else.
Make a list of tasks to accomplish in your personal life, both simple (take out the trash) and relational and complex (reconnect with a long-distance sibling). Rank the tasks based on their impact on the rest of your life, regardless of whether they seem like they should be lower or higher on the list. Your messy house could be getting in the way of your morning routine and making you less productive at the start of the day, or you could be putting off an important conversation that's distracting you from everything else. Whatever the pressing issue, make its resolution your highest priority in order to free yourself to move on to other goals.
2. When does this need to get done?
Whether you get things done the moment they're handed to you or you require deadlines to stay on track, it's important to get your personal life on a schedule similar to your work life. Just as a business initiative with no due dates and no accountability is likely to fizzle, personal goals fall by the wayside if they don't have clear parameters for both time and proof of accomplishment.
Take time to write down both your long-term goals and your daily and weekly responsibilities. For the smaller and more frequent tasks, form good habits by doing the same tasks at the same time each day or each week, setting consistent reminders on your calendar if needed. Long-term goals are accomplished through small, everyday habits as well, but should have clear end dates (e.g., refinish my kitchen cabinets by the end of June). Productivity apps like Wunderlist or Todoist can help you keep track of the small steps it takes to accomplish big things.
3. Who is on my team?
Every major business endeavor needs a top-notch team to be successful. While most personal goals are your responsibility alone, the support of family and friends can help you accomplish more of what you want with higher levels of confidence and enthusiasm. For families, getting the team on track may mean setting aside specific family evenings or short trips to talk over everyone's goals and struggles and make plans for support. Similarly, friend groups and trusted mentors can be your best cheerleaders and strictest coaches, holding you accountable to the things you promised to do for yourself.
While you wouldn't ask a friend or family member to organize your personal finance spreadsheets or book your next flight, don't be afraid to assign motivational tasks to the people closest to you. Text messages, recurring coffee meetings, and encouraging emails are all excellent ways for your support network to help you stay on the path to meet your personal goals.
Even if your company is in tip-top shape, that doesn't mean your life outside work is equally healthy. Bring the strategies you use at your office to your home to see a more productive, peaceful, and relationally rich personal life that motivates and fulfills you as much as your career life.