As a small business owner, wife, and mother, I must admit it’s difficult balancing all of my responsibilities. My husband and I have been partners in a construction business for ten years. In order to keep my sanity, every Wednesday is “date night” for my husband and me. We started this so called “tradition” after our second child was born, and it was intended to be a chance for us to reconnect and enjoy each other’s company. In the beginning, it typically went something like this:

Sitter arrives and we’re out the door by 7:30 p.m. We arrive at the restaurant by 8 p.m. and spend two minutes debating on whether we should leave our cell phones in the car…but what if the sitter needs us? We take them. By 8:15 we’ve ordered dinner and drinks, and by 8:25, without fail, our romantic dinner turns into an hour and a half discussion about our outstanding accounts receivable list, the rising cost of workman’s compensation insurance, and the less-than average performance of our newly hired employee. Next thing I know, my husband is on his cell phone with our project manager and I’m on mine with our CPA (who’s still at his office due to tax season deadlines). I don’t remember much about the food, but it’s now 10 p.m. and “date night” is over.

Sound familiar? If you own a small business or run one with your spouse, probably too familiar. After years of the very same Wednesday night scenario, I finally learned that balance is the key to everything in life. Just because “family business” is a commonly used phrase doesn’t mean that the two always have to flow together. The secret is to develop ways to separate the two…business time and off time. Below are four tips to help you prosper in your personal and business ventures.

Compartmentalize Your Life

The compartmentalization theory simply means you should concentrate on one task at a time, whether it’s working, playing with the kids, or doing the dishes. Easier said than done, right? For the average small business owner, who is by nature a multi-tasker, this is a pretty hard concept to grasp. It takes a conscious effort, but try it. The moment you leave work, close that door and open another, perhaps the “family door.” Each time you open and close a new door, your concentration should shift to the new activity. Leaving two doors open is not acceptable. Doing so will only allow you to spread yourself too thin, perhaps accomplishing more tasks, but doing nothing to your fullest potential. Do one thing at a time and do it well.

Keep Family Relations at Home

Just as important as it is to leave business matters in the office, so it is to leave personal and family matters at home. A good rule of thumb, in my opinion, is to always call family members by their name in the office. Not Honey, Sweetie, or even Dad. Also, keep family announcements outside of the office. Your office manager truly does not care how many times Little Johnny woke up last night nor do they need to hear the torrid details of your sister-in-law’s affair. Most importantly, always be respectful to your spouse in front of your employees. If they sense teamwork and cohesion between you, they start to feel it too. Set the example!

Get Organized

Okay, I admit it. I am a calendar girl…not the pin-up kind, but I do love jotting notes and appointments in my husband’s Day timer. It keeps us on track with each other and the day’s activities (work-related and family related). If anything, it helps us both stay committed to scheduling time for activities other than business meetings. This is just one more way we share information and stay better connected.

Outsource What You Can

Lastly, as your business can afford it, outsource simple, yet time-consuming tasks, such as filing and running errands. It’s amazing how fast the mundane yet necessary tasks can turn into many hours worth of time that could’ve been better spent. Hire a part time person to handle repetitive jobs.

When you learn to separate work and family you can create a business and personal life that is both fun and successful. You will find that “date night” becomes a much more relaxing and fulfilling experience. Now I only have to worry about whether my daughters are at home dying each other’s hair pink.

(Source: Lori Durden, SBDC Georgia Southern University Office)