Here is how I make it work:
- I moved my office back home and took my son out of daycare.
- I no longer travel.
- I am very particular about the clients I work with - I take the time to learn more about them as a person - will my "family first" motto fit with their beliefs?
- I changed my work week to Monday - Thursday and spend Fridays with my youngest son who is not yet in school.
- I changed the message on my voice mail to say that I will be returning calls between 10:00am - 2:30pm, Mon - Thurs so clients clearly know when I will be in touch with them and when I am out.
- I told the occasional client who called me at home that it was not OK to do so anymore.
- I thank clients when I have to switch their phone conference or meeting because my children have a sporting event or field trip.
- I send weekly progress reports to clients about projects so they are clear about what has been accomplished on their account and if there are any unresolved issues.
- I purchased a Blackberry so I can monitor client emergencies via email when I am away from my home office.
- I only schedule evening phone conferences and Twitter parties after the kids are in bed.
- If I say I am going to spend the day with my kids, I stick to my promise.
- I clearly explain to my kids what my work and my play hours are.
This process has worked extremely well. I still have one client who tries to bend my "family first" motto. He waits and calls me on Friday and leaves an "urgent" message. He then leaves a message on my cell phone. I have been working with this for client many years so I know him very well. He is well aware I am off on Fridays. His call is promptly returned on Monday morning and he is fine. He is a family man so I would expect him to understand.
Your clients are extremely important, but NOT more important than family. By making sure clients know when you are available and when you will be in touch with them helps the transition from "work getting in the way" to "family first" a smoother one.
I would love to hear any additional tips or suggestions you have on how to truly put family first.