Entrepreneur Beginners Guide
“Don’t Let People Abuse Your Flexibility”
Work is hard. Distractions are plentiful. And time is short.
—Adam Hochschild, author, journalist
Being an entrepreneur is great, but it has its downside, too. One of the unfortunate realities that many entrepreneurs deal with is people’s tendency to abuse their flexibility. This is especially true for entrepreneurs in strong relationships, ranging from friendships to marriages. What do I mean by “abuse their flexibility”? I’ll give you a recent example. My wife’s car needed some repairs recently, so naturally she asked me to help her facilitate a speedy repair. Something told me that this was going to turn into a long ordeal, because we couldn’t reproduce the car’s problem at the dealership when we arrived. We had to go back and forth between home and the dealership to no avail. We finally decided to repair what we and our technician thought would fix the problem. To make a long story short, it took us four days to get the car fixed. In the meantime, I took my wife where she needed to go for work and for leisure. I must admit that after the second day, I became a bit frustrated be-cause I had important, work to do, and if I had a regular 9-to-5 job, my availability would have been severely limited. In that case, she would have been forced to respect my time. However, considering that I was not on the clock for anyone, my time was flexible.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being able to help my wife, and I would make a hundred more trips to the dealership if I had to, but sometimes I feel like I am being held hostage. In other words, I feel like my flexibility is sometimes abused, like I have to pay the entrepreneur’s flexibility tax. Furthermore, there’s the guilt. What a cruel husband I would be if I said to my wife, “You know, honey, I am really sorry, but I am only available after five o’clock to-day, which means we cannot get your car repaired until the week-end.” This would never pass, especially if I chose to work from home at any time during the week. The connubial eye would check in on me from time to time, evaluating the importance of every-thing I was doing. I dare not get caught on Facebook or Twitter during a quick break from “important” work.
While this situation is amplified in marriages, it shows up in friendships and other relationships, too. But regardless of whom the demanding person is, boundaries must be set and respected, even if it means hurting someone’s feelings.
How do you set boundaries? Well, I wish I knew the answer myself. I suppose it differs depending on the strength and relevance of the relationship. Individual idiosyncrasies are certainly a factor, too. I suggest being frank with people-who-are taking advantage of your flexibility and telling them that you have work that must be done. Perhaps you can work out a deal. For instance, if your friend lets you get your work done, then you’ll buy dinner and a movie. The right deal can make everyone happy.
I know it’s easier said than done, but forcing people to respect your time and flexibility is only fair. Otherwise, you will always be on call. People who aren’t entrepreneurs must learn that entrepreneurs are flexible because they work hard for that privilege. When that privilege is abused or at least not respected, frustration and angst ensue.