Have you ever had one of those days, weeks or months when it just feels like you are running uphill, against the wind, in 2 feet of snow?
I have. No matter how hard I tried, my work continued to grow. I didn’t have enough hours in the day. I constantly took work home. I felt guilty (fill in the blank for anything fun, rewarding, or personal) because I could spend that time working on projects. I participated in every after-hours work event because it was “all about team-building”. I was constantly responding to emails at dinner, at my kids’ events, and in bed. And then, it hit me.
Does any of this matter?
Don’t get me wrong, I need work. I’ve worked since I was 13, through high school and through college. I can’t imagine not working. Plus, I love a paycheck — especially the big kind. But lets be real, I love all the things that can come with a paycheck. But that wasn’t enough for me to continue this chaos.
You see, I always knew my life was a little chaotic. I just assumed it was normal and part of having a successful career. But at some point, I realized it didn’t have to be this way. I needed to actively manage and balance my ownlife.
Recently, I was reminded how impactful a balanced life could be. A few weeks ago, my wife and I took our kids to the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. While there, I did absolutely nothing! Truthfully, my kids and I floated in the lazy river, went swimming in the wave pool, ate pizza for dinner and donuts for breakfast, and I helped my daughter conquer her fear of the “big” water slide. By the end of the short trip, I was beat. Yet, I was ready to dive back into work. After thinking about the trip some more, I realized the reason for the renewed energy was simply that balance was restored.
Below are 5 truths that have helped me balance your life.
1. You Own Your Balance
Believe it or not, if you are constantly at work and feel like you never spend time at home its because you choose to continue to do it. Yep, I said it! Unless you have a contract or a sworn oath, you can find a different job. If your employer requires you to consistently work so much that it impacts your ability to have a life outside of work, it may be time to look for a new job or begin thinking about starting your own business. Similarly, if telling others that you are super busy at work gives you a sense of self-worth, you are on the wrong track. Busyness should not be a badge of honor for you.
2. Balance Equals Change
As a speaker, writer, husband, father, homeowner, remodeling hobbyist, techie, and student, I have come to realize there is always something to do. Attempting to accurately plan my wife and children’s schedules along with other categories such as exercise, education, and hobbies around my work schedule or vice versa isn’t truly feasible. Also, different seasons in life require different amounts of time spent on each major category.
For instance, whenever I start a business, I know I’ll have to spend an immense amount of time working on strategy and administrative tasks and far less time on my hobbies. Couples with small children will spend the majority of their time raising their kids and talking about poop — yes that’s a thing. Sales and marketing managers may have to travel several days each week leaving little time to go to the same gym each day. In order to be successful at balancing our lives, we must understand that all categories have importance but must be ranked.
3. Your Career Does Not Complete You
For most of my career I worked in the government sector focusing primarily on information technology (IT). My evenings and weekends were often spent migrating servers to new platforms, performing system patches, and implementing new software. As I moved into positions with different responsibilities, I found myself spending evenings or weekends working with senior staff members or giving presentations to a board. Even to this day, my career occasionally requires me to work extra or odd hours to complete a project or to meet a customer’s timeline.
The fact of the matter is, most careers occasionally require more than status quo if a person wants to be successful. Award-winning teachers create innovative ways to educate their students. Successful managers implement programs to improve the morale of their employees. Amazing sales representatives go the extra mile to meet their clients’ needs. The key here is to work hard but remember your career does not complete you. It is there to provide you with income so you can support yourself, support your family and extended family and hopefully help others.
Think about it this way, obituaries oftentimes highlight a person’s career and community involvement. However, the family, friends and colleagues that gather at the funeral typically discuss the way the person lived their life and how they impacted others.
4. Everyone is Intentional About Something
We all have the same number of hours in a week. Planning our days and weeks is paramount if you want to achieve balance in your life. Even the most important things in life require certain blocks of time each week and should be included on the calendar. Dates with your significant other, one on one time with your children, etc should all be on the calendar.
When a person chooses to to focus on one thing endlessly while neglecting others they are intentionally placing priority on that category. For instance, I am at a point in my life and my career where my schedule is planned months in advance. I have had to learn to say no to projects, committees, boards and even jobs in order to keep my life in balance.
5. Balance Doesn’t Mean Easy
Anytime we separate ourselves from an area of our lives it often allows us to see that area more clearly. In the same way, balancing a career, a family, health, and travel among many other things requires a lot of hard work. While daily rest plays a part in a well balanced life, a well balanced life does not mean a life of rest. In fact, a person who has a well balanced life probably looks like someone that is constantly on the go and has strict schedules.
In order to keep a fresh perspective in all areas of life it is necessary to step away from everything. Sometimes our lives our too chaotic to see when we are out of balance. Stepping away often gives clarity.