3 Tips To Finding 'Work-Life Balance'
This post is a little tough for me to write, just in the sense that it’s difficult to implement, and ever-changing. ‘Work-Life Balance’. Is there such a thing? What about when you love something so much that your mind is consumed by it, and all you want to do is perfect your craft or company? I feel you. I really, really feel you. I’ll share some examples of my obsession, some counseling sessions that helped, some advice from coaches, and some real tips I do to exercise balance. For anyone that works for themselves, or just loves their job, it can be hard to find a perfect harmony, that’s pretty obvious, but for the people that can’t fathom someone loving work, it’s hard to explain why you’re obsessed with it. The obsession is real people. I constantly struggle with this. It’s sometimes checking out of work early to spend time on the other parts of my life that I’ve neglected, but it’s not always working less that is the answer to the problem, sometimes it’s needing to work more because aspects of my personal life overtake work. Not an exact science here... and it varies almost weekly. What I do know, is that if one area of your life is completely out of whack, everything else suffers. That’s a proven ‘Nik Fact’.
Tip 1: CUT OUT THE BUSY WORK
Some easy changes are: A) to delegate more, if possible, or b) to hire someone to help, if possible. If you can’t do either of these, there is a software or a third party company that will charge you minimally to help with some of the tasks you’re overwhelmed with. ‘Nik Fact’ #2. If you’re not an accountant, don’t spend thousands of hours trying to be one. Bite the bullet, hire an accountant, and focus on your business. Focusing on the important parts of your business, like sales, is key. Don’t spend more time on any one task than you need to, and never be afraid to seek professional assistance, because you aren’t expected to know it all. If you do need to learn to be an accountant for your company, plan that time out, and hold your study time sacred. Don’t half study, while half work on other things. Study when you’re studying. Work when you’re working.
Cutting back on meaningless conversations and emails, will obviously make you more efficient, and will allow you to get home quicker. When I was taking a double full-time load in college, and essentially growing two companies, I gave my personal cell phone number to everyone. For one, I didn’t think there was a smarter way to work… I mean everyone needs your cell phone right? And for two, when my phone would ring nonstop, which it did pretty much daily, everyone got to see how busy I actually was. I liked people seeing how busy I was, because frankly, it made me feel important. Texts, calls, emails, social media notifications, all these platforms for people to talk to me on, and they were all going to one constantly buzzing device. I felt cool. Look at me, look at how busy I am, look at how many people want to talk to me… that’s basically what I was doing all the time. I realized later, that I could actually utilize the assistant I paid for, and I didn’t have to keep notifications on for every platform. Now in my life, only my current clients, past clients, and staff have my cell phone and my email, social media, and distracting apps have their notifications turned off. When I have time to check emails or Facebook, I check them, I don’t get distracted by them while in the middle of something else.
Something that can help here, if you’re just starting out, is time-blocking. Set aside your daily schedule first thing every morning. Even plan out up to a week in advance with appointments (personal and professional), and hold yourself to it. If you’re setting aside an hour to call leads, don’t have any other tabs on your computer open. Call your leads and GET OUT OF THERE. If you’re studying, order the physical study materials so you’re not even in the realm of the internet, because that get boring, and Facebook is way better than studying. Whatever you dedicate your time to, make sure you stick to it. Step one will always be planning, but step two has to be accountability to your plan.
Tip 2: KNOWING WHEN TO WORK
The other problem is that some people don’t have this balancing act figured out yet, so they get deterred from their plan of action too. If your notifications are on and someone emails you at 9pm, you may think to yourself “that it’s a quick answer…” and fire off an email that late... harmless right? Wrong. That person now has a silent expectation of your work hours, that one day, may not be so silent. Once the barrier of when they a client can call you goes out the window, all bets are off. All hours of the night, six in the morning, you’re on whatever schedule they’re on now, because you aren’t playing by your own rules. If you do this, you better hope all of your clients are on the same sleep schedule as you, otherwise you’re not sleeping well that night. Plus, is there really something getting emailed to you at 9pm that is THAT important? Wouldn’t they call you if it was THAT important? One quick email during family time takes you back to work, and can change moods instantly if it’s a bad email, so why even risk it? I enjoy the time I’m presently in, then, if I check my email after dinner, I can get upset or deal with what I need to, but not in the middle of an enjoyable night. Work when you need to work, and live when you need to live. Another way to help with this is to change your voicemail to say your working hours, tell clients when you work and when you don’t, set a working calendar for yourself so you know when you’re working and when you’re not. Don’t feel bad about setting a schedule for yourself. This can dramatically help shift the scales back to a healthy symmetry in your life balance.
Tip 3: SEEK ADVICE FROM MENTORS/COACHES/COUNSELORS
I have hired very expensive coaches, paid for therapists, spent hours talking to mentors to try to figure out what works best for me. I didn’t want to be a Scrooge (that rich, old, angry guy in A Christmas Carol), but I couldn’t turn off the obsession for my work. I found out that the life I was headed for was exactly that, and I learned a fundamental lesson that changed my life. I was asked what I would do if I made more money. My response: “a nicer car and more vacations.” Then I was asked what would I do if I made double that money. My response: “an even nicer car and even more vacations.” The point he was leading me to was, when is the car nice enough, and when do vacations become the new normal? Although a simple concept, this was profound for me. I was already driving a luxury car that I loved, and got complimented a lot. I was already going on plenty of amazing vacations each year. I was living the life that I only dreamed of 5 years before, and once I made it to that point all I wanted was more. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this recipe does not equal happiness. If you ALWAYS want more, you can never reach a state of content. Never. I had to decide what I wanted in life, how much I need to work to accomplish that goal, and not overdo it based on my life’s goal. Now this took years of contemplation, heartache, sleepless nights, and so much more to actually get to. It was not done as quickly as you’re reading this, so don’t set yourself up with an unrealistic expectation. This will take time and effort to find a congruence in all categories of your life. It all depends on your goal. My goal, above all else, was and is happiness. Time with family does that, but new exciting experiences does that too, so I try to do a few new experiences each year and enjoy as much time with my close friends and family as I can. Decide what your ultimate life goals are, and work backwards from there.
Bonus Tip: TECHNOLOGY
The biggest thing that I do to help with staying focused whether at work or at home, is the lack of notifications I have sent to my phone. I met with someone for coffee several years ago, who much busier than I was, and he told me the only time his phone vibrates or rings is when someone is calling him. Shout out to Derek J. Now I still haven’t quite committed to removing the text notifications, I mean I’m not a savage, but I only receive texts and calls. Everything else is on my schedule. I will see that meme when I open Instagram to look at memes. I’ll check emails when it is convenient for me. I’ll get to work notifications at the proper head place and time. The other thing I do that helps substantially, is allocating one night per week to have a technology-free date night with my wife. No talking to clients, friends, internet followers, nothing. No tv, no phones, no screen time whatsoever from 5 PM on. Sometimes we’ll listen to music together if we’re cooking, see a movie together, or we’ll splurge on a season finale of our current obsession, but other than that we try to be present with each other. We’ll usually come home and plug our phones in, and head to dinner, or cook together at home. We can talk about goofy things, our next professional conquest, plan our future, or play board games. This really helps our relationship in solidifying a weekly bonding routine, and it’s a commitment I make each week to show her that she’s more important than work.
There you have it. Some of these tips may work for you, some may not. They work for me, and have helped me become a more level person across all fields of my own life. If you don’t know where to start, just shut your phone off and think about your future. Who will you want to be in 5 years? 10? 20? What is ultimately important to you? The backbone of your obsession with work all started somewhere, and locating your professional and personal wants and needs will help you decide what you should focus on. Sometimes you should be working more, sometimes less. That’s for you to learn and decide for yourself.