Balancing being a valuable asset to your company, being a great father to your children, a wonderful husband to your spouse and anything else on top of that can be a huge challenge! After having my first child, I quickly found myself wondering how I could possibly do well at all my responsibilities. If you are in this situation and looking to find a better balance in your life, here are some questions that I asked myself that seemed to help!
I currently work in a fairly demanding capacity as the Director of Business Development at Nifty Marketing, a digital marketing agency for law firms. On top of that, I am also part owner of several companies including Kaiback and MissionShoe. My wife and I own multiple clothing boutiques The Yellow Umbrella Boutique and Sweet Addiction Boutique. All these things considered, it can be difficult to find a good balance between my work, home, and other responsibilities. When I was trying to find a better balance in my life, I asked a series of questions that really helped shape where I invested my time.
What Does a Balanced Life Look like to Me?
I have close friends that work extremely demanding jobs that require them to travel and be away from their families for two weeks out of the month. His career compensates him well enough that he has the ability to travel and go on vacations to compensate for that time that is spent away. The thought process is the work hard and play hard mentality. This approach does not work for me and fits what I would define a good balance.
This is important for you to answer on a personal basis. Because what I or anyone else may consider a good work/life balance could be very different to what you might consider.
What are My Greatest Priorities Right Now?
I would recommend writing (or typing) out brief statements that concisely list your priorities. When I asked myself this it came down to the following, not particularly in order (all were considered very important:
- I want to be an active positive influence in the life of my children. In order for me to do that, I believe that will require a significant amount of one on one time with each of them.
- I want to make sure that my relationship with my wife is absolutely rock solid. In order for me to strengthen my relationship with her, that will require dedicated time as well.
- I want to be able to actively serve God by serving in my local church congregation. Being gone on the weekends often would make this extremely difficult.
- I want to be well enough compensated simply so that I can have more financial flexibility and freedom.
An important note is the addition of “right now” to the question. As people, our needs, our priorities and our desires will change during different seasons of our lives. The things I wanted and felt were important changed dramatically when I got married. Those things changed again when I had my first child.
It’s important to regularly evaluate what your priorities are. You might identify your priorities and realize the way you conduct your life is not in harmony or does not reflect those priorities.
Are My Priorities Where they Should be?
After taking a good, long, hard look at our priorities, you can take the time to evaluate if your priorities are right. This is an amazingly individual process but I would recommend making it a matter of very sincere prayer and communication with God, or the higher power you subscribe to. I heavily recommend speaking with your spouse or other significant people in your life and get a meaningful outside perspective. Your loved ones may ask you to alter or reorganize your priorities for their sake. There have been times when my wife has asked me to spend more undistracted time with my children. Her insight was extremely valuable and she helped me identify a need that I hadn’t recognized on my own.
What are the Trade-offs of My Current Priorities? Am I Willing to Accept Those?
With almost every decision there is some kind of a trade-off. In economics, this principle is called opportunity cost. If I invest more time and resources into one thing, I will consequently have less to be able to invest elsewhere.
When I first started at Nifty, my wife and I didn’t have any children. As a result, work and my career were one of the biggest priorities. I prided myself in often being the first one into the office in the morning and the last to leave at night. When I went home, I would often continue to work even more. The tradeoff was my free time and having more time with my wife. During this time, I became an absolute student of my field. I was reading article after article on SEO tactics and set an amazingly solid foundation for my career now.
Years later, now as a father, I am no longer willing to put in nearly the time investment into my career. My career is still in a good positive trajectory but I know if I were willing to invest as much time as I did a few years ago, I could likely grow much quicker. If I was willing to travel a lot more and spend a lot of time out on the road, it could lead to a lot greater compensation. However, I’m just not willing to make that sacrifice. Time at home with my wife and children is a much larger priority to me in my life right now. As a result of my new priorities, I am going to have to be okay with more modest increases in the future.
After listing out your priorities, you have to understand that you will have to make sacrifices in some areas. Think this through carefully as you are trying to adjust your time investment to line up with the things that matter most to you.
What can I Cut Out?
When we prioritize our lives, there are often activities, interests, and hobbies that when carefully examined either are reduced or fall out of our lives entirely. Perhaps, we don’t need to entirely adjust all of our major priorities in our lives but eliminate a lot of noise and distraction. Social media use, Netflix binges and other less meaningful uses of time may need to be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Take some time and think through your daily activities. Perhaps, even list them out hour by hour. There will certainly be things that may not be bad or a complete waste of time but it might simply be there are better places for our times to be invested. If we truly evaluate our lives, we will find opportunities to cut out less beneficial activities.
Will My Life Ever Be Truly Balanced?
Possibly not! You may be able to make decisions and moves to bring yourself significantly closer to what you want. David Bednar, a great teacher that I really respect said the following on balance:
“…Balance is a false notion. You can only do one thing at one time. … Now, balance is like a Chinese acrobat … They hold up a leg and they stand on one leg. And they balance a stick on one leg. They put a plate on the top of the stick, and they spin it. Then, they put a stick on their arm and spin a plate on top of their arm. So, now they have two plates. … So, you spin the plate, but now I have to spin this plate, and I spin this one. Then they put a stick on the forehead and another plate, now they have three.
“That’s life. Can you get the three plates spinning at exactly the same speed at exactly the same time? No. One is always closer to falling off. And you have to hurry and get to that one and spin it. Now there’s a lesson from that illustration. There’s an optimum number of plates that each of us can spin. It’s probably the case that you cannot spin 17 plates. So, with the help [from spiritual guidance from God] and especially from our wives, we can identify the two—three—four most important plates that always need to be spinning. Now, over time, we simply make sure that none of the plates fall off and break.”
Here’s the link to the entire interview with David Bednar
During different times of your life, there will be different plates that need to be spun. At times you will need to focus more on your career. There will be times where your family will need your time, attention and resources. Do your best to evaluate your lives on a regular basis. If you do so, you will be more likely to identify where you need to invest.
Go and Do Your Best
Knowing that life is often like spinning plates, you just have to go and do the best that you possibly can. Identify the priorities of your life, adjust your time investments accordingly and watch for plates that need spinning. Making this process a matter of prayer and solemn consideration will greatly assist you. Asking for the assistance of those that truly love you and have your best interests in mind will also help. Finding a better balance in your life can be a wonderful foundation for a happier and more fulfilling life.
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