It’s the age-old dilemma: how do you find a balance between your work and personal time in a way that makes you feel happy and guilt-free. Is it even possible?
When I worked in a corporate office downtown I started work at 8 am and finished at 4:30 pm. It took me 45 to 60 minutes to get there driving in rush hour each morning and another 45 minutes to get home.
As well, most days I brought work home with me after hearing:
Heck, why not, everything is on your laptop so why can’t you just finish up that report when you get home tonight?
Plenty of onsite (uncompensated) overtime was also expected of me.
One example went like this: You didn’t really have any plans for Easter did you, because the client would like their project completed while their staff have the weekend off. That way they won’t be in your way while you work straight through from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon. Sleep? We don’t believe people require sleep.
On top of that, every other week I was asked to travel either to the head office or to a client’s office to work onsite.
But when did you have any personal time? What personal time? Maybe those few hours I sat waiting in the airport for my next flight? Was that my personal time?
The bottom line is that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to balance both personal time and work, and life became very stressful.
As a result of all of this chaos I made some very hasty decisions in regards to my well paid, long term career, and guess what, life isn’t any less stressful today.
What’s that saying? Hindsight is 20/20. If I knew then what I know now I definitely would have done things differently.
If you are currently in a similar situation and are looking for ways to achieve a balanced lifestyle, here are some suggestions on how to tweak your schedule and re-evaluate your life goals, so that you can find a happy medium without losing everything that you have worked so hard to achieve, both at work and in your personal life.
Consider Your Career Path
The best way to start changing how you approach the limited hours in your day is to evaluate your career path.
Ask yourself: “Am I working in a career that I am truly passionate about? Is the trade-off between work and personal time worth the time I spend at the office?”
Asking yourself these types of questions (at any point in your career) will help you keep your priorities in check. The bottom line question is: am I able to attend to both my work and my family? If not, what needs to happen to find balance? Perhaps this means a change of career to allow for more quality time, money, or less overall responsibilities and stress.
Consider Your Career Duties
By evaluating your work schedule, you may be able to re-allocate your time and possibly cut down on late nights or early mornings at the office.
Another important workplace strategy is to delegate tasks to others.
If you typically handle everything in your department, it’s time to get help by involving others.
By delegating responsibilities to staff members, you not only empower your staff to have a more active role, but you also allow yourself more time to be home with your family.
Consider Your Commute and Career-Related Traveling
Start thinking about all the time and expenses incurred relating to your job.
It isn’t just the working hours that take away from your spouse or kids.
Commuting could cost you a couple of hours a day, while business trips could take away countless hours of valuable time that you could otherwise be spending with your family and doing things that you enjoy.
Evaluating these aspects of your job will help you decide whether it’s worth it, and if not, what you could do to change that.
For example, you could ask your employer if they would allow you more freedom with your work hours. Or could you ask if your boss would allow you to work from home. You just may be surprised with what your boss has to say!
Consider Your Priorities
Before you are able to adequately balance your work and personal life, you have to determine what’s most important to you: money and self-fulfillment or time with your family. Once you know the answer to this question, you’ll be able to better navigate your way to a happy and balanced life.
You may also want to calculate how much money your family needs to be happy and measure that against how much time you are willing to give to your career.
If your current job will never give you that balance or flexibility you desire, it may mean that you need to consider other career paths.
Or if your current employer won’t allow more vacation time, flexible schedules or remote work, it may be time to consider a new job at a different company.
Don’t Make Hasty Decisions
The most important part of all of this is not to make quick decisions and changes like I did just because I was so tired and stressed out.
Yes, you are most likely thinking that you need to make changes too.
My advice is to take the time to rationally weigh all of your options and really put a lot of thought into the outcome of each option you are considering. That may take you a week or it may take you a month, or longer.
Consider doing a risk assessment to help you make good decisions.
A risk assessment would sound like this: If I leave this job for a different one and it doesn’t work out, what will I do?
Or, if I leave this job to start my own business, and it doesn’t pan out, what will I do?
How will I pay my bills?
How will I buy groceries?
How long is the money in my savings account going to last me?
Come up with concrete realistic answers that you will really be able to fall back on if you make changes and things aren’t any better than before. If you are not able to come up with good answers right now, then you know you need to focus on those items first, before you make any big changes to your life and your career.