Is your work life balance limiting the precious time you can spend with your family?
Do you get a gut wrenching guilty feeling when you have to choose?
I felt the same gut wrenching feeling when my daughter was young.
So I experimented with different ways to help me find a balance. A balance that enabled me to have a successful career and still be a major part of my children’s childhood.
If you read on, I will show you what has worked for me. You can then take this, experiment and come up with a strategy that works best for you.
Prove is in the pudding
On my daughter’s 16th birthday, my family and I looked back through pictures, videos and memories of her and her brother’s childhood. We shared memories, funny events and laughed so much that our eyes watered. It felt so good to share these great times we had together.
As I sat back later in the evening with a glass of red wine, I felt lucky to of been so involved in their childhood. It seems like yesterday when my daughter was dancing around the lounge in a nappy to the theme tune of Pretty Woman. Now she is 16, wow that went fast.
I also felt that I wanted to help others achieve such a cherished outcome. So, I got to work on this blog post.
[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”Steve Blank”]When you’re gone would you rather have your gravestone say, ‘He never missed a meeting?” Or one that said, ‘He was a great father.’”[/pullquote]
My top 5 work life balance strategies
Plan your work hours
I knew upfront that my career would need me to do long hours during the week.
The way I manage this is to front load this in the morning. I get up at 5am, go to the gym, start work at 7am and leave by 6pm.
When I fall behind, then I still leave on time, but make up the time when my children have gone to bed.
I always blocked out the weekends to spend my time with my family unless a critical issue arose. When I say critical, it had to be a serious event or something that could not be done during working hours.
The downside to this was that I missed breakfast time with them during the working week. I made up for this at the weekends though.
Set your working boundaries
I always set the boundaries with each of my bosses outlining –
- My core hours – when I will be in the office
- Never answering emails after I leave (more of this later)
- Requesting they do not call me unless it is an emergency
- Uncontactable when I am on holiday with the light-hearted statement of my wife will throw my mobile in the pool if I get caught. She would as well.
Setting these boundaries upfront has always worked well to the extent that when my boss rung me on a Friday night, I knew it was something very critical. It was news of the potential Lehman’s default and the preparation work needed before Monday.
A year of special events
At the start of the year, I plan the yearly family events in my work calendar. Family holiday, birthdays, school events, school term breaks, others. I would then ensure when I was planning important work events, I would plan around these dates.
I used to be on my work blackberry all the time when I was at home, until one horrible day.
That day, I picked up a message when I was in the hallway of my house that stressed me out. At the same time my daughter asked me a question from the stairs. I instantly snapped at her and she ran off crying.
From that day on, my blackberry got put in the drawer when I came into the house.
What I also learnt was although I was physically present, I was never not fully mentally present. Now when I am at work it is 100% work, when I am at home it is 100% family.
There are times where I have fallen behind or when a fire drill exercise comes down from up high.
The way I deal with this, is either –
- Go home at the normal time and work after my family have gone to bed.
- Get up early when my family are in still sleeping at the weekend.
- Sometimes you just need to have the hard discussion with your family that you need to do some extra hours, but this is the exception rather than the norm.
It’s a wrap
Work life balance is personal; it is about what is right for you. Your idea of balance is probably different than mine.
What I have done in this post is outline the 5 ways I use to manage my work life balance. I hope that you try some of these.
I also hope that this post has triggered some other ideas for you.
If you found this useful, please share with your friends and colleagues. We can all use help with this fine balance.
Your virtual coach and mentor