Friends and colleagues have long wondered how I seem to squeeze so much activity into each day and still maintain a sense of balance. As a reformed workaholic, I have always had a tendency to be fully engaged throughout the day and usually maintain a full plate of faith, family and work-related activities. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I have thought a great deal about how to make "time" work for me as I seek to grow as a husband, father, business leader and servant of the community.
Over more than two decades of working with business professionals it is clearly demonstrated that work/life balance is a continual and growing problem for the majority of people I encounter. There seems to be an ongoing tension between doing the things that matter in life and making a living. What is the solution to finding more time for what matters while still succeeding at work? There is no magic formula, but I would like to share three basic ideas for how we can begin to tame our calendars and achieve better balance:
- Determine if we have the right priorities. One of the main reasons men and women struggle with work/family balance is because we often have our priorities out of order. Reflect on how you might answer these questions:
- Is work more important than your family?
- Is work more important than your health?
- Is work more important than the quality relationships in your life?
- Is work more important than your endeavors of faith?
- I reject the notion that nothing is as important as making a living. Living a meaningful life with appropriate priorities and making a living can and should co-exist.
- We control our calendars; our calendars do not control us. The most common complaint I hear regarding time is: "There just isn't enough space on my calendar for everything!" Who enters the activity into our calendars? We do. By putting things like family dinner, after-school activities, exercise, time with friends, prayer and meditation on our calendar as we would our work priorities, we make time for them. They don't have to be an afterthought. If you are like me, something is much more likely to get done if it is scheduled. Better work/life balance often starts with saying no to those things that invade our time we have reserved for the things we truly love and that make us happy. The balance of success with happiness will keep us aligned.
- Combine activities when possible. When going for a run or on the treadmill, use that time to listen to or read that book you've wanted to get to. When commuting to and from work, turn off the radio and use that time for personal reflection to recharge spiritually and mentally. My wife and I use our time going to the kids' practices/activities to talk about what is going on in our lives or whatever is on our minds. When we serve in the community, we make it a family activity as time spent together in a valuable way. For combining activities, the possibilities are endless and very easy to implement.
Let's take control of our lives and not let a perceived lack of time become an excuse for avoiding what is important and necessary. I know in these difficult economic times it can be challenging to recalibrate our thinking about priorities, especially if we think it will affect how we earn a living. Time is precious and there are only so many minutes in the day, but I believe that we can more effectively integrate family, faith and personal time with our professional obligations without sacrificing our livelihoods. It comes down to self-awareness, recognizing the challenges, a sincere desire to change, and a little creative scheduling.
Long after we are gone, do we want our only legacy to be a successful work career? What a wasted opportunity to leave something meaningful behind.
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