Work / Life Balance

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

There are times to work and times to play.  Times to weep, and times to laugh.  Times to be still, and times to move.  But do you ever feel like you spend too much time working?  Or, do you ever have a hard time turning work off?  Does work ever feel like it gets in the way of your other “times?”

Things have changed.  When I look back over the years, I can tell you that we’re doing the work of two, or possibly even three people from back in the 80’s.  Companies are asking more of their employees.  And many of us have figured out that the days of being taken care of by their employer is a thing of the past, so we’re venturing out on our own.  This has a lot of benefits, but it also presents some major challenges.

A few days ago, I was on a plane with a friend of mine named Dina Gundersen.  She owns a company called Creative Thunder Design.  She’s an extremely creative design person and can do about anything when it comes to graphic art.  We were on a nearly empty flight to Chicago for a conference that we do called Xplode.

Dina is a very busy young lady.  She works out of her home, is a mother of a five-year old who just started kindergarden, and basically has as much work as she wants to accept.

We were working on some presentation changes for the first 45 minutes or so, and then were able to sit back and just relax for a few minutes before we landed.

At this point, she asked me a question.  “Robert, my daughter asks me a lot ‘Mommy, why do you work so much?’  What do I tell her?” 

I began to ask her some questions to make sure I had enough information before I tried to give her an answer.  What she was really asking was, “How do I balance this so she doesn’t ask me that question anymore.”

It seems, that she usually works from 8:00 a.m. to around 4:30 p.m., which is when her daughter comes home.  Then she spends time with family until about 8:00.  Most nights she goes back to work from around 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.

She also told me that she usually plans to do some work on the weekends, but tries to keep that to as small an amount of time as possible.

Here’s a few thoughts and questions I asked her which might help you too:

  • “How much is enough?”  You have to understand how much you and your family really need, and then limit the amount of work you do based on that number.  It seems that we in America have a hard time wanting “more.” More may not be your friend.
  • “Do you work off of a master list or a daily list?”  If you work off of a master list, your list is never done, and you never feel completed, which makes you feel like you have to keep working.
  • “Always work off of a daily list.”  This comes off of the master list, but it’s only what you choose to get done today.  This will help you live in what’s called “day-tight compartments.”  Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.”  (You can say that again!!!)
  • “Use the 60/40 rule.”  Once you’ve made your list, put times by each item.  Do this for all of your tasks and appointments.  Let’s pretend that you work a 10-hour day.  Put times by all items.  If you think a meeting will take 45 minutes, make it an hour.  If you think something is a 20-minute task, make it 30.  Always round up.  Then, add up all of your times.  That should equal 60% of your day, which in this case would be six hours.  Leave four hours open.  That’s for all the interruptions–your boss needs something ‘now!’  Phone calls are going to come in.  Coworkers will drop by for a few minutes.  You get the drift.
  • A little more on the 60/40 rule.  If you find that you have seven hours scheduled, take something off the list, and put it on tomorrow’s list.  Also, if you get done with your list early, take something from tomorrow’s list, and begin on it today.
  • The goal is to walk out at the end of your day with all the things on that day’s list checked off.  Then you can go home or wherever you want to go, and not think about work.
  • I would also suggest that you put your “non-work” related activities on your daily list too.  If all you do is look at things relating to work, pretty soon you’ll have no life.  So schedule the fun stuff too.  If you don’t plan it, you probably won’t do it.

This list surely isn’t all the things you can do to help have a more balanced work/life balance, but it’s a good start.  People are good at making changes in small increments–I call these baby steps.  So consider these a few baby steps that you can begin working on!

Also, I know that these work!  I use them myself, and they’ve helped me manage my life so that I actually have a life.

I hope they help you too.  If there’s any part of this that you don’t understand or need clarity on, just give me a call or email me and we can discuss them.  It would be my pleasure.

And remember, “It’s your life!”

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