Balance is something most of us take for granted. We learned to walk and then hop and run and spent hours and hours on getting that balance calibrated! We gave ourselves the time, because, really, life is lots easier if we can balance on our feet in a variety of situations. Since childhood, though, it’s unlikely that we’ve spent any time on our balancing skills in an intentional way. Except for those of us who do some kind of higher-level athletic pursuit where average balance just doesn’t cut it.
So what about running your business at the same time as you have a dynamic young family? How do you ‘balance’ in those situations where children are sick or not sleeping or where business survival requires sudden urgent inputs? It’s really just like learning to walk.
You try some things out, and see how they work. The great thing about being an adult though, and what should make learning how to get that work-life balance right, is that you have enormous experience with a lifetimes worth of relationships, time management, reading and countless other potential sources of advice and wisdom.
Here’s a question I think is really important to ask ourselves on a regular basis: “What similar situations or activities have I succeeded or ‘won’ at in the past that tell me I can succeed at this?”
Some of us, if we’re really in a dark, frustrated place might think ‘Nothing has ever been anything like this at all!”. While it’s true to a certain extent that every situation is unique, few situations bear absolutely no relation to things you might have done in the past. A pitch to a client is much like a chat in that you’re explaining/selling an idea. If you were a teacher and you are managing your client list to work on some direct marketing, you’ve practically done it before when you analysed your class list to determine which students needed which inputs.
As Heinlein is credited with saying:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Chances are good that you can more or less succeed at balancing your life as soon as you start to think about it, but you have to ask yourself the right questions. Beginning with what’s essential, asking if something needs being done at all can be a good start. I’m not advocating ‘laziness’ or sloth, but just going on, getting loads done that doesn’t necessarily need doing at all is a recipe for pain and unhappiness for you and your family.
Brian Tracy, the well known speaker, productivity guru and author is known for his concept of eating frogs. He says we should figure out which is the biggest, ugliest frog and eat that one first. Frogs, in this case being tasks, things we’ve got to do that outface us, cause us to stall or procrastinate. Just getting it done builds the ‘getting things done’ muscles and helps us get over the stalling and prevaricating that comes along with things we might not want to do. Frogs as a concept work pretty well when it comes to getting things we might not want to do done, but I like Tim Ferriss’s idea about finding things to do that will have a completely disproportional effect on the rest of our life/work.
Q: What one thing could you do that would make everything else easier or unnecessary?
Chances are, if you’ve got a task list in front of you, that you have a gut feeling which ones are vital and which ones can afford to stay on the task list for a few days. To balance well, you’ve got to do those key tasks first.
Coming at it from the other side, focusing means deciding, cutting off that which is unnecessary. I don’t watch a lot of TV. There isn’t really a downside. TV just doesn’t fulfil me or speak to my values. Unless it’s sci-fi. Well, good sci-fi. You can see why I don’t watch much TV…
Q: What are you doing now that if you didn’t do would have little or no unrecoverable negative effect on business and family?
Stop doing those things.
If you’re finding you have some resistance to the idea of stopping those particular things, you might actually be getting some kind of benefit from doing them that you haven’t identified yet. It might be that you are feeling some anxiety around really sticking your neck out and risking failure, it might be that you’re actually pretty tired and need that lie-in. Chances are, if you’re honest with yourself, you know.
Q: What among the things I need to do could I outsource or delegate to free up time for family?
It might be hiring a cleaning service to come and sort the house out once a fortnight, it could be hiring someone to do your website design or it might be doing a food shop online and have someone else bring you the shopping, saving yourself the extra hour or more.
I once read that once you’ve figured out what your time is worth in a money sense you should look to outsource the things that can be done more cheaply by someone else. Probably with the understanding that if you like whatever it is that might be done more cheaply by someone else, that you continue to do it as there’s intrinsic value in the doing. Likewise, I might be able to hire a child-minder to look after my daughter whilst I head off to some kind of work that pays above whatever it costs to pay the childcare, but then it’s someone else looking after my daughter. We didn’t start a family to have strangers look after our children for money. In those sorts of situations money isn’t the thing to be measuring against.
So, by focusing on game changing actions (focus), getting rid of low value activity (dross) and things you can get other people to do (delegate), you immediately have three ways to find greater balance in your life. Your kids will thank you for it, the rest of your family as well, probably. Your clients will definitely get a better experience from you as a chilled out, balanced kind of business. And think about it, how good will it feel to be free of the stress of not feeling like you’re able to balance the important things in your life?
What do you do to balance work and life?
What do you find tricky?
Leave a comment and get in on the conversation!