Work-Life Balance: Do You Have It?
On my site, I talk about how my goal is to help leaders and entrepreneurs succeed in their careers and grow their businesses while achieving a work-life balance. In my opinion, I have a great work-life balance. However, I know that my definition does not match that of my clients or readers. Does that make any of us wrong or one of us better than the other?
Work-Life Balance Defined
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines work-life balance as “the amount of time you spend doing your job compared with the amount of time you spend with your family and doing things you enjoy.”
From this description, I conclude two things: The Good – Work-life balance is simply a comparison. It is what you want it to be. The Bad – The definition is so simple that it does not tell you exactly what you need to do to be considered balanced. Now I know why it is so hard to reach success; we do not know what we are trying to grasp.
Stop judging and comparing yourself to others
The first thing we need to do to be confident about our work-life balance goal is to stop judging people for their definition.
The other week I was reading a Facebook thread in a group about work-life balance. In the discussion, someone linked to post that shattered my perspective on the topic.
In the post Before You Question My Work-Life Balance Read This, Gary Vaynerchuk talks about how people judge him because he works a lot and does not often talk about his kids. People assume that he has no work-life balance and that he is not a family man.
Vaynerchuk opens up on how this is not the case. Yes, he works a lot throughout the week, but on the weekends, he is 100% with his family. He does not talk about his kids because his family made a choice to keep their kid’s lives out of the public eye.
“I play in extremes. My daughter had a recital a few weeks ago, and I was the first parent in line for it. On weekends, I am all in. 100%. I’m not playing 4 hours of golf. I’m not doing a lot of things other people are doing. I’m all in on the kids.
I’m not trying to argue that my normal Monday-Friday weeks aren’t intense; they definitely are. But because of that intensity, I have found my cadence with my spouse and my children that directly balances it out.”
Think about that excerpt from his post. I know I had to let it soak in. Vaynerchuk has a work-life balance according to his definition. If he is happy with it, there is no reason for me to judge him based on my definition.
Your Industry plays a role
Just like a person’s desires will impact their ideal work-life balance, so will the industry of their career.
Some industries and career paths are more flexible than others. This does not mean that you must have an incredibly flexible job to have a work-life balance.
Work-from-home employees do not automatically have a better work-life balance than a traveling sales person. While a traveling sales person might spend much time away from the house, they might have an easier time disconnecting from work than the individual who is always surrounded by their work when at home.
A nurse might not be able to leave in the middle of a shift to attend an event at school, but they might think of themselves of having a work-life balance because their shift always ends in time to pick up their child from school.
Most industries can allow for some type of work-life balance. It just all depends on how you define your ideal balance and how you manage your time in and outside of work.
Work-life balance and entrepreneurship
Despite what some people think, work-life balance and entrepreneurship are not an oxymoron. Yes, when you are starting a business, it is hard to make time for everything else. Depending on how quickly you want to scale, you must make sacrifices. Normally those sacrifices are in your personal life.
However, once your business is up and running, you should be able to have the work-life balance you want. Once the company is making sales, if you still cannot hire help for where you need it, then you are not truly successful. You are not bringing in the money required to support the necessary work.
The thinking that you and your employees should sacrifice a work-life balance to save the company money is failed logic. Workaholism does not save money in the long run because time is spent fixing poor execution. Take this quote from the book Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson:
“But packing the room full of these burn-the-midnight-oil types isn’t as great as it seems. It lets you get away with lousy execution… You don’t need more hours; you need better hours.
When people have something to do at home, they get down to business. They get their work done because they have somewhere else to be.”
As an entrepreneur, figure out what kind of work-life balance you want and build your business around that definition. If you did not do this when you started, it is never too late to make the desired changes. It might take more effort now, but the work is worth the reward.
For me, I have and will always continue to grow my businesses around the work-life balance that I want.
How to figure out your ideal work-life balance
Now that we talked a lot about work-life balance, it is time to define yours. You must know what your perfect balance is to know if you are truly achieving it or if your current situation is failing or exceeding expectations.
To define your ideal work-life balance, create a list of what work-life balance means to you. There are a million ways you can interpret it, and I always suggest you shoot for the stars. You might have to pull yourself back to the moon when you compare your wants to reality, but it is better than holding yourself back out of doubt.
Here is a list of questions to get you thinking:
- Do you prefer consistent office hours so you can make evening plans or have a routine?
- Is day-time flexibility necessary so you can attend last minute luncheons, school events, or doctor’s appointments?
- If you have kids, how involved do you want to be daily? What about weekly?
- Do you like the ability to work from home?
- What is the length and frequency of your ideal yearly vacation schedule?
- Do you want to be able to take long lunches or half days?
Next, compare your list to your industry. How does what you want compare to what is possible? If there is a disconnect, where can you make compromises? If you cannot make compromises, should you change careers?
This final list is what work-life balance means to you. It is your personal definition and might not match anyone else’s.
Now that you know your definition, does your current job provide you the ability to succeed? If not, a new position might be needed to be truly happy with your work-life balance.
Your family matters
Your family or significant other needs to be considered when deciding what the best work-life balance is for you. If there are other people in your home, it cannot be a solo decision. The reason for this is that clear expectation reduces confutation.
If you tell your family that you will be home by 6 p.m. every day but do not show up until 8 p.m. most nights, expect your family to be upset. By always showing up late, you are telling your family that work is more important than the time you planned for them.
However, if your family agrees to you working long days during the week to help reach financial or growth goals, they understand why you are not home. They might want to spend those evenings with you, but they know you are gone because of the expectations that were set and not because they are unimportant.
My challenge for you
We often hear people say that they are leaving a job or starting something new due to the lack of or the desire for work-life balance. My challenge to you is to no longer use or accept this generic reason. Let it be the start of the conversation but go into the details.
The more we talk about the individuality of work-life balance, the more we help break the one-size-fits-all way of thinking.
Yes, you might have made a change due to work-life balance, but that does not mean the position you left is not a fit for someone else. Tell people why it did not work for you.
When others use the generic excuse, ask them for the details. You might learn that they left because they cannot easily chaperone their child’s field trips. If you or others do not have kids, or you do not care to attend field trips, the job might offer the work-life balance you desire. Once you know why it did not work for them, you can ask additional questions to see if it will work for you.
Work-life balance is unique for all of us. To achieve it, we need to stop judging others and determine our own definition.