Work-life balance is a lot like world peace. People talk about it, but you can’t really imagine what it would look like if we ever achieved it. In fact, such equilibrium seems so elusive that it has almost taken on the myth-like character of Big Foot or the Loch Ness Monster. However, impossible as it may seem, we should all strive toward achieving a balance between our work and personal lives.
We work hard to earn money that supports our lifestyle, but if we never actually take time to enjoy it, what’s the point? Millennials, especially, appreciate this concept, and as a millennial, I have tried to make decisions that will allow me to maintain a work-life balance throughout my career. During that process, I have observed these three key concepts:
Our work and personal lives are increasingly intertwined because technology allows us to work from anywhere. We like to romanticize this notion and picture ourselves taking a quick business call from Turks and Caicos, but more commonly it means responding to a work email only a few short hours after leaving the office.
As a result, we need to mentally segregate our lives between work and personal, setting goals within each. And from that list of goals, we should clearly articulate what our priorities are. For example, you may set a personal goal of having one date night a week with your spouse and a work goal of finishing a long-term project a month ahead of schedule to impress your boss. If these are your two goals, then you have to decide which takes priority. This decision helps you decide whether you stay late at the office to work on your project or leave on time for date night?
Without a priority framework, we drown in these day-to-day decisions, lose focus on our priorities, and fall out of line with our work-life balance. We need priorities to give us permission to focus on one thing at a time.
If you still write a check each month for your mortgage payment. Stop. Just please stop. In 2015, there is no reason for this process to take up fifteen precious minutes every single month for thirty years. If you do the math, that’s ninety hours spent writing checks to your bank, not to mention the mental energy it takes to make sure you actually remember to do it.
Bill payment is an easy area to automate, but there are other processes that we can put in place that save time and lower anxiety. For example, Amazon has a subscription service that allows you to set a recurring order for a bundle of products. So if there are ten things you buy every month at the grocery store or pharmacy, you can add it to your Amazon subscription service, and all ten items will arrive at your doorstep each month, leaving one less thing for you to worry about.
Even with tasks that you or your spouse must complete yourself, it is much easier to assign permanent responsibility as opposed to trading out week-to-week. Automation takes away the anxiety of remembering whose turn it is. Whether it’s picking up dinner or dropping kids at school, knowing who is responsible for each task makes life much easier.
With only twenty-four hours in a day, we cannot do everything. Moreover, if we are truly seeking a work-life balance, we should not do everything. Instead, we should only do what we excel at and delegate the rest. Many people feel guilty when they hire a weekly yard and housekeeping services because these are things that we can do for ourselves. But if these expenses fall within our budget and allow us to focus on our priorities, then we should absolutely delegate these duties to someone else.
Guilt comes from the added bonus that many of us do not like these tasks anyway, but in order to build true efficiency and inch closer to finding work-life balance, we need to delegate tasks that do not require our personal attention. Anyone can mow our yard; but no one can replace us at home or in the office.
Delegation applies to your financial life as well. Many professionals and small business owners are very good at making money but often struggle with managing it. Financial management is not their focus, so they should delegate these tasks to a financial planner that has expertise in budgeting, saving, and investing. A professional can help you maximize the money you make and ease the anxiety associated with making financial decisions.
My life is far from the epitome of a work-life balance. It is a continuous process with daily wins and losses. But it has helped me to segregate priorities, automate what I can, and delegate the rest. So I hope these ideas help you too.