11 December, 2017

Work Life balance. Is it really possible?

We’ve all heard stories about “titans” of business working 15 hour days and skipping meals to make even more time to do the work. And that might work for some but we have to ask ourselves whether that’s the life we want for us and our families? Often it’s presented in a glorified way “I only slept 3 hours last night” or “I slept in the office twice this week”, worn as proud battle scars. Shrugged off with a “Yeah, but what can you do? It’s what it takes.” if lightly challenged.

But there is always something you can do. You always have a choice. And the first thing you need to remember is, your actions should map to your goals and ambitions. So if you don’t plan on creating a world beating business, responsible for hundreds of employees, or you don’t really want the expensive watch or car, it might be that you don’t need to spend quite so much time on the business you’re building or part of.

Once you’ve fallen into the trap of work for work’s sake or mistaking activity for productivity, it’s easy not to look outside your own box. Without some sort of interruption, you don’t even see common-sense options that are available to you. Hopefully this short piece will interrupt you for a moment and help you see the broader.

Of course we all have our own sense of what work-life balance is. But essentially we can agree that this is being satisfied by the work you do while still having enough time available outside of work for the other activities you find most satisfying or important in your life. For many, this is time with family and friends, time for spiritual growth, time to improve your fitness levels or the opportunity to pursue a hobby.

Let’s talk about this from the big picture and think about the mindset needed to reach the balance you want.

What are your priorities?

We need to begin by determining our priorities, not just in work but across our whole life. This might be different for you than it is for your friend/colleague/partner. But that’s part of the point, you don’t need to try to be someone else, you need to be you.

If spending most of your time building your business is where you are happiest then the chances are your “balance” will naturally and rightly weight towards building your business. If you’re at the stage where your family come first then your priorities will be different. Of course we’re not saying here that just because you want life a certain way that you will have it immediately but we start by defining our ideals and priorities so that we have guiding light for everything else we decide.

But be careful, none of this will matter if you aren’t completely honest with yourself. We’re asking what are your true priorities and values, not “What do you like the idea of?”. It’s so easy to be attracted to other people’s way of doing things but step away from that for a moment and truly ask yourself what you want, not what you “should” want or what other people want for you.

Visualise your ideal then assess were you are right now.

If you’ve got your honest priorities in place then it’s time to take a moment to visualise your ideal life. We won’t go into the details of visualization now (a quick Google will help you) but in essence look into your future and in your imagination design what that looks like. Be as detailed as you can and enjoy the experience as you imagine it. Depending where you are in life, this might only be up to a year from now but for some, you might be looking 5, 10 or 20 years ahead. Again, this is a personal decision based on being honest with yourself about where you are and what you want.

As you do this you need to find a balance between what truly excites you and what is genuinely possible. If spending most of your time with your new born baby is top of the list, don’t pretend that you can do this while making enough money to buy the mansion and Ferrari in Mayfair at the same time. The reality of making a lot of money to provide for your family or other desires is that you need to spend a lot of time making that money, and that will almost always be time away from those you love. So, let’s go back to being honest about what you really want. What’s more important to you, the trappings of “wealth”, building a world changing business or huge amounts of time to experience life with your nearest and dearest. And don’t forget, there’s no right or wrong answer here, you just need to be truthful with where you are and were you want to be.

Talking of where you are. You can’t plot a course on a map to a destination if you don’t also know where you are. So assess your current situation, compare it to where you want to be, assess the terrain and plot the course you think will bring you to your destination.

Take action to reach your goal (execute your plans).

So you know where you are, you’ve figured out where you want to be and you have a series of steps to take you there. Now you need to execute. Take action. Go do! Take a look at how Chris Sacca puts it about Travis Kalanick’s work ethic (founder of Uber),

“He doesn’t sleep. He doesn’t lose focus. He will even forget to eat. He executes again and again, inspiring those around him to have the same passion for the end game as he does.”

And so we come up against the issue of being honest again. For many this approach sounds like no balance at all! And in a sense it isn’t, but it does serve as an excellent insight into what is necessary to build that world beating business you want to build. It also points to the singular most important issue once you’ve designed your life. Whatever you want to create, you must take action and you can’t have what you want without executing on on the necessary actions.

Let’s review:

What are your life priorities?

What do you imagine your life to be like based on those priorities?

Where are you now?

How will you get there from where you are now?

Now go take those steps and remember this is a journey that will take time to reach (so be patient).

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