Allocate Your Resources to Achieve Work-Life Balance
In the demanding world we live in today, we are constantly being bombarded with people and opportunities asking for our attention or our valuable resources. The time we spend on one project inevitably leads to a missed opportunity in another. How do you decide what is more important? Do we just go with the person or opportunity that came first?
Without a plan in place, we will default to the one that provides the most instantaneous result or gratification. If you are like me then you are always looking for ways to get better either personal, professionally, or financially. Many high-achievers tend to allocate resources to activities that result in instantaneous feedback. Staying late at work to pack and ship an extra product, finish that design, or close that sale gives us concrete measurable evidence that we are moving forward.
Why do we work so hard? We do all of these things in the business world to provide for our families and to give them the financial resources to thrive in this competitive world. Of course we want the best us and our loved ones.
However our flaw is that we prioritize things that provide immediate returns over things that require long-term dedication. What happens when we do this is we neglect the very relationships that we are trying to nurture. Like starting a business, relationships take time to build and do not happen overnight. It isn't something that we can flip like a light switch. Yet, many of us believe that once we get that promotion or achieve that sales figure then we can spend more of our time focusing on our relationships. The problem with that thought is that it is a never ending cycle in climbing the corporate ladder. You'll never make time for your relationships later if you don't make an effort now.
A friend of mine spent twenty years working at a Big 4 accounting firm as a partner. He easily slogged long hours 70-100 hours a week. Ten years ago, he was married and had two kids aged five and seven. While he easily pulled in a mid-six figure salary, he worked hard and long to get more clients. He was a great financial provider to his family. They never had to worry about not having enough to eat and lived in an affluent neighborhood. Yes, he would stay late in the office and more nights than not eat dinner at the office.
All the while his wife was at home taking care of the kids and taking them to school/extracurricular activities. His kids grew up fast and eventually went on to middle school very rarely seeing their dad. By the time they finished high school, he had missed all of his son's baseball games and daughter's cheerleader competitions. Of course he wanted to be there to support them, but it was always work that "got in the way". It was difficult for his wife at the time who had to explain to her kids that their dad couldn't make it to their graduations. Eventually the kids stopped asking to spend time with dad because they knew where he was.
Soon after the kids graduated from high school, the couple got a divorce and the kids spend most of the time at their mom's house. Visits to dad's house were few and far between. He always had to find ways to make the visits interesting whether it be taking them out to an amusement park or to see a concert. His children felt the visits were more out of obligation than anything. They also didn't enjoy spending time with dad at his work. Visits with dad meant that they had to give up the time they otherwise would've spent with their friends. Eventually, they would find excuses to not visit their dad. It's difficult when you aren't in your children's lives as they are growing up and then suddenly ask for their time many years later. They are less likely to give you that time because you weren't there when they needed you most.
While it is important to provide for your family financially, it is also equally if not more important to focus on building your relationships with your spouse and children. While you may not see immediate returns in investment in relationships, it will pay off years from now.
One way to prioritize your relationship and professional life is by setting hard stops. Leave the office at 6:30 p.m. on a daily basis. If there are projects that come up last minute and you absolutely need to stay then that is part of work. But, more days than not you should be spending that time at home with the people you care about most.