3 Ways to Balance Work & Family

by derek on April 10, 2007 · 6 comments

One of the challenges that many people face is striking a healthy balance between the time spent at work and the time spent enjoying life with family and friends.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working a considerable amount of overtime at my fulltime job (averaging about 60-65 hours per week) while also trying to build two successful blogs. It has been very difficult to try and balance the time required for those pursuits while also being sure to devote quality time to my wife and kids.
As I’ve struggled with this dilemma myself from time to time, there are a few things that I have found to help create a healthy balance between work and family. In my situation, many of these things pertain to my pursuits outside of the daily job but I think they can benefit any situation.
#1 – Define Specific Working Times
With the amount overtime I have been working the last few months and the time I spend maintaining both of my blogs, I’ve found it essential to define specific working times. Or maybe more importantly, non-working times. In our house, our kids have a regular bedtime so I have defined the time that I get home from work until the time they go to bed as off limits for work.
Without setting those boundaries, I find it too easy to fall into the trap of getting home from work and trying to work on blog posts that I thought about on my drive home or reviewing my site statistics. Trying to sit down for 5 minutes to “just check email” can easily turn into hours of writing and research.
In order to provide quality time with your family or friends, define specific times that will be work-free and stick to that plan. One of the rituals that I cherish is reading my kids a bedtime story, which is why I have selected the time I get home until they go to bed as my work free time.
#2 – Create a Day Without Work
While there will be times when this is not possible, I have found it to be very rewarding to define a specific day (or a portion of the day) when you completely unplug from everything and escape. No checking email, no checking voicemail, no television.
This is similar to defining specific working times but I think is different enough to deserve special attention. By taking the time to completely unplug from everything, you will discover new activities to enjoy with your family and friends or even by yourself. Whether it be playing board games with your kids, taking a nice walk with your significant other or maybe enjoying a nice book by yourself – you will find this time energizes you to face the rest of the week.
Lately I have been guilty of not adhering to my day without work as I will spend time working on my blogs late at night once everyone has gone to bed. While that isn’t taking away time from my family, it has resulted in reduced sleep and that has an impact on the next day. This is an area that I really struggle with as I am obsessed with blogging.
#3 – Define What Is Important
Take the time to track things that you do throughout the course of a normal week, both at your job and in your personal life. Once you have logged a few weeks of activities, review your list and determine what things truly are important and what things you might be able to eliminate or delegate.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box either. With my fulltime job, I have the flexibility to work from home on occasion but had been limited due to regularly scheduled meetings. As I reviewed my log of activities, I realized that there were a handful of meetings that often ended early and were serving as quick status updates. With this information, I spoke with my boss and asked if it would be acceptable to simply call in for those meetings as that would allow me to work from home on those days if needed. My boss thought this was a fine solution and it provided me with more time at home with my family.
Other things to consider are tasks/activities that take away time from your family and friends that you might be able to delegate to someone else. Something that I started doing last year was having a lawn service maintain my yard, which eliminated the need for me to mow the lawn once or twice per week. Now when I get home from work, I can grab the baseball mitt and ball and play catch with the kids instead of firing up the lawn mower.
Other Thoughts
There is no question that striking a balance between work and family can be a difficult task. The ideas mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg as there are many other things that you might be able to explore, such as a flexible work schedule or telecommuting opportunities.
While spending time with my family is very important to me, I also understand that I tend to be a work-aholic. Personally, I usually find that I go in cycles where I will adhere to a very healthy work/life balance and then have periods where I spend too much time working. I’ve been getting better at recognizing when I am working too much and learning to prioritize my tasks in order to improve my time spent with family and friends.
If you find yourself saying “Not right now” or “Maybe tomorrow” to your kids or loved ones on a recurring basis, it might be time to evaluate your work/life balance. Next time, see if you can say “Not right now” to work and spend that time with your family and friends.
Have you struggled with the balance between work and family? What tips have you found to provide you with the best balance?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Melanie April 10, 2007 at 9:19 am

Great post! Personally i’m a list maker..if something definately needs to be done, I write it done. I find that this works for me!
I totally agree with you, creating a day without work is essential, otherwise you get bogged down with work!
The article I wrote recently on SMART goals, could also be really useful in helping us assess our work/life balance. It was, however, specifically written for diet, but the principles are the same.

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derek April 10, 2007 at 2:32 pm

I’m a list person as well and I really do think that helps my productivity. Your article on SMART goals was fantastic and can certainly be applied to other areas of your life. At work I use SMART goals to define my annual and career goals.
For those that haven’t seen it, check out Melanie’s article on SMART goals. Well worth a read!

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Gary Lee April 10, 2007 at 4:24 pm

Sitting back and defining what’s important is probably one of the best times you can give yourself either on a weekly, monthly or annual basis. Great Post Derek!

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derek April 10, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Thanks Gary! It can be a very enjoyable process, particularly when you can properly align your time to the things that are important.

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Melanie April 10, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Derek thanks for the link! 🙂

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derek April 11, 2007 at 1:41 am

No problem at all!

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