The Work/Life Balance

I was skimming an article in today’s Vancouver Sun about BC entrepreneurs who started their own company in search of a better work/life experience. Although I found the story perhaps a little confusing (maybe less so if I’d read it attentively), in that all the quotes were people talking about following their ‘passion’, not about working more sanely.

I’ve been thinking about my work/life balance again recently – it’s gotten particularly out of whack this past month, with my having been at work until midnight twice last week, as well as working Thanksgiving Sunday and Monday (this also explains the terrible lack of attention to this site). I started working for myself because I was sick of working for other people’s benefit. Which sounds shallow and selfish, but even at a so-called progressive company, there was no real incentive for me to give it my all because, well, I didn’t see anything in return (except a slim chance that please, oh please, please let us break even this month and all get paid our paltry salary on time). And I tell you. I’d rather work my ass off and get paid very little, if I receive the entire benefit of my labour than have a lax job where I get paid well and have no incentive to innovate. And that, when it boils down to it, is why I work for myself. More than my passion for my job (which, on the whole, I love), it’s the fact that my job is for me. When I work those extra hours, I know exactly what I can expect in reward for that, both short and long term.

Lauren & Emira, who started their business long before I started mine, have long been examples on how to (at least apparently) sanely run a business. I know they’ve had long hours, and worked extremely hard, but they always seem to keep a sane view of work & life, which I’ll readily admit that I lose sight of as soon as there’s a build-up of work to be done. I’ve taken some steps recently to address my work/life balance, which has made a big difference in my happiness (even though I’ve fallen off the wagon this month):

  1. I now spend Fridays with Liam. This is the best decision I’ve made. More than anything else, getting more time to spend with him makes me happy – watching him learn, interacting with him. Getting time alone with him.
  2. I try really hard to not work more than 45 hours in a week. That may not sound like a lofty goal, but trust me, that’s quite an improvement. I used to quite regularly be in the office 5.5 – 6 days a week, and work long days at that, with a night thrown in every other week. It was nutty. Just being at home, seeing Leah and Liam for an extra few hours makes me more sane
  3. I’ve learned to say “no”. After working insane hours, I’ve discovered where my “green”, “yellow” and “red” zones are in terms of work load. And with that knowledge, my ability to schedule has improved for the most part, as has my ability to say “no” to new work, or to give slow response times as needed.
  4. Scheduled Leisure time. I used to just come home and collapse in front of the tv or read a book. But if that’s what I was looking forward to, why not just work a little longer? So now I play hockey once a week in winter, Ultimate once a week in summer. Friday mornings Liam and I have a music class, and on Saturday mornings we have a swimming class. Having these regular activities to look forward to is fantastic. Leah and I also implemented a monthly “Saturday off” for each of us, so one saturday each month, we get to go to whatever we want all afternoon and night (Although I need to remind Leah about hers 🙂 What’s missing is something regularly scheduled with just Leah, but that will hopefully come once we find a babysitter in the next month or 2

Coming back to the topic at hand, I’d admit that I don’t currently have the work/life balance that I’d like. Somewhat ironically, I work harder in order to get that balance at some ephemeral future point. That statement right there is probably why I don’t currently have it. I’m not finding ways to achieve it, I’m laying groundwork. And I suspect that I could remain laying groundwork forever. My work/life balance currently is probably better than it has been in a long, long time, however, which is certainly a good step.

Do feel you have a balance? Have any tips for me? etc?