I love my job. And yet I’ve realized that having success and a great job simply isn’t enough to make me happy.
Not by a long shot.
America is filled with stories of “successful” people who have no lives outside of their work and are privately miserable. I don’t want to be that guy. For the past two years I have been obsessed with a relatively simple question: how do I perfect my work-life balance?
I have learned that by taking the time to find my own work-life balance, I am happier, more energetic, and ironically I’m more productive too. I believe that by taking the time to find your work-life balance, you will experience similar results.
Here are my four favorite strategies:
1) Understand that balance is fluid: Everything around us is always changing; very few people will be able to create a hard and fast routine that consistently results in balance.
I tried having a rigid daily structure for a while. I spent the same amount of time each day doing the same things (wake up and go for a 30 minute run, spend1 hour on emails, 3 hours for meetings, 45 minutes on writing, etc).
Keeping the routine up day in and day out was not only boring, it was impossible.
I found that a well-balanced Monday will not necessarily look like a well-balanced Tuesday. They are different animals.
2) Respect your personal priorities: I love my work but there are things that are more important to me. If a family member, close friend, or my girlfriend, calls during the workday, I used to never take their call.
In my mind, there was work time, and personal time, and the two were not supposed to touch.
The people close to me are more important than my work and I want that to be reflected in how I managed my work-life balance, so I changed my policy of not taking personal calls during the day
Now, I will often take a personal call while I’m working. I wont always talk for a long time – in fact the most common thing for me to do is talk for two minutes and then ask if I can call back that evening – but I do take personal calls during the workday because at the end of the day, my relationships take precedence over my work.
Whatever your priorities are – reading existentialism, yoga, trivia night with your friends, whatever – make sure you’re reserving time for the personal things that matter the most to you.
3) If you have to make a big change, keep the rest of your spheres stable: If are you planning on taking a trip to a foreign country, starting a business, adding or losing weight, running for an elected office, or making any other big change in your life, then take time to ensure that the other spheres of your life (finances, relationships, spirituality, health, etc) are stable before you take on the new project.
By ensuring that most of your life is running smoothly, you will be much better equipped to make significant progress in a new endeavor.
4) Observe Super Sunday: Super Sunday’s are my favorite balance trick. By nature I lead a disciplined life: daily exercise, healthy foods, about 7 hours of sleep a night, minimal amounts of alcohol, caffeine, and television, and anywhere from 6-11 hours of work per workday.
That type of discipline can produce awesome results; it can also become boring and soulless.
To counteract the discipline, I give myself one day a week to obey my whims, and I call it Super Sunday (even if I decide to do it on a Tuesday). On Super Sunday I am likely sleep late, eat an entire pizza for lunch, spend more money than I normally would, and watch unreasonable amounts of How I Met Your Mother.
The point of Super Sunday is to spend a day without the normal levels of discipline. This is not only fun, it makes the structure and discipline of the rest of the week more humane.
Do you lead a highly disciplined life too? If so, consider giving yourself one day a week to indulge your whims. This is not only fun, but zenfully, it will help you achieve higher levels of performance too.
I have been pleasantly surprised by the side effects of finding a better balance for myself. I am both happier and more productive when I lead a well-balanced life. I believe that if you take the time to find balance in your life – whatever that happens to be for you – you will achieve more, feel happier and more energetic, and be able to lead at a higher level.