“The man who works from 8 to 8 every day will both be very successful and fondly remembered by his widow’s next husband.”
Why do so many smart business people work too hard, live too fast, and then feel strongly ambivalent about their success? It’s simple. They’ve never taken the time to figure out what they really, really want, and they’ve never learned the skills to make it happen.
That’s precisely why I wrote my most recent book and workbook, The Payoff Principle: Discover the 3 Secrets to Get What You Want out of Life and Work. Click the link to the left to get your copies of the book and workbook now. As a bonus, I’ll give you 12 audio interviews I conducted with 12 superstars in business, medicine, body building, religion, and sales as to how they got superstar results in their lives and work.
I don’t want you to be like the sign I saw the other day. It read, “The man who works from 8 to 8 every day will both be very successful and fondly remembered by his widow’s next husband.” And if that sounds anything like you, it’s time to change.
The problem is, it takes time to make time. You can’t figure out what you really want out of life, your career, or your relationships, if you don’t take time to think about them.
So the first step in simplifying your life, or getting more balance, is to …
1. Make a small commitment of time to figure out what you want.
Free up thirty minutes a day for thirty days to reflect on some simple questions: “Am I working too hard? Am I working at a job I don’t enjoy? Am I letting important things clutter up my life? Are my kids draining all my energy?”
If you are answering “yes” to too many of those kinds of questions, then it’s time to..
2. Say “no” more often.
In fact, you will never have a simple, balanced life if you can’t say “no.”
Where do you start saying “no?” Start by knowing your priorities. No one can maintain more than three priorities. If you have a job you care about, that’s a priority. If you have a family, that’s a priority. And perhaps your third priority is serving the Lord, staying in shape, or becoming financially independent.
Once you know your priorities it’s easier to say “no” when people try to pull you in several different directions. It’s easier to say “I’m not taking on any new commitments for the next six months.” So figure out your priorities. And then say “no” to everything else if you feel a bit overstressed or a bit off balance.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t invest in your career. Of course, you should. Just don’t forget to invest in your relationships as well. The first one will make you a living; the other will give you a life.
To get the balance exactly right, take a look at my keynote and seminar on “Take This Job and Love It! Managing Stress and Balancing Life … On and Off the Job.” Click the link to the left to learn more.
3. Invest in your relationships now.
It’s taken me most of my life to learn this, and still I make mistakes. I spent too much of my life thinking that I would first get my work done, and then I could focus on my family. I thought once I was caught up, I could really listen to my wife and kids, or I could fully participate in some family outing.
The problem was, and the problem is, I will never be finished with my work. I will never be caught up. So I keep reminding myself to invest in my relationships – now. Maybe this story will remind you to do the same thing.
Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish author and historian, lived from 1795 until 1881. During his lifetime he became one of the world’s greatest writers. But he was a human, and humans make mistakes.
On October 17, 1826, Carlyle married his secretary Jane Welsh. She was an intelligent, attractive and somewhat temperamental daughter of a well-to-do doctor. They had their quarrels and misunderstandings, but they still loved each other dearly. After their marriage, Jane continued to serve as his secretary. Unfortunately, after many years of marriage, Jane became ill.
Being a hard worker, Carlyle became so absorbed in his writings that he let Jane continue working for several weeks after she became ill. She had cancer, but it was one of those slow, growing kinds of cancer. Finally, she became confined to her bed.
Although Carlyle loved her dearly, he seldom found time to stay with her. After all, he was busy with his work. When Jane died, they carried her to the cemetery. It was raining hard; the mud was deep, and the day was miserable.
Following the funeral, Carlyle went back to his home. He was taking it hard. He went up the stairs to Jane’s room and sat down in the chair next to her bed. He sat there thinking about how little time he had spent with her and wishing so much he had a chance to do it differently.
Noticing her diary on a table beside the bed, he picked it up and began to read. Suddenly he was shocked. He saw it. There, on one page, she had written a single line:
“Yesterday he spent an hour with me and it was like heaven. I love him so.“
Something dawned on him that he had not noticed before. He had been too busy to notice that he meant so much to her. He thought of all the times he had gone about his work without thinking about her and without noticing her.
Then Carlyle turned the page in the diary. There he noticed some words that broke his heart. “I have listened all day to hear his steps in the hall, but now it is late and I guess he won’t come today.”
Carlyle read a little more in the book. Then he threw it down and ran out of the house. Some of his friends found him at the grave, his face buried in the mud. His eyes were red from weeping. Tears continued to roll down his cheeks. He kept repeating over and over again, “If I had only known, if I had only known.”
But it was too late for Carlyle. She was dead. After Jane’s death, Carlyle made little attempt to write again. The historian said he lived another 15 years, “Weary, bored and a partial recluse.”
Be one of the smart ones who does not burn out. Be one of the smart ones who keeps their work and life in balance.