What Does Work-Life Balance Cost You?

As the economy continues to be difficult and the world continues to be unpredictable, almost everyone is feeling too much stress and too little balance. And you may feel like you’re working harder than ever just to stay even.

That’s sad. However, you don’t have to give up your life to make a living. I know. For years I took that approach, worshipping the gods of busyness, materialism, and success, and I paid a huge price for my lack of work-life balance.

The good news is I turned all that around. This is what I learned and I suspect you can find a helpful tip below.

►1. Think about what you want out of life.

I see too many smart people who work too hard, live too fast, and then feel strongly ambivalent about their success.

They’ve never taken the time to figure out what they really, really want.

All they think about is their upcoming projects and what else has to be done.

If you’re living an overly busy, hurried and hectic life, you may be wasting your life. That’s not to say that your schedule isn’t filled with good and important things. But you may be letting all those “good” things crowd out the better things.

What about you? Are you living your life by default, letting your pressures control your life?

If so, try this. Take some time to think about what you really want IN your life. And list three things you need to REMOVE from your schedule so you have a greater sense of balance.

► 2. Look at how your career is affecting your family.

Not only now but five years from now. Every project you work on, every commitment you make has a personal consequence. Are you aware of those consequences?

I remember in the early days of my speaking career, one of my daughters would often interrupt me when I was working on a program. She’d say, “Dad, Dad,” and then ask a series of questions or want to do a variety of activities. More often than not, I’d say, “Not now … Later … I’m busy … Leave me alone.” And eventually she did. We had a very strained relationship for several years.

Time does pass more quickly than you think. You’ll soon be facing the consequences of your present work decisions. So make sure you make those decisions in the context of how they will affect your personal and professional life.

► 3. Refuse to be proud of your busyness.

This may be difficult for you. I know it used to be for me. As a professional speaker, I used to be guilty of comparing my calendar with other speakers to see who was the busiest or who had the most bookings. It somehow gave me a sense of pride to know how hard I worked and how much in demand I was.

Does that sound anything like you? Then, please: Forget the comparisons. And take your focus off the busyness. No tombstone ever read, “He led his department in the number of hours worked six years in a row.” Nobody cares, and you’re the one paying the price if your work and family life is out of balance.

I like the way one of my CEO coaching clients put it. He said, “Over the years, I’ve had many managers come to me and say with pride: ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation.’ It’s nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding: ‘You dummy. You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project and you can’t plan two weeks out of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?'”

► 4. Weigh the pros and cons of greater bigger, better, and more.

Promotions usually come with a corresponding increase in workload. They may not be worth it. The same is true if you’re self-employed. More projects, customers, and staff may look like you’ve achieved a higher level of success — but have you really? You may have simply acquired more stress than it’s worth.

One of the ways my wife and I learned to do this was to distinguish our wants from our needs. We learned that we needed electricity and we wanted five different streaming TV platforms. But we didn’t need them and got rid of them. We realized we wanted a new car, but we certainly didn’t need one. We have two perfectly working cars with 60,000 and 120,000 miles on them and they meet all our transportation needs.

We realized if we kept chasing the bigger and better, in pursuit of more and more stuff and accomplishments, the cost would be too high. We would be sacrificing some peace of mind and some work-life balance, and in the end, we decided that was not a good deal for us.

You have to decide for yourself.

► 5. Schedule your recreation.

It may sound strange to put some fun time on your calendar, but I’ve learned if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen.

It’s too easy to say to your friends and family members that “We’ve got to get together real soon.” But if you don’t immediately ask “when,” it probably won’t happen for weeks and weeks or months and months. And it just takes one project or one meeting in the middle of a week to prevent you from taking off the week or going on that vacation.

We don’t want that happening to us. So my wife and I sit down four times a year to schedule our recreation. We make sure we get all the people we want to see on our calendar and we put those fun, just-the-two-of-us getaways on the calendar as well. We even schedule our vacations two years in advance.

I’ve always seen work as a blessing. I love it. And I love helping people make a difference in their lives and their work. Unfortunately, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the busyness that you can forget to make a life AS you make a living. It’s easy to burn out and lose your balance. Don’t do that. You mean too much to your family, friends, and customers.