What will work-life balance cost you right now

When you ask people how they’re doing, the most common response is, “Busy. I’m really busy.”

So it’s no wonder that almost everyone is talking about having more work-life balance. But my question is, “What are they doing about it?”

More importantly, “What are you doing about it?” I found the following strategies to be very helpful when I got off track years ago and almost worked myself to death.

Businessman Sitting in an Office Chair at the Beach




► 1. Think about what you REALLY 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? Or are you living your life on purpose, using your priorities to create your life? Take some time to think about what you want.

► 2. Refuse to be proud of your busyness.

This is a tough one. As a professional speaker, I’ve been guilty of comparing my calendar with other speakers to see who is the busiest or who has the most bookings. It somehow gave me a sense of pride to know how hard I was working and how much in demand I was.

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 are out of balance.

As you may know, I coach a limited number of leaders and executives, many of whom aren’t very good at work-life balance. When one of my clients, the CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company learned how to perfect his own balance, he then challenged his other leaders to achieve the same thing.

He told me, “Over the years, I’ve had many executives 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?'”

The truth is no matter how busy you are or how much responsibility you have, you can learn how to create a healthier balance for yourself. One of my recent coaching clients, Laura Coyle, the CEO of HomeWell Care Services says,

One of my biggest accomplishments was to achieve something that I’ve been striving for over ten years … work/life balance! I once found this impossible to achieve. But with Dr. Z’s mentorship, I was finally able to. I highly recommend him for leadership coaching and conflict resolution.

Give me a call if you’d like to discuss my coaching and how it might work for you as well.

► 3. Get realistic about the cost of more work-life balance.

Another client of mine, the Ford Motor Company, just released their 2024 Trend Report. Jen Brace, the chief futurist at Ford who coordinated the research said she was shocked at the results. 52% of people employed globally said they would be willing to take a 20% pay cut for better work-life balance.

That’s huge. And it reflects a major shift in people’s thinking and motivations … which every company needs to take into consideration. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations saw extra work and overtime as a blessing. Today more and more people see it as curse that robs them of precious time they’d rather spend on family, friends, and fun.

Of course, it’s one thing to say you’d take 20% less in pay in exchange for more work-life balance. It’s another thing to make it happen.

So you need to take a serious assessment about that 20% you’re going to take out of your budget. What are you willing to live without? A new mobile phone? A new car? New clothes? That expensive Internet-TV package? Restaurants, or at least fewer restaurant visits at less expensive places? And the list goes on and on.

In other words, put your money where your mouth is. If you say you’d accept 20% less pay for more balance, you should think about what you’re willing to sacrifice to make that happen. Otherwise it’s nothing more than wishful thinking.

► 4. 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; my daughter would often interrupt me when I was preparing 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. She left me out of her life for several years. She had gotten the message I was too busy for her.

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.