Life - It's a Killer!
It has been an interesting half year, let me tell you! New job, new activities, new classes, change, change, change! It started to rain in January and it just kept pouring until June! I am sure you know the feeling - as Dads I think we all struggle with it. I am talking about:
WORK & LIFE BALANCE!
It can be hard to balance work and life. Many factors to weigh and many pressures to resist while being distracted by dozens of tasks.... How are we to try and even consider balance? Well, in light of my (tentative, LOL) return after a nearly 6 month hiatus I figured what better topic to talk about than work & life balance!
Now, work can be many things. For some Dads "work" might be "chores" or "hobbies," rather than traditional employment. It could be homeschooling your children. It could be caring for a relative. Work is generally a task that needs to happen in order to ensure sufficient resources for a pleasant life.
"Life" is the ability to enjoy the fruits coming from "work." Life is relaxing with friends, good meals, vacations, hobbies, gaming, engaging with our children and other family. Its the stuff we look back on and say, "That's what it's all about."
The trick, which I am sure you know, is figuring out how much work you need and how much life you can afford! If we could, I am pretty sure most of us would choose to just live all the time. But sadly, my wealth doesn't support such goals. At least, not yet 😉. So if I can't live all day, I guess that means I got to work some.
Luckily, I rather enjoy my work. So it makes going to work no nearly as painful as some jobs in my past. Maybe that's you right now; work sucks. I feel for you. I hope to write up a few blogs on ways to help find opportunities to find better work. But today, we just need to find balance.
So how do we do that?
By setting BOUNDARIES and RULES!
You know, those things you set for your children and tell them they can't do certain things? Yah, they work on adults, too! The trick to finding balance is setting boundaries and rules. Of course, setting these ain't easy. Boundaries are often discarded because of discomfort or guilt. Rules get tossed because you break it a few times and it seems too much work to make it stick. But you are a Dad! This isn't the first time where a rule was ignored and then re-established (looking at you "no electronics on the weekend until your chores are done." Don't think I forgot about you!).
Dakar's Boundaries and Rules for Dad:
Plot Personal Time - This is actually a bunch of things rolled into one; but let's focus on family and self. Each member of your family needs three to four events per week with you. Some of those can be group events, but at least one even each week needs to be one on one if possible. Events could be dinner, game night, or walking to the park. Maybe it's sitting on the couch and watching a movie with popcorn together. During these events, put the phone and tablets away. Focus on being present.
Make three to four events per week for events with yourself... you need time too. Some of the is direct self care; physical, mentel, or spiritual. The rest is just decompression and relaxation; gaming, sports (watching or playing), reading, or whatever other hobbies you enjoy. Of course, nothing says you can't mix it up and do self time with others - poker night, clan battles, etc.
Set Work Hours - Depending on your particular field, this can be tough. Still, you need to do it. The least you need to do is find a way to make family time disconnected from work time. Find three to four times a week per person where you can turn off the phone and pay attention to them. If you can't do that, finding balance is still possible, but you need to make sure that you are taking advantage of every opportunity when work leaves you alone to focus on family and self.
I could write more, but in the end I think it comes down to priorities and long term goals. I never met an old man who wished he add earned more overtime. I have met the man who wished for just one extra minute with his family.
Make exercise a MUST DO - This is my worst offender right now. When things pile up exercise time becomes "time to get things done." Which means there are still things to do (cause there is never enough time!) and I am not exercising.
Unless you work a job that keeps you moving all day, you NEED exercise. Especially if you work 40 hours or more at a desk... Otherwise you may not live long enough to enjoy life after the desk! Harsh, but true! So make sure you are getting in your exercise. Some cheats to this are making SOME exercise part of your family and self time. Even a simple walk around the park is better than not. Walking with family is even better - help instil positive exercise ethics in them and yourself! Just make sure that you don't make all family time exercise time...each deserves some time on its own.
Be Realistic - Know thy self. Don't go through this list and try and do everything perfectly today. Its gonna take time. Set small achievable goals. Haven't been exercising? Do some push-ups and sit-ups/crunches. Right now. Good. Now, when will you do that again? Why not when you wake up while the coffee is being made? Small steps. This week, if you don't normally do it, have a family dinner once week. Even if its take out. Just sit down in one place. For ten minutes. Say hi. That's enough. Once you get those ten minutes, got for eleven! The key is to try, fail and try again.
Ask for Help - This ties into "Be realistic." Help comes from all different sources; friends, family, co-workers, DHO. Ask for help in setting boundaries. Ask friends and coworkers not to call during family dinner or family game night. Work with supervisors to set up exercise time before, during or after work - sell them on how healthy workers cost less in injuries, insurance and down time! Ask that friend who does all the stuff how they do it and try out some of their suggestions. Google "how do I find work life balance" and give some of those tips a try. Whatever it is, get the help you need to make this work.
Manage Your Mind - Things are never going to be perfectly smooth all the time. You need to be resilient to change. Self-help books on building a resilient mindset can do wonders. THere are some great podcasts and youtube video series out there for inspiration, mindfulness and self care. WHen fear or self doubt happen, you need to take time to address it. Your emotions can get in your way if they aren't kept in check; both good and bad!
Set Long Term Goals - What does 5 years from now look like? What does 10 or 20 years look like? Does that plan allow for work life balance? If not, is the plan worth it? If so, how will you manage until then?
Re-evaluate regularly - Life is what happens to you while you are making plans. Not sure who said it first, but I find it far too accurate. Unexpected child, new job (or lost job), natural disaster, new friends and family; all of this will mean that a new balance needs to be established. This isn't a one size fits all thing. Your balance is going to be unbalanced at some point. Make sure you make time to check!
Set Time for Finances - I put this last, but don't let that fool you. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do to build balance. If you don't know what you can afford in terms of balance, how can you ever hope to achieve it? Make sure you are looking at your income, bills, charges, and expenditures at least once a month. Check to make sure you didn't sign up for a free trial and it turned into a monthly bill. Do you go overboard last week on movie tickets? Or maybe its time to consider preparing for and asking for a raise or maybe look for a new job opportunity.
If you can't control your finances, they WILL control you. Make sure to keep on top of your finances as best you can and this will have a huge influence on your ability to balance work and life.
Start Small - 80/20 Rule - 80% of the effect comes for 20% of the events. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle Just a few small changes can make huge rewards. Make a few small boundaries and rules and see what happens. You might be surprised how much impact it can have on your work life balance!