Tackling the never-ending challenge of work-life balance
By Jeff Bernier
It’s barely July and I’ve already had quite an adventurous summer! Ashley and I were no sooner back home from a trip to Italy when I left again for a not-to-be-missed two-day golf excursion with a few friends. Though it has certainly been a whirlwind, the past month makes me thankful for the work I’ve done to find my own version of work-life balance.
If you haven’t yet found a work-life balance that works for you, you’re certainly not alone. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently ranked the US #30 out of 38 for work-life balance. The reasons: 11.4% of Americans work 50 or more hours per week, and they spend 11.4 hours for leisure and personal care daily. Compare that to the country in the #1 spot—the Netherlands—where just 0.5% work 50 or more hours per week, and they dedicate 15.9 hours a day for leisure and personal care. Perhaps even more alarming is how we Americans spend our weekends: of the employed adults, a disheartening 33% reported that they work on an average Saturday, Sunday, or holiday. That sure doesn’t sound like a strong balance to me.
So what’s the answer?
I’m certainly no guru, but I am a firm believer in the importance of balancing work (no matter how meaningful your work may be) and non-work activities. Finding purpose and meaning in our lives requires building strong family relationships, cultivating valuable personal relationships, and taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. I’ve shared before about what I’ve learned in the Strategic Coach Program about the need to take time to rejuvenate and refuel. Just like investing for your future and managing your financial life, I’ve learned from experience that achieving your goals requires a real plan. Here’s the plan I follow today:
- I schedule ‘free days.’
At the beginning of every year I schedule and block off ‘free days’ on my calendar. A free day is a 24-hour period devoted to non-work related activities (faith, family, fun, exercise, non-business reading, etc.). While I often make adjustments from quarter to quarter as opportunities or work-related projects pop up, my goal is to enjoy 150 free days per year. Folks in the Netherlands would be proud!
- I promote work-life balance at the office.
One of the benefits of owning my own business is that I get to dictate how work-life balance is integrated into our workplace. Caitlin, my strategic assistant, has twin 2-year-olds. Jamie’s children are just 3 and 6. Mona’s children are a bit older, but as every parent knows, age matters little—they still need her a lot! Creating an environment where we can all deliver the highest quality service to our clients while also spending quality time with our families and taking time out to refuel ourselves is a top priority for me and for the firm. When we’re able to make that happen, our team is able to rise up and be superstars.
- I get back up when I fall.
I’m far from perfect at this whole work-life balance thing. (You can read more about my personal missteps in my blog post Heading for vacation? Get unplugged!) In our recent Money & Meaning workshop, I completed the same self-assessment of my personal life that our attendees filled out. What I found was that I scored terribly in the area of nurturing personal relationships outside of work. I’m lucky in that my clients have become some of my closest friends—and my wife Ashley is my closest friend of all—but that makes it even more challenging to foster friendships that are set apart from home and work. So that’s my homework. (It’s also one reason I accepted the invitation to last week’s golf trip, despite the less-than-perfect timing.)
- I ask for help.
Spurred on by what I learned at Strategic Coach, I’ve become a very good delegator. Years ago, I realized I was spending hours every weekend on our yard, which is not only a chore I don’t love, but it was also taking away from my family time, recreation, and other thinks that I enjoy. So I hired a landscaper. To free up some of Ashley’s time so she can lead a weekly bible study stress-free, help our kids and her parents as needed, and pursue other activities she values, we subscribed to Sunbasket, a popular and healthy meal delivery service. And I take some time for personal worship before the start of every day. (That’s the best form of asking for help I know!)
Of course, as a financial advisor, I also know well the value of hiring a professional to help get your financial house in order. Most people spend an inordinate amount of their ‘leisure and personal care’ time managing and worrying about their finances. Working with a financial advisor who can take on at least a portion of that responsibility can help you de-stress and focus on the things that matter more—like pursuing your own purpose and finding the ideal work-life balance for you.
Creating work-life balance isn’t easy; I honestly doubt it’s ever anything but a constant work in progress. I’m thrilled that, at least at this tiny moment in time, I feel like I’ve found a method that works. If there’s any way I can help you find your own balance, please reach out. As always, I’m here to help!