Finding work life balance: How I worked nearly 60 hours this week and still spent quality time with family and friends.

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Work-life balance, that's the catchphrase these days, right? I'm sure you've heard phrases like “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, said “There is no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” – Jack Welch

Sounds a little harsh at first, but frankly I couldn't agree more with Jack! You are choosing what to prioritize every day, and good or bad, those choices have consequences.

I've worked 80 hours in a 4-day stretch before, pausing only to catch a few hours of sleep in a hotel room, and 36 hours straight only pausing long enough to go to the bathroom. Choosing to give it my all was incredible for my career. In fact, my dedication to my career allowed me to advance to the point that I am now the general manager of my company.

My ex-wife might tell you those choices were not such a good decision for my family though. In the past when I pulled long hours, I did it because I wanted to provide for my family and took pride in a job well done. I didn't often think about anything else though, after all, I was providing for my family! I often still pull long hours at times for the same reasons. These days, I have learned how to balance things a little better. I worked somewhere around 60 hours this week, nearly half of which was on Monday and Tuesday, pulling 13+ hour days. While a bit exhausted from the long week, I actually really enjoyed it. This week was a little different than past ones. I've learned to integrate work with friendships, relaxation, and family. I even got a chance to catch up with a dear old friend, a lady that practically raised me, a lady I call mama.

Don & Mama

Make a Choice to Find Work-Life Balance

The biggest thing you must do in order to find that elusive work-life balance is to identify your priorities. Remember that this is really not about work-life balance, it is about work-life choices. Let me tell you a little about my week so you can see what that looks like.

Monday afternoon I had to travel across the state to be ready to go Tuesday morning. We had five sites to survey in five different counties followed by a long drive back home the next day, so I knew it would be some long days. I spent the morning and early afternoon Monday taking care of random things at work so that I could be gone for a couple of days, then headed out. I wouldn't be arriving at the hotel until around 8 that night if I drove straight there. Thinking back to my priorities, I realized that I would be passing close to an old friend, my mama. This lady had babysat me for many years and was like a second mom to me, and I hadn't seen her in years.

With the death of a good friend who I wrote about last week in my article 3 Life Lessons I Learned from Leighton still fresh on my mind, I made a choice to stop and visit. I stopped and visited with mama for a few hours. Did that hurt my job at all? Absolutely not! Remember I wouldn't have been getting into the hotel room until after 8PM anyway. The visit renewed our friendship, and I walked away re-energized.

The sun was starting to set by now, and I remembered another priority that I had set which I mentioned in my article Enjoy the Detours in Life. I've made the choice to take the time to enjoy the most beautiful scenes in nature whenever possible. I saw a sign for a lake, and made a choice to pull off the road to enjoy the sunset, this time a very intentional detour.

Sunset on an intentional detour

It was well worth it, watching the master painter at work on his creation renewed me and broke up the trip even more. I arrived at the hotel around 10 that night, a little road weary, but happy. I caught up with my wife and crashed for the night.
The next morning, I got up and went to visit our potential clients. It quickly became obvious that their existing recording vendor (we install 911 recording systems) was not giving them anywhere near the service they would receive from us, so I knew we could help. I love feeling like I am helping others, and even got to catch up with a coworker on the drives between sites, so thoroughly enjoyed my day.
With my work done, I headed home to focus on an even bigger priority, my family. My wife and children were glad to see me after being away for a couple of days. Even the dog was jumping up and down, glad to get to go on our nightly walk again. Sometimes a little break can indeed make the heart grow fonder, and while I try hard not to make being gone a habit, I've learned that it isn't always a bad thing.

Make a Choice For Quality Time With Your Family

I have made a choice to take walks each night, and my wife and kids often join me. These walks have become a great source of joy for me, and as often happens my daughter and I got into a pretty deep discussion. The next few nights, we walked, jogged, and talked for hours, which added another dimension to my week. Sure beats crashing out in front of the TV. Look for ways like that to spend some quality time with your family!
I've also made a choice to take my wife along on business trips when appropriate, being extra careful not to let her being there interfere with the business I needed to get done or run up any additional charges for the company. Those trips have provided a welcome change of pace, and she has gotten to explore some interesting cities while I work. We've also been able to catch up at the end of the day for some quality time together.
That's what true work-life balance looks like.
Choose what your priorities are, and then make them a priority.
Choose to make work a priority when you are at work, and work hard if you want to advance in your career. Choose to make family and friends a priority as well, and look for ways to include them in your day to day life, but don't let them interfere with getting the really important things done at work. Be careful to also not let your work interfere with the really important things at home.
At times you will have to choose if you have really important things going on at home and at work at the same time. Those are tough choices. My best advice when that happens is to weigh your options and consequences and then make a choice. One or the other will suffer, but you always have the choice as to which one is your bigger priority.

As Jack Welch said, it is not work-life balance, it is work-life choices.
Choose wisely, my friend.

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Have a wonderful week!

About the Author 

Don Smith

Former bank director who enjoys helping people master their finances. Father of five, founder of The Personal Growth Channel, and business owner.

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