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Understand Work-Life Balance

Understand Work-Life Balance

By: Zachary J. Lee

When you think about not being able to spend enough time with your partner and feeling like work is overtaking your life (i.e., your job runs your life and not the other way around) what are you supposed to do?

One of the biggest overarching themes that I see couples struggling with are feeling like they don’t get enough time with one another and they don’t have a good handle on their work-life balance.

Before I started my company, I worked for a few years as a manager in corporate America. I had huge teams that reported to me (50+ employees) and I worked a minimum of 12+ hours a day, five to six days a week. You could say I had zero understanding of what a work-life balance was and how to begin creating a life that I felt in-control of.

In my pursuit of attempting to figure out how to create a work-life balance that I was in control of, I would set up meetings with senior management (1-3 levels above my pay-grade) and ask them this specific question: “how do you create a work-life balance?, “what’s your secret?”.

Unfortunately, they all gave me what I felt at the time were terrible responses. They told me that work-life balance is what you make it. The older I get the more my perspective has changed and the more I have begun to side with their responses.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way that has allowed me to achieve an incredible work-life balance that works for me, my family, and being able to run my business:

1. It Starts At Home: it’s up to you and your partner to establish your boundaries and expectations for what is an acceptable workload.

I get it, your tired, frustrated and want things to change. My challenge to you is to sit down and figure out what needs to change and how you can do it. It may sound overly simplistic, but that’s the first thing Kate and I did when we realized how unhappy we were with our situation. For Kate and I we KNEW our situation had to change. She felt like a single-mom and I felt like all I did was work and I had NO control in my life.

When we had that realization that we both needed to make a change, our expectations and boundaries changed forever. We knew that if we wanted to have the marriage we had dreamed of, and that we were going to have the life that we had always wanted, we had to figure out how to get out of our current situation.

2. You Have To Be Willing To Make Sacrifices: it’s one thing to want to make a change, it’s another thing to be willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to get what you want.

In my case, Kate and I knew that it DIDN’T involve me working more. Sometimes we take the mentality that if we’re going to get ahead or be able to create the life our dreams, we have to be open to working day-and-night, sucking it up when things get tough, and hoping that things will get better. I took that mentality for two years before I figured out that this isn’t always true. Kate and I realized that the job that I had wanted so badly wasn’t what I actually wanted to do with my life.

For you, you could be in the very same boat. If that is the case, what are you willing to sacrifice and change in order to get to where you want to go? Are you willing to find a new job? Are you willing to take a pay-cut? Are you willing to swallow your pride and say out-loud that the current job you have isn’t the right fit for you? Are you willing to support your partner if it requires a change in your lifestyle?

3. Prioritizing What Matters Most: there are really two parts to this point.

(A) You need to create a list of what you value most, and list them in order.

Someone who really knows and understands what their values are has a far easier time being able to make critical decisions in their lives than someone who doesn’t have clear-cut values.

Here’s an example: you walk into work today and your boss offers you a promotion. “Yay!”. You are being promoted two levels above your current pay-grade ($35,000 pay-increase) and you are also given the title of Senior Account Executive. The role that you’ve always wanted.

Here’s the catch. You boss has informed you that within your new role you will be required to travel (20% of your workload), and that you will most likely work 10-15 hours more per week.

Do you take the promotion?

I wouldn’t. But that’s because I’ve established with my wife what are values are as a couple. If an opportunity arises that doesn’t fall within our values, boundaries and expectations – we pass on the opportunity.

For you, do you know what you would do?

(B) Actions speak louder than words.

Once you have established what you value most you have to have the courage to follow-through with it. After Kate and I established what mattered most to us, we realized that I needed to start my own company.

That decision came with HUGE sacrifices. It wasn’t like when I quit my job I had a huge stockpile of money sitting around. When I quit my job I took an 85% pay cut, we sold our new car (ouch), we got rid of cable (double-ouch), we stopped going out to eat, going on trips, etc.

The great thing is that for you, most likely you don’t need to make a career change, cut all of your expenses, and start your own company. I did, but I wasn’t able to come to that understanding without lots of critical conversations with Kate, planning and a lot of prayer for support and direction from God.

Don’t be afraid to take the first step and have that first conversation. Good luck with figuring out exactly what you want and how you’re going to accomplish it.



About the Author: 

Speaker. Developer. Collaborator. 

Storyteller. Christian. 

I am a husband to my gorgeous and gifted wife Kate and a lucky father of three amazing kids. My company, LifeWorks Group is based in the Twin Cities and focuses on strategic interventions of relationships in the workplace and at home. Over the past five years I have had the privilege and honor of working with hundreds of couples helping improve their relationships and working with organizations to improve employee morale, team dissatisfaction, and creating synergy in the workplace. 

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