Do you ever feel like you’re on a never ending treadmill and can’t get off? Does it seem like you spend nearly every waking moment either working or thinking about your job and those thoughts have become totally consuming? Have you neglected to spend an appropriate amount of quality time with your family and friends? To be truly happy and successful in life you have to have a good balance between work and play. If you don’t, you may wake up one day and realize that you have missed out on the opportunity to enjoy what’s really important in your life with those who matter to you most.
More and more people I encounter are working their butts off trying to get ahead. In most cases, they don’t make time to kick back, appreciate all that they have in their lives and truly enjoy themselves. They tend to get caught up trying to make ends meet and dealing with life’s everyday events. In fact, even a vacation can cause undue stress. Most people take a couple of weeks off a year and if they can afford it, they’ll go somewhere. Leading up to time off is the stress associated with preparing to be away. This is followed by the actual vacation where they stay connected to the office via telephone and email. Upon returning to work they’re inevitably bombarded by all they missed and what is needed to catch up. Oftentimes this stress outweighs the relaxation intended in the first place. There’s got to be a better way!
There’s no doubt that achieving “success” in a career requires a very significant investment of time and extra effort as well as the need to make many personal sacrifices. The problem is that while most people are chasing goals while trying to advance their careers, they fail to realize what’s really important in life before it’s too late. There are plenty of reasons and excuses why some people will never achieve a balance in their lives and I have been guilty of it too.
I remember the time I took off from work and promised my two sons we would spend the day together. I told them I would buy them new hockey equipment and play with them. They were eight and six at the time and were very excited about our plans. We were in the sporting goods store shopping when my cell phone rang. I recognized the number from a very important client. We had started negotiating a very large and important contract earlier that week and at the moment I thought I should take the call. That was a big mistake! I wound up spending twenty-five minutes on the phone during which time my boys started running rampant up and down the aisles in the store. I desperately tried to keep my cool on the phone and yelled at my kids in the background while on mute. It’s probably no surprise that we left the store after my call without buying a single thing. I was very upset about the way my boys behaved and continued my tirade when we got back in the car. I let them know that they had disappointed me and would be punished for how they behaved. That wound up ruining the day for all of us.
Later that night, my older son apologized and reminded me about what I had promised him and his brother. Was it really their fault for misbehaving in the store while I was on the phone, or mine for neglecting them and taking the call in the first place? Wow, when I realized what I had done and the mistake I made by putting my job first before my own kids, I felt as if someone had ripped out my heart. In reality, I could have simply let the call go into voicemail and returned it at a more convenient time. Had I made that choice, the outcome would have been totally different. All they wanted was the attention they deserved and to play with me and their new toys as I had promised them before we left. I decided that night that I would never make the same mistake again.
No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Learning from those mistakes is how we all grow in business and in our personal lives. Here are some very important and simple things you can do to immediately improve the balance between work and play while enhancing your overall quality of life:
Separate Work And Home Life
Not everyone at home will understand everything you experience at work nor should they be constantly burdened by it. While it’s important to share some of your daily events with your family, try to leave the stress of your job at the office. Make sure that you don’t take out your frustrations on your family when you get home. Creating a buffer of time to unwind and gather your thoughts before you arrive home will help.
Get Your Priorities Straight
For some people, advancing their careers and making money are the most important things in their lives and they’ll try and accomplish those goals regardless of the price they have to pay. While supporting your family is critically important, it should never come at the expense of sacrificing all else needed to build and maintain a strong, vibrant and loving family environment.
Work Hard And Play Hard
Don’t lose sight of why you are working in the first place. Put in the extra hours and effort and maximize your productivity while at work to enable you to take time off without feeling guilty. Make sure that you take advantage of every moment of your leisure time to do what you enjoy the most. When you do, you’ll be happier, well-rounded and more interesting and sensitive to others.
Don’t Miss Important Family Events
Make sure to attend important events especially for your children. Whether it’s a baseball game, soccer game or dance recital, your kids will look for you and know when you are there and when you’re not. Do your best to go as often as you can as it will mean the world to them and create life long memories for all. Remember that you can never replace that valuable time once it’s lost.
Take Vacation And Disconnect
In this day and age, it’s never a good time to take vacation which is why you need to plan something in advance. It typically doesn’t matter what you do or where you go as long as you do something that you and your family will always remember. Be sure to disconnect while away to prevent any mental or emotional disruption. It’s easy to get distracted and wind up working while you’re not supposed to be. Don’t make the mistake of working during the day while on vacation. If totally disconnecting is not possible, reserve time to check email or make phone calls when it will not interfere with anyone else’s schedule.
Live For Today, Plan For Tomorrow
While planning and saving for retirement are important and should be an integral part of your long term goals, you should live with the attitude of enjoying your life every day. Some people make the mistake of waiting until they retire to do what they enjoy and find out after it’s too late that the best part of their life has passed them by. Life is short. Although you don’t need to be reckless, you should find a way to live every day as if it’s your last.
Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff
Many people worry about things that will never happen. Focus on what’s really important in your life and what’s actually occurred. Let go of all of the other minor things that don’t really matter at all.
Don’t Settle For Less Than You Deserve
If you are in a job that prevents you from practicing the values described above, or from living the life you want, perhaps it’s time to get a new job. Always make sure you know what your skills are worth and that you are compensated accordingly. Don’t blame others if you are underpaid when you have not established for yourself what you want and deserve.
It’s never too late to improve the quality of your life even if means earning less money. Never forget, when your time on earth is finished nobody will remember you for the long hours you spent at work or the car you drove. They will remember the quality of the relationship they had with you and how you impacted their life. This is especially true for your close friends and family.
By Paul M. Balzano
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