Balancing Work and Life – Five Key Questions to Ask

Right around the time I was entering the workforce outside of college there seemed to be a shift in balancing work and life. You know, the deciding factors of the way people worked as compared to the way people spent time with their families to decide how they could drive their career future.
I remember on my first day when the woman from human resources walked me through the office and introduced me to some of the people I’d be working with. I saw a lot of certificates hanging in my coworkers’ cubicles celebrating 10, 15, and 20 years worth of service to the company. Within my first year at the company, a number of people had moved on and suddenly most people had certificates celebrating 3, 5, or maybe 10 years.
So what happened?
No one became suddenly rich (at least as far as I know). I do think that there was a change in people’s priorities when it came to balancing work and life. Doing things that made you happy became a more important factor in people’s lives over just working all the time.
The standard philosophy used to get ahead in the work game was along the lines of:

  • Get to work nice and early
  • If you are given an assignment, you just take it
  • If you are asked to travel or move, you do it
  • Stay late when needed – No questions asked
  • If work didn’t get done during the week, then you work from home on the weekends
  • Immediately answer work emails/messages, no matter the time of day or what the family is doing
  • Cut vacations short when necessary

Sure, this is a good strategy to move up through the system and get raises, but it doesn’t leave much time for having a relationship with your loved ones. Instead of taking the steps above when it comes to work, if you’re thinking of your family and balancing work and life, then you should ask yourself five key questions.

Balancing Work and Life

Looking at your work through the lens of family and what really matters, you should ask yourself the following questions. As the product of workaholics, these are questions I need to ask myself from time to time.

  1. What are my long term investments? Where should you invest your passions? Are you focusing your energies and devotion on your family or are you using them elsewhere?
  2. What is the family cost? Are there benefits of working your fingers to the bone — career advancement, extra money, or the perceived goodwill of your employer — worth the time away from your family?

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  1. Am I moving in the right direction with my kids? Do you know what interests your son? When was the last time you played a game with your daughter? What’s going on at your kids’ school? Are you closer than you were with your kids at their last birthday or father away? Which way do you want to be moving?
  2. Is your marriage stable? What’s holding it together? There can be a lot of things holding you and your spouse together. When was the last time you made an assessment of your relationship? Has your relationship morphed into something different than what it was when you got married? Is there something more or less than it used to be and does your work life have anything to do with it?
  3. When I ask “provide for my family” what do I mean? There are a lot of different ways to provide for your family and it doesn’t always relate to buying groceries and paying bills. What do you provide for your family emotionally? Are you providing companionship, fun, or good memories?

How Do “I” Start Balancing Work and Life?

Unfortunately, without knowing your life, I cannot provide any suggestions other than asking yourself question like above. However, for some inspiration and ideas to get you started, have a look at a father that was in this exact place and how he changed it to benefit everyone. He is just a normal average Joe, but even some of the bigger names do this as well. Max Schireson, CEO for the software company MongoDB made an announcement to step down to spend more time with his family. You can also do a web search for “dad chooses family over work” and see that many people are making the choice to start balancing work and life.
There are many additional questions you can ask yourself beyond the ones listed above, but these are five to get you started. If you can answer these without issues and feel comfortable with your answers, you are most likely doing well in this balance. If not, then rethink some of the things you can change and start making things better for you and your family.
What do you consider when balancing work and life? Have you asked yourself these questions?
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