There are 24 hours in a day. We work at least eight hours. Sleeping consists of another eight hours (if you are lucky). We have eight hours with our families. Because our children generally go to sleep earlier than we do, slice that remainder in half. Four hours. Four hours is the time you have with your child. Balancing the demands of a career and a family can be taxing, but rest easy. There are steps you can take to find balance, and I have four suggestions from my own experiences to help.
At the beginning of my career, I could not manage my personal life. Forget the family, it was just me at that time. With endless hours at my disposal, I spent them working. I fell into a common trap that many people do. Toss in a marriage and the addition of a dog, and my time was somewhat limited.
And guess what happened? I burned out – hard. At this point, I reached a serious crossroads. My wife was pregnant, and I was preparing to take on my biggest responsibility yet – as a dad. I had to make some serious decisions. How would I manage my day job and the role of a father? I needed simple solutions.
That’s when I remembered a professor’s famous words. He told us that he was strictly unavailable between 5 and 10 pm, Monday through Friday. That meant, unless it was an emergency, he was not available. Pretty simple, right? But what he did was something absolutely key. He established a concrete boundary to separate professional from personal!
Once our little one arrived, we were in over our heads. First, there was not an instruction manual for the beautiful little human we brought home. We relied on what we knew, what we thought was right, and a little bit of luck. Top this off with a step up the career ladder and a cross-state move. Things were heavy, and the only thing that would lighten the load was a solid dose of simplicity.
Remember the words of my professor? I took them to heart. The first thing I did was set some rules for myself. The first rule was excluding work email from my smartphone and tablet. This was a must. I could not bring myself to disconnect if it was at my fingertips. I understand the benefits and convenience of technology, but I also am keen to its devastating effects on people.
Onto our second rule – the “Executive Director” hat comes off when I walk in the door at our home. This is my time to let loose with the kid. It is really “our time”, and this consists of giving one another our undivided attention to form a crucial bond between father and daughter. Sure, we are having fun, but we are also learning, establishing trust, and most importantly, we are smiling and laughing together.
Third, I established a concrete schedule that I adhere to most weeks. The responsibilities I possess are immense. I am responsible for nearly 40 teammates, and they look to me for support, answers, guidance, and leadership. The only way I can give to them is by having something to give. And without pace and time to recharge, I cannot provide any of the things they need. I had learned my lesson from previous work-related burn outs.
The last rule is to give time to my partner. She deserves it. Every night, if even for a short time, we need to have real, adult conversations. Most of these revolve around the happenings of the day, our dreams, our child, or the silly things we think of late at night. It allows us to reconnect. We are a team and our communication is our bedrock.
Finding middle-ground in the rat-race that consists of career, family, and community responsibilities is not an easy task. In fact, it is easier said than done. However, if one can establish concrete boundaries between work and home, it becomes second nature. In other words, forming the habit is the most difficult part. That is why I keep it to four simple rules:
- Set a work schedule and stick to it.
- Take off the “work hat” when you get home.
- Find a way to disconnect.
- And make time for your partner.
At the end of the day, a job is just that – a job. There will be other jobs. Your family and the impact you make on them is your legacy, and that is what people will remember about you.
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