Shift Your Focus from Work-Life Balance to “Work-Wife” Balance

Work-life balanceIf you have a day job, your everyday life is structured with two equally important elements:  work time and free time. Especially if you have a family, it becomes very important to keep a balance between those two areas.

Traditionally, work has dictated our boundaries between work time and free time: For instance if you work at the office, usually you go to work at 9 am and leave your workplace at 5 pm.

On the other hand, things get more complicated when you are working on your personal projects or starting/ running your own business on the side. If you are in this situation, you know you have a limited time budget available for those things. And because of this limiting factor, it’s quite natural to maximize your personal time in order to move forward with your side projects.

However, there is a risk involved when you maximize too much and this can threaten to shake the balance and well-being in your family. If you are facing this situation, you have to make a decision: Do you value the time with your family more or the time with your passion and your projects?

The problem is that if you focus too much on yourself and your needs, you’ll neglect the family and this could have very serious consequences in the long run. In other words, it’s not enough to have a perfect work-life balance (between your day job and your free time), you also need to have a “work-wife” balance inside your free time where you balance the time between your projects and your family (NOTE: replace the word wife in “work-wife” balance with husband, kids, family or anything that describes your situation the best).

I know that for many of us finding that balance is very difficult. Especially if you are building your business on the side, you need the extra time to get it off the ground. And unfortunately, that time is taken off your family time. However, you can minimize this with a couple of steps I’m about to show you.

Free time: See the different blocks

Consider the areas your free time consists of:

a) Your time
b) Your spouse’s time
c) Time with your family
d) Time with your spouse

In the best case scenario you have an equal amount of time for all these four areas on a daily basis. However, if you happen to work late in your day job, that balance is going to be disturbed very easily and in the worst case, you have time only for yourself.

Still, let’s assume that this is not an issue and you have roughly six hours of free time after you get back home from work (in this scenario you get home by 5.30 pm and go to bed around 11.30 pm). So how do you split your time between those four areas?

Quite soon you’ll realize that it becomes pretty much impossible to have equal time blocks during the weekdays for each one of those areas.  However, in order to keep a healthy balance with yourself and your family, you’ll have to think about what your priorities are and make the necessary adjustments to your daily rhythm, so that the balance is as good as possible.

It’s time to give up!

So how do you make sure that you can keep working with your projects and have a healthy balance with yourself and your family – in addition to working from 9 to 5? Consider these three suggestions:

First, it’s all about flexibility. If you know that your spouse wants to do something, be ready to shift the starting time of your own things if possible. For instance, it’s not mandatory for me to go to exercise right after getting back home from work. That worked when we didn’t have kids, but it’s a different story now.

When you are willing to add some flexibility to the mix, you can give your spouse a needed break from taking care of the kids or the household all day long. On the other hand, if one family member is not satisfied with his/her situation – in other words things are not in balance – it’ll reflect to the whole family’s well-being.

Then, give up on some of your habits. For instance, if you are used of staying up late, then maybe you should try to go to bed earlier. Assuming that you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, this small change would make you to wake up earlier. All of a sudden you have some extra time for doing some of your personal stuff when your family is sleeping.

Finally, just give up temporarily on something personal for your spouse or for your family. In my case, I gave up racing in triathlons and marathons for the next two to three years, because I wanted to spend more time with my family and devote more time to building my online business.

It’s time to make that shift … are you ready?

OK, so now you know what to do in order to have a better balance inside your free time. Here are the steps I do to make sure I have time for both my family and building my online business while working in a day job:

1. Realize the true nature of the balance. Understand that your free time is not just one big chunk of time – it consists of four different areas.

You rarely can have a perfect balance on a daily basis, but the more you put your family as priority number one, things stay on a healthy level.

2. Wake up early. Some of you might say: “I can’t do that; I’m not a morning person.” You know what? – I wasn’t either and here I am writing this story around 6 o’clock! I think that it’s just a matter of choosing to become one rather than saying that I can’t do it.

You can either make a sudden or a smooth transition to early wake-ups. I did the former myself, but in your case you could decide first to define a target wake-up time. Then, make a transition by waking up 10-15 minutes earlier each week and eventually you will have reached the target time.

There is no use of trying to define impossible wake-up times, like 4.30 every morning -just pick the one that you are comfortable with. Whatever your time is, you’ll realize that you get more work done when you wake up earlier.

3. Let go of your hobbies – temporarily. Sometimes you’ll just have to give up on something that you are passionate about. In my case it was the decision of stop running marathons or racing in triathlons for the next couple of years.

You’ll have to understand what matters the most in your life and prioritize things accordingly. In my case it was my family and building my online business. Also, when you realize that the decision is just temporary, it’ll make it easier.

4. Ask your spouse what she likes to do. When I get back home from work, I ask my wife what she would like to do. Most likely she wants to have her personal time and I take care of our son during that time. This is nice and it’s a win-win situation: I have a chance to spend time one-on-one time with my son while my wife can take a breather and have her personal time.

With this small question, you can really improve and strengthen the balance inside your family.

5. See his/her point of view. The last time I blogged about when my wife was gone for two days on a seminar and I spent time alone with my son. It was really an eye opener for me as I could really understand what it was like to take care of a 1 year and 3 months year old toddler for the majority of the day.

Put yourself into the same situation. When you do that, it’s so much easier to give your spouse his/her own time when he/she asks. Also, you can truly appreciate what he/she is doing when you are at work.

This also works the other way around: It’s much easier for your spouse to give you some time to work on your projects when you are flexible and give him/her time he/she wants.

6. Maximize the free time. Make sure that you plan your work well in advance and that you have the readiness to start working as soon as possible when your personal time blocks starts. For instance, when you work in the mornings or during the times when your family is taking a nap, you can get started right away and you don’t have to ponder what to do next.

Also, if you ever encounter unexpected time blocks, know your next action. This way you can maximize your time and get more done.

My Sample Weekday

  • 05:30 am: Waking up
  • 05:50 am: Work on my projects
  • 07:30 am: A breakfast with my family
  • 08:15 am: Going to gym
  • 09:00 am: Going to work
  • 5:00 pm: Getting back to home from work
  • 5:15 pm: My wife has her free time as I take care of our son
  • 6:45 pm: Exercising
  • 08:00  pm: Dinner
  • 09:00 pm: TV time / checking e-mails
  • 10:30 pm: Getting ready to go to bed

On weekends the structure is different: I have more time to spend with my family and also do my personal stuff as I can work when my wife/son are taking a nap.

Conclusion

As you can see, you need to have a balance inside your free time as well – not just between work time and your free time. However, at times you may find it difficult to find a good balance between each of those four main areas I talked about.

However, if you are flexible enough, this will make things easier. Just make sure that you don’t dedicate the time outside the day job too much for your own stuff. If you prioritize time for your family as well, it’ll increase the well-being and everyone will be happier.

Over to you: How do you balance your free time?