How to Strike a Balance Between Work and Life

Next Generation Planner: October 2020


Jamie P. Hopkins, CFP®, Esq., LL.M., RICP®
Managing Director of Carson Coaching

Work-life balance means creating an equilibrium among your personal, professional and family life demands. When you strike balance in your life, satisfaction and happiness usually aren’t far behind. Imbalance in your life causes pressure and eventually affects all other aspects of your life.

I struggle with work-life balance. It’s hard to shut off from work and focus on myself. I don’t struggle as much to find time for my family, but it does require extra effort to coordinate schedules.

Work-life balance looks different for people. Your family might need more attention or you might require more personal time than others. Dividing your time equally among your responsibilities doesn’t translate to balance. Balance means adjusting the fulcrum to where your responsibilities are stable. The fulcrum’s position depends on your desires and goals. If one area of your life requires more effort or time, the fulcrum won’t be centered.

You might realize early in your career that you’re ok shifting the fulcrum toward building your business. As your family and personal life develop, you might crave more time in those areas. You’ll need to adjust the fulcrum to match your priorities.

Defensive Calendaring

Altering how you allocate time will be a constant struggle unless you learn how to do it effectively. One tactic I use is defensive calendaring. This tactic blocks out time on your weekly, monthly and yearly schedule to focus on important tasks.

For example, I write a lot articles to pitch to publications. I rely on defensive calendaring to dedicate entire days for writing. When meetings or emergencies pop up on other days, they don’t take away from my writing time. More recently, I’ve used defensive calendaring pre-COVID-19 for travel, family time and vacations.

Goal-Based Planning

Another tactic to try in your business, personal and family life is goal-based planning. Many business owners and financial service professionals lead clients through goal-based planning. They miss an opportunity to try this method in their personal lives.

Start by writing down six things each week you want to accomplish from a professional standpoint, a personal standpoint and a family standpoint. These goals can be as simple as having an uninterrupted conversation with your spouse, enjoying a sit-down family meal or making reservations for dinner at your favorite sushi joint. Miniscule doesn’t matter. In fact, it might be easier to start with smaller goals. If you don’t take the time to prioritize your goals for the week no one else will do it for you.

Don’t Minor in Perfection

Another method to strike work-life balance is actively avoiding minoring in perfection. Aiming to be your best is what we should do, but not at the risk of becoming unbalanced. If you overanalyze and review every minor detail, you’ll lose sight of the big picture.

It’s ok to ‘major’ in perfection when it comes to long-term goals and development. But stressing over every minor detail will hold you back from being your best and most balanced self.

Disconnect and Reflect

You also need to learn how to disconnect from technology. Some people can compartmentalize and others can’t. If you have trouble, it’s time to learn how to disconnect. Shut off your phone, close your email and maybe even turn off your Wi-Fi at home. Do what you need to so you can escape work—long enough so you can focus on other important areas in your life like sleep, relationships, etc.

When I have time blocked out for personal writing, I have gone so far as to book a hotel room, shut off Wi-Fi and turn off my phone for hours, just to focus on writing. This was a personal goal and allowed me to disconnect.

Striking balance among your work and life won’t matter if you don’t enjoy your work in the first place. No amount of shifting the focus or fulcrum will bring balance if you don’t find meaning in your work. I tell people to ask themselves three questions to make sure they find meaning in their work.

  1. Do you do what you love?
  2. Is what you do today the best use of your time?
  3. Are you making the impact you want to make?

If any of those answers are ‘no’ from a professional standpoint, you need to make a change before you can find balance.

Work-life balance isn’t easy; it fluctuates as you progress in life. Your goals and desires will change, as will the pressures of society, personal, professional and family life. Be adaptable and reflective and prioritize what matters today to find balance.

Simple tactics like goal-based planning for your personal life, defensive calendaring, disconnecting and reflecting on your current impact can make a huge difference in finding balance. But remember, your work-life balance is yours, so control it so it does not control you.

Jamie Hopkins, CFP®, Esq., LL.M., RICP®, is the director of retirement research at Carson Group, a national wealth management firm that offers coaching and partnership to financial advisers. He has been published in dozens of financial, educational and legal journals, and he’s the media’s go-to expert on retirement income planning and tax law.

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