We all have a lot going on in our lives and things we want to accomplish. I’ve been fortunate enough to figure out a way to find time for everything I want while maintaining a successful career and family life. The short answer is you have to prioritize and know when to be flexible and not.
First, decide what’s important
To me, living a balanced life that starts with deciding what is important to you. I think of the priorities in my life in 4 major buckets:
- Health and Fitness
- Continuous Learning
Notice Career is actually last. That’s because to me if you’re taking care of the 3 above this one will be almost automatic. I know many people I’ve worked with over the years tend to put this one first, or at least even with their family. I’m not saying that is totally wrong, but in my experience, that is the easiest of these 4 to find time for. So step 1 is to make this list for yourself.
A note about this list…for me I put things like Yoga and Meditation into Health and Fitness and Continuous Learning includes things like Spanish and Guitar. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful to have a diverse set of interests and things you learn to help you grow in new interesting ways. So don’t be afraid to try something new, you just might like it 🙂
Next, it’s time to plan
There is only so much time in the week, so you’ll need to setup a plan when you’re going to partake in each of your items above. For me, this means effectively blocking out time on my calendar and rarely compromising on that. For example, many of my friends work regular 9-5 jobs and want to go surfing in the morning. Surfing to me is part of the Health and Fitness category, mental and physical.
So while my friends all want me to join them in the morning, and I would love that, this is the best time I have with my 11-month-old son. Almost every day we get up around 630 am, let momma sleep in, eat breakfast, and go for a 30 min walk. During that time I listen to podcasts which help with the learning. So by 8 am I’ve put in some effort for family, health and fitness, and continuous learning. Anytime you can double dip like that, do.
The toughest part about this step will be saying no to things. As mentioned in the above example, I say no to my friends and surfing so I can focus on the other things. When it comes to my fourth priority, career, it gets harder. Working for myself, and by myself, means lack of social interaction. Those that know me know this is painful as I’m an extreme extrovert that needs people around for energy. So for this, I’ve struggled a bit. I limit my coffee/lunch dates to 2 per week. If I let this go unchecked I would be at lunch and coffee 5 days a week and not get my work done leading to problems with income, so yeah, had to say no.
Trading money for time
As a solo-preneur, I’m learning that the majority of my decisions come down to spend money or spend time. The trade-off between these two things is priceless and it also translates into life. There is a super arrogant get-rich-quick type saying that actually expresses this idea well.
“Rich people trade money for time and poor people trade time for money, which one are you?”
This sums this up well. If you break this down with some simple math you’ll often find it makes a lot more sense to pay someone to take care of something for you rather than doing it yourself. And, while I obviously find some gratification in DIYing a project (eg. Building my Shedquarters)
Do the math
- Inventory the things you spend time on
- Calculate how much it would cost to offload each one
- Figure out how much per hour you make
- Decide if it’s cheaper for you to do it yourself or pay someone
Between my wife and I we bring in around $100 for our time. Each week, we would typically spend 10-15 hours cooking and cleaning our house. We looked around and found a nanny that we pay $20/hr to take care of all of that, plus watch our son while we work. In total for the week, we pay her $400 where as us having to do it ourselves would have cost upwards of $1500. That’s $1100 in savings!
That example I could see you argue that we’re losing out on time with our son by having her watch him, but I’ve found it to be the opposite. The time we get to spend with him now is much higher quality as we get to enjoy our time rather than just working on cleaning and cooking. So while you may think about us having a nanny to take of these things as a rich person luxury, for us, it is actually a big money saver.
Remember, it’s a question of what is more efficient for you, spend time or spend money.
Lastly, do retrospectives
In business, it’s common to do a retrospective after a project completes to see what went well and what you could have done better. In our lives, we rarely do this. My wife and I have found that a monthly check-in is a healthy thing about how we’re doing. Are we out of alignment with one of our priorities? Is that for a good reason and temporary or do we need to make an adjustment? All good questions to ask but simply sitting down with your significant other (4 legged ones included) and writing down how the month went and what you’d like to improve on can have a powerful impact.
There is no strict set of rules to follow but these are some ways I’ve found to find time for everything I want in life. If you give any of these methods a try I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me a note or post a comment below. Good luck!
- How I Plan My Week by John Sonmez (SimpleProgrammer.com)
- Productivity Hacks for Neurotic and Crazy People by Tim Ferris