The other day, a good friend said something that caused a Moment of Clarity for me. We were discussing the juxtaposition between prioritizing things we need to get done and balancing our time between personal and professional pursuits. His comment was, “It’s funny, we always seem to make it to the airport on time for our flight, but we regularly let our workday drift long into our family time.”
When other people set deadlines for us, we regularly meet them. However, those we set for ourselves are regularly ignored. Stated a little differently, we perceive the flight as a hard-stop and the end of the day as a soft-stop. The reality is that they are both soft-stops because we can always reschedule the trip.
An Updated View of Wealth & Balance
Much has been made about work/life balance over the last several years. Translated directly, work/life balance means people want to work less and spend more time doing other things. The problem with this notion is that work is somehow separated from life. Making it a discussion about how many hours we spend working and how many hours we spend living is a too simplistic, and one in which working can never be a positive experience.
A better analysis is to consider the different types of wealth we can enjoy in life. For example, we can enjoy a wealth of:
- Money. Earning a comfortable, even luxurious, living is not wrong. Wanting or having the “good life” is not a problem; it’s how we pursue that goal that becomes the problem.
- Time. Time is our most valuable non-renewable asset. It’s limited and its expiration date is not clearly marked. Making the best use of time is the underpinning of my work, but I regularly encounter people who waste vast quantities of this precious resource at work and at home.
- [pullquote position=”right”]Experience. Memories are the currency of life. As we go through life and especially at the end of our days, we review the memories from the experiences we’ve had to measure how successful we’ve been.[/pullquote]
- Choice. Having choices gives us the opportunity to maximize our time and experience. The more options we have, the more flexible and responsive we can be to the ever-changing world in which we live.
By expanding the metrics we use to determine how we’re doing in life, we’ve created more and different motivators for the decisions we make.
The New Balancing Act
With the four factors of wealth in the mix, the next step is to build bridges between them to strengthen each and the common relationship they share. Consider whether these bridges work for you:
- Money to Time. We choose to let third-party deadlines (airline flights) be a hard-stop. Choose to make the end of your day a hard-stop. Leave the office and spend time doing other things. (Note, if commit to this, you’ll get more done during the day at work too!)
- Time to Experience. Tim Ferris wrote about mini-retirements in his bestselling book The 4-Hour Work Week. Why not modify that idea slightly and plan mini-events for you and your office mates, your friends, and/or your family? [pullquote]Organize afternoon-long events or daylong events that create memories for everyone involved.[/pullquote] Example: take everyone bowling. Most of us rarely engage in this activity, yet most of us remember those excursions fondly.
- Experience to Choice. While planning new experiences, seek some that broaden your understanding of the world around us. A broader, better-educated mind sees more choices available to it. Bowling is a terrific example of having fun together, while volunteering at the local food bank will broaden the mind and deliver a positive experience too. (Note: one of these examples is not intended to be better than the other.)
Enjoying a Wealthy Life
By revisiting how we define success, we are able to find a new kind of balance between the necessities of earning a living and making the most of the time we have here. If success is how we feel, then feeling wealthy is an admirable goal indeed.