27 September 2023

Work, rest and play: How to balance work and life and keep it spinning

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Andrew Ferebee* says there’s no world where it makes sense to spend eight hours a day sleeping, eight hours working, and eight hours with your family.

Photo: Christophe Hautier

What can you do to create a better work–life balance?

You don’t …

At least not if you want to have a truly successful career and a budding family life.

Let me explain.

When people talk about work/life balance they are suggesting that somehow work, hobbies, family life, and social life are all weighted and created equal.

But they aren’t.

There’s no world where it makes sense to spend eight hours of your day sleeping, eight hours on work, and another eight with your family.

You have other responsibilities too.

You have your physical health, need for personal time, self education, travel, commuting, and a myriad other tasks that fill your day.

There are simply too many other things that need to be done to “balance” work and family.

So, what should you do instead?

Simple …

Cycle them.

Let me explain …

  1. Life as a spinning plate

Have you ever seen someone at a circus (or more likely on YouTube) spinning a plate?

If so, then you probably noticed that the hardest part of spinning a plate isn’t balancing it.

It’s getting it spinning fast enough that it’s easy to balance.

Your life is the same way.

When it comes to your work and family life, getting the plate spinning is the hardest part.

Once your career has taken off and you have systems in place and people to help you succeed, it’s not that difficult to keep it going.

Once you have cultivated deep intimacy with your partner or a close bond with your children, it’s easier to maintain that even during times of higher work responsibilities.

So, your job is to pick the one area of your life that needs the most improvement and focus on that until it’s “spinning”.

For example, if you have a great relationship with your partner and kids but are only making $50,000 a year and struggling financially, then sit down with your family and explain that you’re going to take the next six months to build a side hustle that will give you and your family more freedom and options.

Then, spend those six months building a $3,000/month side hustle and then let it run itself while you refocus on family.

Or maybe you’re already making six or multiple six-figures but you haven’t spent any time with your children and can’t remember the last time you went on a date night.

If this is the case, then take your foot off the pedal at work for a little bit and focus all of your attention on rekindling that spark with your partner and that connection with your kids.

Focus on the area that needs the most work.

Bring it up to speed, then refocus, and shift gears.

  1. Focus on the ‘big rocks’

While the spinning plate analogy is helpful for you to understand why the traditional idea of work/life balance doesn’t work, equally as important is understanding that no matter what you’re focusing on, you can’t put all of your attention into one area of life without serious repercussions.

So no matter which plate you’re trying to spin you need to make sure that you always take care of the big rocks each week.

Specifically, no matter what your number-one priority is right now you should:

  • Commit to one weekly date night with your partner no matter what.
  • Spend the first three hours of your workday focused on deep work every day.
  • Exercise for at least three hours a week.
  • Spend at least 60 minutes of quality time with your kids every day.

By making sure that you have your big rocks taken care of each week, you’ll ensure that no one area starts to regress while you attempt to make progress in another.

Every area of your life should be moving forward at all times.

Some areas will move faster than others, but they should all be moving.

  1. Create clear separation between work and family time

One of the biggest reasons that people struggle to balance work and family life is that they have no boundaries between them.

They talk to their partner while they’re at the office.

They check work email while playing with their kids.

They plan family holidays while trying to write a memo for work.

They take calls from clients while they’re out to dinner with their spouse.

If you want to create more balance in your life, start by setting better boundaries between your work and family life.

Leave your computer at the office and turn your phone off when you leave.

Tell your family that you can’t be interrupted while working.

Set clear delineations between work time and family time and both of them will improve.

* Andrew Ferebee is founder of Knowledge For Men.

This article first appeared at www.quora.com.

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