$10,000 to the person who can answer the question and provide some very good reasons to support it. Just kidding J In all seriousness however, this is a common dilemma many aspiring entrepreneurs face.
In a previous post discussing why most people feel stuck at their corporate jobs, I talked about how many people with entrepreneurial aspirations end up doing nothing because of the trade-off between spending their spare time on their business rather than spending it with their family and friends.
In today’s warp speed world where people are time strapped, much is left desired in the quality of life they would ideally like to live. Some want to get in shape, some want to stay in shape, while others want to get involved with community service or coach a local high school baseball team. Similarly, there are countless other aspirations like starting a business for example that remain just that – aspirations.
So what is the answer to the initial question? Like many things in life, the answer depends on your personal situation. It all really comes down to time management and a balancing act between your priorities. The underlying problem however is that many aspiring entrepreneurs tend to do too much at once, often getting confused and distracted in the process. As a result, their job performance suffers, their side business suffers and their relationships also suffer.
The premise leading up to the underlying root cause is often times how entrepreneurs prioritize their priorities. Often times, the entrepreneur is not clear on what their true priorities are. If you ask time management experts, they will tell you to forget prioritizing your list, and instead focus on getting your true priorities on the list to begin with.
That statement cannot be any “truer”. Think about your own situation, do you have all your true priorities on your list? Clarity is critical if we are to make any progress pursuing our passion and interest while balancing between them.
Before delving in further, let’s define what priorities are. Since the subject of this post is balancing life priorities, I am using the word in the context of things that are most important to us in life that take most of our time and attention. The following are some examples of what these may be:
The single biggest tip I have to better balance your priorities is to understand them first. Entrepreneurs can easily regain focus through more clarity. Clarity comes from a conversation with yourself wherein you evaluate where you get the most pleasure, freedom, satisfaction or any kind of positive sensation you crave from.
List out everything that comes to mind and start assigning numerical values to each. The numerical values represent the time you have left over after you work, eat, sleep and answer the calls of nature. Include in this pot your weekends. Start dividing up your spare hours and assign them to each priority. When you start to see this on paper, you enable yourself to refine your list even further by taking hours away from lower priorities and reassigning them to higher ones. In general, you don’t want a list of 10, rather a list of 3-5 is more manageable.
I’ve heard that we spend a third of our life sleeping, which means we spend the majority of our awakened lives working (often for “The Man”). Our jobs are the single most time consuming tasks that keep us away from some of our interests and passions.
After performing the ranking exercise, if you are still in a situation where you are left with priorities but not enough time, perhaps you may want to cut back on the hours you work or quit your job all together. Yes that is a bold statement, and I usually do not recommend quitting your job until you have another steady source of income. However, if you absolutely cannot compromise your priority list, that tells me that you are making some serious sacrifices by keeping your job which may mean you are not happy to begin with, which leads to health and other problems in life.
The fact is that most people do not realize how much money they really would be leaving on the table when they stop working. It’s not necessarily a dollar for dollar equation, meaning, if you quit a job that paid you $100,000 per year, you won’t necessarily be losing all $100,000 (taxes alone will take almost half of that away). I have written about this in detail and you can read how much it really costs to be employed here.
If you live a financially responsible lifestyle to begin with, quitting your job will not impact you as hard as it would someone who lives a lavish life. Specifically, the basic equation to creating wealth over time is to grow the gap between your income and expenses as much as you can. Not only does this ensure you have a good rainy day fund (savings), but also ensures that your lifestyle is relatively modest and you can support your family on a relatively low budget/income.
Basically, the question I am trying to address here is: Can you survive on your savings alone for some time while you quit your job and pursue a side business (I am assuming this is one of your higher priorities). After all, many aspiring entrepreneurs start a business, especially a passive and residual one, to create more freedom and flexibility in life that will allow them to pursue other important priorities.
Another option is to pursue a job that is less demanding on your time, perhaps closer to home where you can save on commuting time and therefore create more spare time for your priorities. A less demanding job will surely come with a lower compensation package, but these are the kinds of decisions you have to make when you start pursuing priorities that are most important to you.
Finally, let’s say you did your priority ranking exercise and came to the conclusion that you can juggle your career and your priorities, which involve starting a business on the side. This is a great situation to be in and you should definitely take advantage of it. Just keep in mind that you may have to take your time progressing in your business and that success will not come overnight.
There will be some days when you simply have to table your business to the side because of other conflicting priorities such as a family commitment. It all comes back to clarity once again. As long as you clearly understand where your priorities rank, you will be able to shift focus from one to another to maintain the balance you need in your life. No matter which direction you go, do not forget to get your Spouse’s buy-in first or you will be hot water.
Having said all of the above, your priorities will obviously depend highly on your personal situation. For example, if you are married with kids, your priority list will include spending time with your family. If you are single and live with your parents, you may have a couple less priorities and instead value your time hanging out with friends a lot more.
Everyone has a different approach to measure how well they are juggling life. My advice has always been to use ways that you are most comfortable with. Personally, I like to evaluate where I stand personally, professionally, spirituality and financially using what I call my 4F balanced score card.
The four Fs represent Faith (spirituality), Fortune (my career, side gigs and investments), Fitness (health, exercise and diet) and Family (this includes friends and social life). I tend to revisit this every now and then, and it helps me shift my time, effort and resources into the priority areas that need more focus.
The key for me however was to identify what is important to begin with, narrow it down to the 4 main categories and get it on the score card. Once I had it there, managing and juggling from one to another became second nature over time. It requires re shifting focus every now and then, and is a good way to achieve balance between all. Trust me, when something is truly a priority, you will immediately know (or feel) when you are not investing enough time on it.
All said and done, the key is to be clear on what your priorities are and spend your spare time on those. The tip above can help you balance priorities better, but understand that starting a side business is not for everyone. Do not blame your situation or circumstances in life as an excuse. Rather, use them to create clarity and manage your priorities accordingly.
What are your thoughts, side business or family? How, why or why not?
Carving out time for any activity beyond work and the needs of your family is a monstrously difficult task. That said, the kid is in bed by 9:30 and that usually gives me two hours a night to work on my own business on the side. Also, giving up some vacation time and sneaking in for holiday mornings also gives a little boost. Plus, I like it that Junior sees me working sometimes, an important lesson to learn in life.
Excellent point – training starts early and lays a solid foundation for the future. A lot of who we are and what we do (and our work ethic) come from our exposure to our family while growing up. By trading off leisure time today, you are building the foundation for a brighter future which will bring back a lot more leisure in return. Agreed it is “monstrously difficult”, but then again, what is truly worthwhile that is not?