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Work life balance is about planning your priorities

I love the Billabong marketing line, “Life’s better in board shorts.”

Financial planning should not be just about the numbers. A good financial plan is an enabler to a life plan, and good financial planners help their clients achieve a fulfilling balance in their lives.

A healthy work life balance doesn't just happen, it's something you have to plan. Work life balance is actually a misnomer. Work for most of us is part of life and not a separate item. Life balance is a more accurate description of how we use our time and more specifically, spending too much time at work.

So what is life balance, and how does it relate to work?

A good life balance is about setting priorities. Some people love work, it energises them, it adds meaning to their life. Others won't work, have no work ethic and still expect financial rewards.

I have spent a lot of time giving financial and personal advice to high net worth individuals and families, and I’ve seen a lot of successful career people who work hard for their families. But in many cases, their families never see them. It becomes a vicious cycle. Overworking often becomes detrimental to their physical health, mental health, relationships and ultimately the business.

This is not a good life balance. It's usually a personal choice but influenced by other factors, such as personal values, peer group pressure, expectations, finances, ego, fear, greed. Another major factor is guilt. Guilt seems to be a big issue for modern executives, both men and women, to deal with. They often feel they should be at work, demonstrating corporate commitment and providing for the family, rather than spending time on their own well-being. They leave themselves last, and they don't include ‘self time’ in their day. Adding to the problem, they don’t include enough ‘family time’.

I'm in the camp where my work has to be meaningful, but it is only part of my life. Each of us has only 168 hours in the week, and we need to decide where we want to spend that time. One way to look at it is to take out work and sleep and see what’s left. I prefer to think the other way round and create an ideal week.

I like to use Stephen Covey’s concept of ‘Big Rocks’, placing the major priorities in your life or week first. He calls it ‘first things first’, but it’s not as simple as it sounds. Often, we leave the major priorities to any leftover time.

My Big Rocks consist of:

  • Exercise and surfing time. Leave this until last and it rarely happens. Do it first thing and feel energised for the day. You will work better and be a happier person and show up positive for the family. It's very hard to do at the end of the day, as you’re mentally tired, the kids expect your time and you start on homework or dinner. There’s less chance at the end of the day.

  • Kid’s time. Try to plan the time, since many working executives spend only 10 minutes per week one on one with their children. My kids are now 18, 16, 14, and 12 and I can't believe how fast the time has gone, and I’m always glad I made time with them.

  • Spouse or partner time. A Friday lunch time date to catch up on the week and life is wonderful, and for those who say they don’t have the time, just schedule it and make it happen.

  • Work time. In order to make this time as efficient as possible, here are a few tips:

    • cut out all the time wasters or time takers
    • be vigilant with your diary time
    • do a To Do list for the next day each afternoon or evening before you leave work
    • include a Not To Do list
    • turn off emails at home - that’s time for one of your other Big Rocks
    • delegate where possible and don't be a control freak: it steals your time.

For our business owner clients, we challenge them to work toward a 4 day 40 hour week programme. It's an initial challenge to get people to visualise this when they are always so busy, and feel guilty if they are not working. It needs a change in thought process.

I have Fridays off, and it's an important day for me and for the business. It's my thinking day, where I revitalise and get some headspace back. I have an opportunity to think clearly about future activities, plan events and take a back seat view of how life's traveling.

An important part of financial planning for everyone is how much is enough? If you have worked this out and your plans are on track, this may allow you to spend a little less time at work, and rebalance your time. You should have life goals as well as financial goals, but it requires making choices and exercising a little discipline.

Here as some well-known quotations that resonate with me with regard to life balance that I think about when making choices about the usage of my time.

You can't take it with you

Kids don't want your dimes - they want your time

On your tombstone it won't read, ‘Great guy, spent a lot of time at the office’

No point having wealth without health

Give more than you take.

It doesn't always work out 100% for me on the life balance every week but it’s a habit worth fostering, a choice based on the Big Rocks. Sit down with your partner and work out your ideal week. At first, you might feel guilty about not working so hard, but you'll get over it.


Scott Fitzpatrick founded Fitzpatricks Private Wealth in 1987 and is now a Non Executive Director of the Fitzpatricks Group. 



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