I don’t at all believe in the two-principal rule: You can be great at business, family, or health, but only two things at the same time (swap in whatever three big things are most important to you). The trifecta, but without the tri. It begs the question: Can you have it all as a parent and entrepreneur?
I guess. But it’s really about what you want and how you want to feel?
There is likely a lot of pressure from investors and key stakeholders to grow your company 10x, or demand from customers for better services or products, or pressure from your team for a better culture, more benefits and increase vacation time. Then there is homelife, likely with a partner, kids, a pet, and a lawn that needs mowing that all require your attention too. Don’t forget your health. Are you hitting the gym? Probably not likely. Where is the time anyway? It’s all a delicate balance.
For Your Business, All You Really Need is 40 hours/week
Basecamp co-founder and CTO David Heinemeier Hansson believes that you can run a successful company on 40 hours per week. He explains that “40 hours of work every week is a king’s keep. I contend that almost anything can be accomplished with such a glorious budget. But not if you squander it on meetings, multitasking, or poorly defined problems. There’s no limit to the amount of time that can be wasted like that.” [Here is a lovely excerpt from his book ReWork.]
There is the paramount nugget of wisdom: There’s no limit to the amount of time that can be wasted.
If given an extra 10-minutes most people will likely fill it with something not aligned with their life’s goals. The reason often falls on the shoulders of the not-enough giant. You know that giant? The one that keeps us busy because it looks good and makes us feel as though we are productive when we are not. We feel pressured continuously to be operating, but it’s the busyness that is eating up our time, mental space and freedom. Busy to have everything figured out, our sh*t sorted out, and our house so spic and span that you could eat off the toilet seat!
“Gluttonous curiosity is the siren song that seeks to loop you into all manners of discussions, decisions, and events that you’re likely not a necessary or even important component.” - David Heinemeier Hansson
Schedule Extracurriculars Only on Weekends
I once read a blog post about a family the never signed their kids up for extracurricular activities that took place during the week. Swim class, dance class, and even hockey were dedicated to the weekends only. Since weekdays are already so busy with work, school, and homework it didn't make sense for them to disrupt their weekday routine of family dinners, relaxation and much needed 1-1 time. I loved it so much that we adopted that philosophy ourselves. Surely it restricted what we could sign my kids up for (hockey seems to be a 24/7 thing up here in Canada), but there were still many options. Plus, at 4 & 5 years old, my kids still need a strict routine. Throwing grenades into their weekday only leads to sleep deprivation, poor food choices, and constant whining.
What is Balance Anyway?
Having it all is a possibility but only if you are incredibly smart with your time. This means delegating, outsourcing, scheduling, and otherwise simplifying your life.
Dedication (to exercise and diet)
Outsourcing menial tasks (laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping ⤕ you can get your groceries delivered.)
Commitment (to hanging out with your friends often and visiting with family)
Alone time and moments to pause
Time in nature
Setting clear boundaries (at work and home0
Below is my interpretation of a balanced life’s hierarchy of needs.
A Balanced Life’s Hierarchy of Needs
In a jar, this looks like:
A balanced life is self-defined. Let’s not forget that. What works for me may not be the best solution for you and your family. But there is one thing that should never get compromised, and that is your health. Regardless of what is going on in your business or your personal life, the foundation for a good life -- a balanced life -- is physical and mental health. If there ever comes a time when you see yourself putting every other rock ahead of your own, stop! That sh*t can kill you (worst case), but it will eventually compromise everything else around you.
An unhealthy body and mind make poor decisions and those poor decisions compound. Eventually, you have too big of a monster to tackle that you either give up, or it starts to crush everything around you. You get sick, your relationships turn to crap, people stop calling, your team starts quitting, your kids feel alienated, and all you want to do is run away. It’s so interesting how being so selfless can also be the most selfish thing you do.
“Being selfless can be the most selfish thing you do.”
So if you’re striving for more ‘balance’ in your life, but don’t know where to start: start with YOU. Get yourself to such a high mental and physical state that you inspire others. Now that is true balance.