Career Planning 101: The personal balance sheet and achieving work-life balance
We start our careers with excitement, with great dreams, a bit of worry, and often, debt. We work very hard at our first jobs, earning early promotions and higher-than-normal pay increases–and release from debt.
This mindset is usually the right one upon graduation, but the pattern it sets isn’t healthy. After 10-20+ years in the industry, your work ethic has given you success, but it has also crowded out many non-work priorities.
You may be told by your friends and family (and maybe your boss) that you need balance. Too bad that balance isn’t taught in school, nor in the workplace. Thankfully, achieving balance is something that is easily learned, using a framework called the Personal Balance Sheet, described in Leaving the Mother Ship.
The Personal Balance Sheet divides your effort into seven different areas. As you review them below, think about how you currently divide your time. To achieve balance, you merely have to decide how differently the time should be divided. That’s it.
Community: Are you active with volunteer organizations? Do you know your neighbours? Are you satisfied with the friendships that you have outside the workplace?
Family: Are your relationships getting stronger, or weaker? Do you feel guilty about the amount of time that you give to your spouse, children, and older relatives?
Intellectual: Are you able to do simple math in your head, or do you routinely reach for a calculator or spreadsheet? How many challenging non-fiction books do you read each year?
Physical: Are you happy with your weight and appearance? Do you think that you could be in better shape?
Spiritual: Do you feel guilty about how much time you spend in this area? Do you feel comfortable that you can answer your children’s questions about spirituality?
Career: If you had to do it all over again, would you have made different choices? Do you feel that you have control over your career?
Financial: Do money problems cause you undue stress? Are you satisfied that you will reach your financial goals in the foreseeable future?
Each of these Personal Balance Sheet dimensions fades in and out of importance, depending on your stage of life. For example, when you first graduate, Career and Financial are usually the priorities. Later, Family and Community might become more important. Some of the dimensions may never be important to you. Your definition of “balance” is very personal, and is uniquely your own!
Once you’ve decided what your balance should be, the challenge is to actually make it happen. One thing is certain: without a change in your schedule or priorities, you will never achieve this balance. To get started, consider the following suggestions:
1) Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your balance won’t be either. Keep your expectations (and your promises to others) in check.
2) Take one step at a time. Choose one small thing to add (or subtract) along each of the Personal Balance Sheet dimensions that you wish to change. For example, commit to going for a short jog twice weekly; a daily two-hour marathon is unrealistic. Adding up the small wins will encourage you to take bigger steps later on.
3) Don’t get discouraged. There are a million ways to justify why something cannot be done. Instead, challenge yourself to figure out how to make it happen.
4) Rely on the support of those around you. Let your friends and family know your goals, and ask to be reminded about them.
We start our careers with great dreams and excitement; there is no reason why we shouldn’t feel this way throughout our working lives. Achieving a right-for-you life balance is what makes this happen.
Randall Craig is a Toronto-based management consultant and author of Leaving the Mother Ship, a practical guide about career planning and work-life balance. More information is available at www.LeavingTheMotherShip.com.