As a tenured financial analyst, husband, father, and triathlete, I’ve learned some valuable lessons on how to find a successful work-life balance—especially during the holidays.
I have been married for seven years. My wife and I have four children. When we had our fourth child, all four of our kids were four years old and younger. Our household is very busy, and the kids can be demanding because of their ages. Couple that with my desire to excel and to continue to help the firm grow. I’m constantly trying to develop myself personally as an individual, as a husband, and as a father. I take care of myself physically by training for and competing in triathlons. Adding other stressors during the holidays may throw off any good work-life balance or strategic routines you have in place. How can you keep yourself balanced during the holidays?
1. Understand and utilize your willpower reservoir
We have only a certain amount of willpower each day. I think your phone is a really good analogy. After charging your phone through the night, it is at 100% battery life. Throughout the day, the battery life goes down depending on what you do with it. If you use it for only a few calls per day or to check your email, by the end of the day you may have 50% battery left. But if you’re at the gym and decide to watch something plus check emails and make calls, by the end of the day your battery life might be at 20%. Because the amount of willpower we have each day is limited, we are most efficient during the first few hours each morning.
Data shows that you have about four hours to be at your most efficient. After that, the law of diminishing returns takes effect. As the day goes on, you become less and less efficient. Understanding that, I try to structure my life by creating a daily springboard for work and life. I go through a morning routine, the last step of which is exercise. After I exercise, I get to work by a certain time so I have that four-hour time block of efficiency. For me, it’s important to maintain that routine, particularly during the holiday season. There are so many things pulling me in different directions, I need to ensure I’m getting the most out of those valuable four hours.
2. Be present
Wherever you are, especially during the busy holiday season, it is important to be present. For example, when I get to work, I try to set up my environment so I can be focused. I have very few things on my desk. Because I am not in a sales role, my phone is on silent, and I put it behind me out of sight. Even if it’s on silent and it’s on my desk, I have a natural tendency to look at it all the time. Keeping it silent and behind me allows me to be present and take work seriously, because work is serious. This setup allows me to really focus and hone in during the four hours of efficiency I have in the morning and into the rest of the day. I also schedule my calls for later in the day so I don’t get deterred from my focused tasks in the morning. This allows me to be very efficient, give better service, and be more present with the analyses I do earlier in the day. When I have calls in the afternoon, I can also be present there and can make any needed adjustments to the clients’ valuations.
Being present at work allows me to be efficient so when I return home for the evening, I’m with my family and don’t have to stress about work. I have time to decompress. I usually don’t bring my laptop home, so I can really enjoy being with my family. Being present is simple: when I’m at work, I’m with my work. When I’m at home, that’s where I need to be. It just makes sense.
3. Keep it simple
I don’t have any social media accounts other than LinkedIn, which I use as a resource. With other social media platforms, it’s easy for me to get sucked into the vacuum of feeling bad about myself because I may not measure up to the “perfect” world people often portray. I strive to control my circumstances and do not let other people control them for me. Some people are stronger and are not affected by it in this way, but I’m not; I recognize that in myself, so I’ve eliminated that from my life.
Another way I keep life simple is by laying out my workout clothes and packing my work clothes at night to set the motion for the next day. Then I don’t have to battle with myself about whether or not I’m going to be working out. I wake up in the morning, and it’s part of my routine. I don’t want to tap into my willpower in the morning to pick out my clothes. My willpower reservoir is low at night, and I can use what’s left to pick out my clothes. I’d rather devote my high level of willpower to my work and my family. By choosing my clothes, I’m not doing anything different! I’m just rearranging my day and trying to keep my life as simple as possible.
4. Be consistent, and the compound effect will help you
Especially during the holidays, it is hard to stick to a routine. During the holidays I still stick with my routine; however, the timing of it can get mixed up. For example, if my family and I want to stay up late to watch a Christmas movie, it can throw off my workout and work arrival timing.
Last Thanksgiving, I wasn’t consistently going to bed early and therefore wasn’t consistent with getting up early. The holiday threw off my entire routine. My entire routine starts with when I get to bed, and during Thanksgiving, I ignored that. During the holidays, it’s important to maintain consistency even though we’re really busy.
Utilize the power of the compound effect—being consistent time and time and time again. Don’t break the chain of routine. Years ago, Jerry Seinfeld talked about one of the ways he believes he became such a great comedian. He said he made sure to never break the chain. He wrote new jokes every single day and would put an x on the calendar. He never wanted to see that chain broken, so he followed that pattern for years.
I think we can do the same kind of thing, especially during the holiday season. Think about what you’re doing to create consistency, and make sure you are maintaining that.
5. Take time to reflect
I consume a lot of content during the year—books, podcasts, and online articles. I finished a book in early December and was about to start another one when I realized I needed to reflect on what I’ve learned throughout the year—eleven months of consumption and then one month of true decompression to really take in what I’ve learned, figure out how I can apply it to my personal, business, physical life, etc. I also feel it’s important to take time to reflect on how I’ve been as a husband and father, thinking about when I was and wasn’t present at work and at home and why.
Are there things I’ve done that have affected my work-life balance? Am I developing into the type of individual who can accomplish the goals I set throughout the year? Because, according to Atomic Habits, it’s not about accomplishing goals; it’s about developing ourselves into the type of individual who performs the habits needed to accomplish these set goals.
At the beginning of every year, my wife and I sit down to set goals. We use the eight forms of capital framework that we first learned about from Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart’s book, “Prosper.” They discuss how to leverage this framework to create a resilient and prosperous life. We keep goal-setting simple; we‘ve got our eight family forms of capital, and I have my personal eight forms of capital. I look at them daily throughout the year, as I have them printed off next to my mirror. During the year, I check in to ensure I’m developing into the person I want to become to accomplish our goals. For example, if I want x amount of dollars in passive income cash flow, I need to be disciplined, I need to study in the morning, and I need to network with specific people. And as I strive to become the kind of person who’d do that, I can accomplish that goal to earn passive income.
Adopting every single tip from this list may not work for you. But applying a few of these to your life may help you find a more effective work-life balance, especially during the busy holiday season.
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