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How do you (try to) achieve work-life balance?

samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

Disclaimer: I think everyone balances work and life differently. I think you've got to find the balance that makes you happy, then make it happen. But if you're overwhelmed and miserable, you definitely haven't achieved any kind of balance.

For those of you who have achieved some semblance of work-life balance (or have figured it all out), how do you make it work? What are your best tips for keeping your workload manageable so you can still have a life outside of work?


  • My decision to go solo was largely in pursuit of work-life balance. Though the journey has encountered many challenges, there are three tips I have gathered that work well for me.

    First, make Family a priority. Spend time on your family relationships. Take some time away from your work and see if you can help your family members with their day to day projects.

    Second, cut life expenses. Every time my wife and I figure out how to cut our expenses it opens up more time for us to live. Moreover, cutting our expenses reduces the amount of income I have to work to meet our expenses.

    Now, when I say cut expenses, I mean it. My Contracts Professor warned us about the golden handcuffs. Oxford white shirts are from thrift stores, we don’t eat out, no cable, no Netflix, our cell phones are prepaid and several years old. You can work for things or you can explore the journey of life.

    Third, wake up early and quit work early. This last tip works for me, but may not be for everyone. Blame my drill instructors at Parris Island, but I am an early riser. My most productive hours are in the morning. I generally go home for lunch, and I leave my office around 4pm, so I can spend the rest of the day with family.

    When I have a lot of work, I don’t stay late, I wake up earlier. For major deadlines, I sometimes wake up at 4 am. This is only for rare events, and I generally plan my schedule to avoid overtime. But when I do have to wake up early, I have already been up for 5 hours when everyone else is getting into their office at 9 am.

    Anyway, those are my tips. Some days are more balanced than others and I agree with Sam’s Disclaimer at the top.

  • paulspitzpaulspitz Cincinnati, OH ✭✭

    Pick an area of the law that gives you control over your schedule. If you are a litigator, you will often be at the mercy of your docket and court scheduling. I do corporate law for smaller businesses, so it's really rare that I have deadlines imposed on me.

    Also, stop reading and responding to email after a certain time of day. This is hard for me, because I'm in the eastern time zone and I have clients all over the country. I routinely get email from my west coast clients after 8 pm. I just ignore them until the next day.

    Don't have your cellphone be your primary work phone. If you do, client calls will follow you everywhere you go, all day and night.

  • I forgot to mention one other issue that is key to work life balance: your commute.

    Commutes are horrible for balance. Eliminate your commute if possible. Move closer to your work, or move your work closer to home.

    Having several jobs with a commute of an hour or more, I have done the math. One Hour each way is Ten Hours a week is Forty Hours a Month! Forget that.

    Opportunities for work-life balance are substantially increased by eliminating your commute and opening up a whole work-week of hours every month.

  • paulspitzpaulspitz Cincinnati, OH ✭✭

    Although, if you take public transportation, you can use that commute time to read a newspaper, magazine, or book.

  • My techniques for balance:

    I wake up with no alarm between 6:30 and 8, depending; ride my bike to the gym three days a week and back about an hour and half later. Regardless of gym day or not, I make my coffee and catch up emails while I wake up; then breakfast, usually with my wife, and then I read a chapter or two in whatever book I'm reading for fun. Then to work. In winter I generally walk the 1.25 miles, in Spring-Fall I ride my bike.

    I try to make no appointments before 1100 and, as much as possible, avoid morning hearings and court events. I generally roll in by 10:30, sometimes as late as noon if I've had a conference call or something.

    As much as possible in the winter, I invite my wife to walk in with me so we have a nice time to catch up on things just the two of us. If she has an evening thing that gets her out of the house, I invite her to come have an inexpensive dinner with me whenever possible at a healthy pita place near my office. I typically work until 7 or 8 in the evening (I have left as late as 1 a.m. when forced by deadlines).

    I try not to work weekends at all unless my wife is at work or out of town. She works Sundays and I don't always go -- however, if she is in the pulpit giving a sermon, I always attend, and then go to brunch with the throng that likes to have more of her time.

    Saving Money = Good Work/Life Balance

    We have a TV for watching DVDs, but no cable TV. That improves life at home dramatically, and saves a ton of money from what I hear.

    I still have the iPhone4 I started my practice with, I switched to 10c/min plan as soon as the contract expired, and I hardly use it (about $100/yr). I use my office phone and never give out my cellphone number, and never call clients from my cell or my home. I return calls during noon hour or after five. I try not to answer calls otherwise; often I will email those who call me so that I don't get trapped on a long phone-call. I refuse all texts and tell clients I don't know how to text them, and I'm old enough that they find this plausible. So I pretty much can leave work at work entirely.

    My wife has a "dumb" phone that's just a phone, $10/month minimum minutes.

    We have just one 14 year old car that we bought 1 year used for cash; we avg. 7500 miles a year and maintain it carefully so that our spending is predictable -- I hope to have it at least another 10 years when I might retire at 65.

  • I don't pursue balance, which seems unachievable for me given the number of things I must manage. We have 3 young teen kids, two careers (mine with the full range of duties of a solo), obligations of faith and civic life, family, and friends, and one hobby--the biggest garden in the neighborhood. Instead of balance, I look for integration. I evaluate demands on my time based on how they fit what my husband and I value. The goal for me is a life that reflects the integration of what I believe and what I do. I know, boring and way too earnest when stated, but in practice it creates a stimulating work-in-progress frame of mind.

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