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Up until now, we have only touched on expectations, but they are perhaps the most important part of your balancing plan. Expectations come into play in several ways.
First, they are YOUR expectations.
What is it that you expect to get from a more balanced life? More free time? A closer relationship with your spouse? The time to pursue an advanced degree?
Maybe, you want to learn to ride a horse? Any or all of these things are fine goals, but your expectation to achieve balance must take into consideration that some of these goals will take MORE time away from your family.
So, the first thing you have to do is to get it straight in your own mind. What is ‘balance’ for you?
Is it more time for yourself? More time for your family? Don’t make a promise to get more work/life balance and then squander that balance with poor planning.
What do you expect to achieve? How will this balance change your life?
Are you expectations realistic for the planned timeframe and actions you want to take or are you dreams too large?
Once you have your own expectations under control, you’ll need to look to your employer and your family and friends to be sure that you understand and can meet their expectations.
It is all well and good that you expect to regain some balance in your life but if your employer still thinks you should work eighty hours per week, you aren’t likely to get far.
Put it on paper. Then talk to the people most important to you and those whose support is crucial – like your boss – to find out what THEY expect. Then compare notes and figure out if everything is aligned.
If it isn’t, you’ll have to adjust the plan. Once you get the plan right, you can move forward more quickly and with more success.
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“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you” ~ Carl Sandburg ~
Now, let’s talk about Goals. Like any other important life decision, you have to have goals or you are shooting in the dark.
To set Goals for your work/life balance, you have to take your expectations and translate them into the ‘what’ of what you want to achieve and the ‘when’. Be as specific as possible.
For example, if you are going to look for a new, less demanding job, your goals might include the industry you want to work in, the type of job you want to get and how much money you want to make, as well as when you want to get the job.
Here are some examples to get you started:
“My goal is to get a job with one of the Top Ten banks in the U.S., as a Bank Manager, by May in the next 2 years”
“Reduce the number of hours I work by 10 hours per week in time for John’s 2018 Little League Season”
“Visit my mother every Sunday for at least three hours”
“Train 2-3 people on my staff to take over the bookkeeping process by January of next year”
“Schedule and keep a weekly date with Mary for dinner and a movie”
Remember, the best way to set goals is to word them simply but specifically!
That way you can measure your success without trying to guess whether you succeeded.
The next task at hand is to figure out HOW to achieve your goals.
Remember that your expectations and goals must be realistic or you will never get to where you want to be!
Now it is time to figure out just how realistic your expectations and goals are, because you have to establish a plan to achieve those goals!
Let’s take the first example and see what we can do with that one.
“My goal is to get a job with one of the Top Ten banks in the U.S., as a Bank Manager, by May of 2018”
To establish a workable plan for this goal you would need to consider the following questions.
What are the top 10 banks in the U.S.?
How do you find out what jobs are available at each bank?
Are you qualified for the Bank Manager jobs in these banks?
Will these job openings require you to move your family to another location?
Are there job placement agencies you can use to find these jobs and arrange for interviews?
Do you have an up-to-date resume?
Do you have the appropriate wardrobe for this job?
Do you have good references?
Do your family and/or spouse support this decision?
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Is it realistic to expect that you can research, find and get this job by May, in two years time perhaps?
You can probably think of more questions you’ll have to answer!
But, this list will give you some idea of the considerations involved in just one goal.
For every goal you set, you will have to think about how reasonable the goal is, how achievable it is and exactly how you plan to accomplish it in the time-frame you have set for yourself.
When it comes to the goals of your family and friends, the emotional attachment and desire to do the right thing may make it hard to think clearly and to accurately plan for how and when these things will happen.
Be honest with yourself and with each other and by all means include your support network in the plan.
Ask your family to come up with ideas about how you can accomplish these things. Brainstorm and leave the door open for crazy ideas.
You’d be surprised at what you might uncover in this way.
Then sit down and pick through the plan and decide which ideas will work and which must be discarded.
As you start to execute your plan, be sure you review it occasionally to ensure that you are still on target and decide if you have to change anything.
And, you may have to change some of your timetables and tasks to incorporate the unexpected changes in your life.
For example, you may plan to take a job that pays less and gives you more time at home to help care for an aging parent.
But, if that parent requires some sort of catastrophic care or expensive medical treatment, you may have to keep the higher paying job to earn the money you need.
If so, are there community support services and low-cost, high-quality caregivers that can come in an work a few hours every day so you can continue to work the longer hours at work to pay for the care?
If not, do you have family members or friends that can pitch in for a little while until you figure out what to do next?
Does the parent have a home that can be sold to help pay for the extra healthcare costs?
Remember, there is always more than one way to solve a problem. Don’t panic and don’t give up on your work/life balance goals.
Just find another way to accomplish them and be realistic about whether you can achieve them in the same time period.
Perhaps you need to extend your timetable a bit to accommodate the new developments in your life.
That doesn’t mean you won’t get there.
Just knowing you have a contingency plan will keep you afloat and moving forward.
Remember! PLAN is not just another four-letter word!
Abraham A L
4th May 2016
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Take control of your life - Part 5