Taking Control of Your Life By Finding Balance
April 13, 2009
How do you know when you’ve saved enough money and can afford to spend a little? How do you know when you’ve worked too hard and need to spend some time involved in life outside of work?
If you can’t find answers to these questions you might feel as though you’ve lost control of your life and how you’re spending all your time. Jim Wang (Bargaineering) and JD Roth (Get Rich Slowly) discussed this topic last week on their show, the Personal Finance Hour, and brought up some good points on how you can help find balance in your life.
Dreaming Big but Measuring Small
One of the reasons that I tend to work too hard or spend so miserly is that I’m pretty focused on my goals. I want to save as much money as possible so that our family has enough for our needs now and decades into the future. I also want to excel at the work I do so my skillsets can become more valuable, ensuring job security and higher income.
The problem with these goals in terms of finding balance is that they’re too general. Without specifics, it’s hard to say when I’ve achieved them or to know what progress I’ve made towards the goal in a given amount of time. With general goals, I know if I just keeping working at it I’ll eventually get there. Of course the problem I run into is, how do I know when can I take a break from working and saving?
One of Jim’s suggestions was to set milestones so you don’t feel like you have to accomplish your savings goal all at once. For example let’s say I had decided to save $500 a month in an emergency fund, and one night I had to decide between working a few hours and playing with our son. If I could look at savings for the month and see we were almost there or making good progress it would be easier for me to close down the computer and have some dad/son time. Without a specific goal and tracking of that goal I would probably feel the pressure to keep working to earn as much as possible that night.
My favorite suggestion from JD was to set boundaries for yourself. In his case, he’s been working from home and his work has been spilling over into his time with his wife. He’s setting a boundary between work and family by renting office space close to home. When he walks the short distance from office to home, he’ll leave his work behind and switch his brain into family mode.
Of course not everyone can afford to rent a separate office but even having a separate office in your house can make a big difference; this is the approach that I take. Of course my wife thinks I spend too much time in my study but when I’m out of my office it’s easier to put work behind me and free up my brain for family time.
Spending Time Wisely
I think another key to finding balance is spending your time wisely. If you can be efficient at working or saving then you can accomplish more in less time, leaving more time to do other things; such as working out, spending time with your friends or family, etc.
Of course there is no easy solution to spending your time wisely. I think putting systems in place to help you make decisions and get your work done quickly can make a big difference. Prioritizing what you have to do can ensure you’re getting the most bang for your working buck. Lastly, trial and error can help you find better formulas. I really liked a tidbit I recently read from Perry Marshall that said something to the effect of, if you can learn from your mistakes, you can fail your way to success.
With a new baby set to arrive any day now, I’m going to be struggling with finding balance over the next few weeks. When I hit a rough spot, I’ll have to refer back to these suggestions and get focused. What methods do you use to find balance in your life?
All posts by Ben Edwards