I recently came across a statistic from Fast Company magazine that really surprised me. According to the American Sociological review, over 70% of employees in the United States struggle with finding a balance of work and play.
70%!?!! Does this number sound a bit high to you?
When I look at my life, I find myself having quite a bit of free time on my hands outside of work so it’s a little difficult for me to relate to this number.
In fact, many of my readers often ask me how I manage to juggle working full time as a hardware engineering director, running an ecommerce store, a blog, a podcast and an online course while caring for 2 kids.
Anyway if you are curious, here’s what my typical week looks like.
Monday through Thursday I work at my full time job from 9-5pm – Earlier this year, I went down to 4 days a week at my engineering job in a conscious effort to cut back. Because my kids require so much work and energy, my wife and I were having problems finding the time to have 1 on 1 dates. So by going down to working 4 days a week, we now have 1 free day to spend together as a couple.
Sunday nights, I write a blog post for MyWifeQuitHerJob.com – Writing used to take me forever and I still dislike doing it. But I’ve gotten the process down to the point where it takes me about 2 hours to write a 1000 word post.
Wednesday night, I hold a live webinar for the students in my online store course – I actually look forward to these nights because it’s the best way for me to get to know the students in my class.
Friday morning, I work for about 2-3 hours on making forward progress – Basically, Friday is devoted to working on whatever task is necessary to grow my businesses. Afternoons are usually spent with my wife.
During random times of the week, I interview various entrepreneurs for my podcast – My podcast is actually the most stressful part of my business because I have to accommodate my guests’ crazy schedules. Sometimes, I have to drive all the way back home from work for a 1 hour interview in the middle of the day and drive back. But overall, the benefits are totally worth it.
Finally, I probably spend 3-5 hours every week answering emails and doing miscellaneous tasks.
All told, I spend roughly 10-13 hours a week on my businesses and 32 hours per week at my day job.
Also, I try to devote all weekends for the family and usually have Thursday and Friday nights completely off.
Now one could argue that I’m blessed to have such an incredibly awesome and flexible day job in order to facilitate this lifestyle. And it’s true!
I’m definitely lucky but a lot of my decisions over the years have been made to specifically craft the current lifestyle that I live.
And today, my day job represents a small fraction of my household income so I could leave at any time.
Here are some tips if you want to do the same.
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Decide On Your Priorities
Most of the people I know who work themselves to the bone and complain about work/life balance often don’t have their priorities straight.
From the very beginning, my primary objective for both my day job and my various businesses was to free up additional time. And it starts with choosing the right day job.
Should you take the job that pays 50% more but requires you to work 80 hours a week? Or do you take the lesser paying job that allows you to work only 40 hours. Can you cut costs and get by on a lower salary? How much is free time worth to you?
Now admittedly, not everyone has the luxury of choosing a comfortable day job, but I’ve found that most people tend to chase the money rather than the lifestyle. And it’s a slippery slope.
Once you start making more, you start craving more and more money. Every single raise that you get is quickly forgotten and you start seeking more responsibility and higher pay! Pretty soon, you are working your butt off.
The one key for me to get over this hump was realizing that climbing the corporate ladder at my day job was not going to lead to freedom.
With your own business, you can easily make more money working less hours by leveraging computers and technology to do the heavy lifting for you.
Once I realized this fact, I start making very deliberate decisions to focus my time on my own income generating opportunities.
Periodically Re-evaluate Your Goals
Once you have your priorities straight, it’s important to revisit them from time to time.
Several years back, there was a time when my wife and I got so caught up in trying to grow our businesses quickly, that we started neglecting other more important areas of our lives.
We started changing up our schedules to grow our company as opposed to the other way around and we found ourselves getting burned out.
In fact at one point things got so bad that we were fighting constantly and took a break from our businesses to talk about it. And you know what?
We quickly realized that we were already making more money than we could spend and that we needed to re-visit our priorities.
Let’s be realistic here.
My wife and I are inherently frugal people. We’re not showy. We don’t buy expensive things. And we both spend wayyy less than we make.
So why are we busting our asses trying to eek out every last dollar from our business?
What’s the point of sacrificing our livelihood to grow something that will cause us to work more instead of less for something that we don’t really need with our current lifestyle?
Every time things get out of hand, we now make a conscious effort to remember what we need out of life. By now we have a pretty good idea of what makes us happy and we work towards it.
Block Off Time For Your Family And Friends
As I mentioned before, weekends are reserved for family and friends and there are very few exceptions to this rule.
Right now, weekends are the only days where I get to spend large chunks of time with the kiddos and I don’t want to be one of those parents that rarely hangs out with their children.
Aside from hanging out together as a family, it’s also very important for me to spend 1 on 1 time with my wife. In fact, this is one of the many reasons that I decided to go down to 4 days a week at my day job this year.
Ever since we had our first child, EVERYTHING has been about the kids.
Did you feed them? Did you bathe them? Did you make sure they did their homework? Did you schedule their dentist appointment? Did you remember to sign them up for piano?
Up until last year, having kids was all about self sacrifice and it was starting to take its toll on our psyche.
So every Friday, my wife and I have a private lunch at a nice restaurant and then spend the afternoon together. And let me tell you, these Friday afternoon dates were just what our relationship needed!
Say No To Everything That Detracts From Your Goals
I’m not very good at many things, but one thing I am good at is prioritizing my day and dropping unnecessary tasks on the floor.
In fact, this one aspect of my personality tends to annoy my wife to no end! Here’s what our conversations are sometimes like.
Wife: Can you throw away your old clothes? I swear you’ve had some of this stuff since college.
Me: I’ve had them since high school actually. And I’m waiting for everything to come back in style again:P
Wife: Well the closet is overflowing right now. Please clean it up today!
Me: What? No! Why would I do that today?
Wife: Because this is on my task list and I want to check it off the list
Me: What is the relative priority of this task compared to …(This is where I read off a long list of things on my plate) Did you not want me to work on math homework with my daughter? Did you not want me to attend my son’s performance?
Now I’m not saying that you should say no to your wife because that could have negative consequences in your life, but you need to be able to put off anything that detracts from your more important objectives.
(Honey if you are reading this, cleaning out the closet is very important to me but just not right this moment:))
Be laser focused towards designing the lifestyle that you want. Because as soon as you start committing yourself to random activities, it becomes a slippery slope.
Define Your Time And Stop Wasting It
Achieving work life balance is also about personal perception. So if you can be more efficient with your time, then you will have more of it.
One thing that helps my productivity is planning out and setting aside blocks of time for certain tasks. When I don’t do this, I tend to waste time watching You Tube or browsing Facebook.
By providing a little more structure to my activities, I find myself completing my tasks at a much faster rate and can fully relax during the unslotted blocks of time on my calendar.
I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my lifestyle and how I handle all of the various activities on my plate. But I do have one confession to make.
Ever since I’ve had my kids, I still have not figured out the concept of kid/life balance. If you look at my schedule , all day Saturday and most of Sunday is fully devoted to kids activities.
And even during the week, they sometimes have activities or homework to do which require my attention!
If someone has a system for not letting the kiddos consume your life, I’d love to hear it in the comments below:)
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Steve Chou is a highly recognized influencer in the ecommerce space and has taught thousands of students how to effectively sell physical products online over at ProfitableOnlineStore.com.
His blog, MyWifeQuitHerJob.com, has been featured in Forbes, Inc, The New York Times, Entrepreneur and MSNBC.
He's also a contributing author for BigCommerce, Klaviyo, ManyChat, Printful, Privy, CXL, Ecommerce Fuel, GlockApps, Privy, Social Media Examiner, Web Designer Depot, Sumo and other leading business publications.
In addition, he runs a popular ecommerce podcast, My Wife Quit Her Job, which is a top 25 marketing show on all of Apple Podcasts.
To stay up to date with all of the latest ecommerce trends, Steve runs a 7 figure ecommerce store, BumblebeeLinens.com, with his wife and puts on an annual ecommerce conference called The Sellers Summit.
Steve carries both a bachelors and a masters degree in electrical engineering from Stanford University. Despite majoring in electrical engineering, he spent a good portion of his graduate education studying entrepreneurship and the mechanics of running small businesses.