LearnWork-Life Balance


writes on May 4, 2011

This is the 4th post in our Fully Carsonified series where we give you a behind-the-scenes look at how we run our Team. This post focuses on how to live a balanced, happy life.

Elephant balancing on edge of wall

We work to live, right? What is meant by that is that we work to make money so that we can live some more. True for most people. But what about when you love your work so much that you start to move over into the ‘live to work’ category. What if you get so excited and fired up by a new project that you can’t stop thinking about it at the weekend and the only thing to be done about is to, well…work some more. What if that happens?

We put our time into little boxes. Monday to Friday are work days. Roughly, 9am until 6ish is work time. Saturday is definitely not a work day and Sundays? Well… !

The problem comes when your work is not really work to you, it’s more like a hobby. It’s the thing (in some cases the only thing) that you’re interested in. This can happen a lot when the thing you’re interested in is the Web. Talk about choosing a big topic, that frankly could take a lifetime to master!

But it’s not just the Web is it? It’s the Web industry – the act of making the Web work. Infact, it’s not just that either. It’s the way that people (usually companies) exist, make money, market and have fun on the Web. Okay, that’s still a big topic, but a more manageable one at least.

When you’re passionate about the Web industry having a work/life balance can be tough. The Web is ‘made’ to be convenient to access, it’s ‘made’ to tempt you at the weekends. It sits in your pocket and pings you to remind you to play with it. It would try the patience of a saint.

Is it wrong to work all the time if you’re truly passionate about it? Short answer: no. Long answer: you should probably think about your eyes (and your relationships, and your family, and your sanity etc etc).

Joking apart. We think it’s totally okay to be obsessed with work, so much so that you can’t put it down at the weekends. If, and you knew there’d be an if, all of the following are true:

  1. You work for yourself (honestly, employers don’t expect you to be as passionate as they are about your work)
  2. You don’t have kids
  3. You don’t have a partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband

Hustle 2.0

If all of the above are true then GO FOR IT! Honestly, get up at 4:30am work until your fingers hurt. Then get up the next day and do it all again. If you’ve got the passion and drive and it makes you happy then do it. Gary Vanynerchuk calls it Hustle 2.0. Hustle, hustle and then hustle some more. Just make sure to eat, and drink plenty of fluids and be aware that some of your friends may fall by the wayside. The bottom line is, it’s your choice.

Don’t, however, be under the illusion that the more you work the more likely you are to succeed. It’s true that working hard will get you to places you wouldn’t be if you hadn’t worked hard but there will always be someone who had a smart idea, puts in a little work and succeeds as much as you do. That’s just life.

Don’t work hard just to make more money. You need to be working hard because it’s what makes you tick. And because your work is your hobby and because it makes you happy. Not because you hope it will make you a millionaire. That’s a ‘nice to have’.

But what if…

But what if one of the above is true. Say, you have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Well, that’s very nice. And assuming you want carry on in said relationship then it’s time to start thinking about others. We don’t want to make this chapter into a counseling session. You know the drill when it comes to compromise and relationships. All we’ll say is we’ve been there and done it.

Ryan was a selfish developer living off burgers and Dolly Mix, coding by day and running BD4D by night. And Gill was a ruthless magazine editor, cracking the whip by day and drinking lager by night. Both young and without ties.

When they met things changed a little. Now, weekends were spent driving to London or sitting on a train to Bath. Eating out at restaurants and pretending to like art.

Normally, it’s quite easy to accept the change because you want to spend time with someone outside of work.

Some of us go on to have children. This is when the fun really begins. Boy – oh boy! You thought your relationship was eating into work time. Your kids will demolish it. Just remember one thing: It’s impossible to be a good Dad or Mom and work 24/7.

How to Balance Life & Work

Those of you who have three or more kids probably have more experience this department than we do but here’s a few things that we do that seem to work …

  1. Leave work on time – I know it’s easy to work five or ten minutes over. But try not to. Being home at the same time every evening means that you can plan family life accordingly. Kids thrive routine.
  2. Think about introducing a 4-day work week – If you haven’t done it before-hand now is the perfect time to expand your weekend.
  3. Have a ‘to do list’ at home to jot down ideas – When you have ideas simply add them to the list and action them on Monday morning.
  4. Introduce an Adventure Day – Choose one day on the weekend and designate it ‘Adventure Day’. On this day no-one does any chores, cleaning or working. The only thing you can do on this day is hang out together and do something as a family. Whether it be going for a picnic, inviting some friends around or going to the farmers’ market.
  5. Get up early – If you have to work try not to let it eat in to family time. Get up early and do your work before the rest of the family get up.
  6. Have a second line installed or have a ‘work’ phone – it’s too easy to check your mail on your phone
  7. Close the office door at night & weekends – temptation lurks within
  8. Get into a new hobby which includes the kids – For example geocaching is great fun, uses technology (and the internet) and gets you out scamping around the countryside.
  9. Don’t take your laptop (or phone) on holiday – Have at least one session of complete ‘downtime’ per year.

Are You a Mouse on a Wheel?

So you’ve decided to be a Web entrepreneur. And you’re going to hustle your way to success, at least until someone wants to ‘spend time with you’. Great! One problem. What are you working to achieve?

If you don’t know the answer to this question then you need to find one before you do one more scrap of work. Why work so hard if you don’t know what your goal is? More importantly, how do you know you’re going in the right direction if you don’t know what your goal is?

Your goal can be a financial one; ‘make a million in revenue’. Or it can be a stability thing; ‘pay off my mortgage’. Or it could be to send your kids to a good school, buy a boat, sell your company or build up a 20-person company. It could be whatever is important to you and is worth working towards. It doesn’t really matter what your goal is but it does matter that you have one.

Why? Because how will you know when you’ve reached your goal if you don’t know what it is? You could end up being a mouse on a wheel for the rest of your life; working hard, enjoying it but never knowing when you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

How sweet is it to be able to say, ‘I achieved my goal’.

[Thanks to paraflyer for the great photo of the balancing elephant.]


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25 Responses to “Work-Life Balance”

  1.  I know I’m late to this, but I really dislike the phrase Work/Life balance. It implies that work and life are different things. Maybe for those people who hate their job it’s valid, but for people who enjoy their work, it’s a part of their life. Life balance is a term I prefer.

  2. Solvich on May 11, 2011 at 6:58 am said:

    thanks for this

  3. Great article! I’m glad that you have the divide there between both single and non-single folk. My friend mentioned the same thing about drive and it didn’t include nods to achieving that super goal. I also agree with what was said there about drive.

  4. Brian on May 7, 2011 at 3:30 am said:

    thank you for saving my marriage and reeeling me back in with some great advice. Getting Things Done (GTD) gets you only so far. You have to remember to hug your kids in the morning tell your partner you love them everyday. There are only so many hours in the day use them wisely.

  5. Nice read, I’m glad to say I’m already doing a lot of the list, the 4 day weekend however would work well if I did some shuffling. Thanks for the tips!

  6. Merlijn Ackerstaff on May 6, 2011 at 5:11 am said:

    A brilliant post. But a lot easier said then done. As a business owner in the web industry with two kids and a wife believe me i’ve been there.

    Especialliy getting up earlier then the family does means getting up at 5 in the morning wich leaves me 1 hour to do some work. But the most important thing is to constantly keep aware of this fragile balance.

  7. Inspiring and reminding at the same time! Great article. Thanks for sharing this Ryan!

  8. I’m trying to find a balance myself, and wrestling with the decision to do my own thing or not. Articles like this always inspire me and weirdly make me feel better about things. The 4 day work week intrigues me as well. I find it so hard to not work in some capacity 7 days a week though. Trying desperately to kick that habit.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Great article Ryan. I can relate to this in pretty much every way. I’ve been involved in the web industry since 2000. Currently as a Front End Developer. I’ve worked for a couple of the worlds largest Marketing/Advertising agencies which over the years has expected a lot of late nights from myself and other team members.

    I agree if you love your job it becomes a hobby, and I’ve said that for years.

    The issue I had (and still have) is that due to myself being a family man (married with 3 kids) I find it hard to find the time to expand my skill set. For years I’ve been trying to get to grips with JavaScript. It’s not through not wanting too it’s just I could never find the time, due to family commitments outside of work.

    However, saying all this I totally agree that if your single and have no ties, go for it, knock yourself out. But for me, my wife and kids mean everything to me. I too like many others have a mortgage that I wish was paid in full but as you say we work to live. Work hard along the way to hopefully make a little extra money to do the things we want to do or buy the things we’d like to have but overall I’m glad that I have my health and my wife and kids.

    They keep me going. 🙂

  10. Anonymous on May 5, 2011 at 11:17 am said:

    Great article, thanks. Many things that have been on my mind as the sole worker, husband and father of four children.

  11. Great article Ryan, since last 3 years i am reading this blog thinkvitamin.com, and very very inspirational stories i read from you guys, great work.

    and yes, your these articles “fully carsonified” i read every article 2 or 3 times, and tell about these to my fiancee who always angry on me bcoz of my workaholic life style.

  12. Nice article. Everyone needs to realize this work/life balance. Specially employers/employees/clients in the IT. I like the 4 day-work and Adventure Day.

  13. Sarahvgriffiths on May 4, 2011 at 6:47 pm said:

    Excellent – kids come first. There will always be a different mountain to climb when youre ready to climb back on!

  14. Wow!! Probably one of the best articles that I have read in quite some time. Ryan, I totally agree with you on knowing your goals in life. They definitely help in taking some tough decisions and also provide direction. Plus you have always something to measure your progress against. Otherwise it would all look like a headless chicken running around. Thanks for taking the time to write this post and sharing your insights. I am definitely going to share this with my team.

  15. Martin on May 4, 2011 at 3:41 pm said:

    Thanks for this post. I’m soon to be a dad in 4 weeks and I’ve been unsure of how to approach the whole balance thing. I want to be a kick ass Father and a kick ass web designer too!

    Your article helped. 🙂

  16. Amazing article! Quite possibly the best one yet. This is something I struggle with all of the time being that I love my work and am so passionate about it. I think “Adventure Day” is an awesome idea and something that I’m going to implement right away! Thanks Ryan.

  17. I only discovered the web while pregnant – I taught myself Perl with a newborn on my knee! However I’ve definitely been through the stages of wanting to code every minute of the day to getting to a point where I want to do other stuff as well. It all goes in cycles – that newborn is now almost 14, pretty much independent and so what I can do is changing – for example I’m speaking at a bunch of conferences this year, something that was really difficult when I was needed to pick her up from school at 3.30 every day!

    The trick is to spot the changes – being open and understanding of the fact that you and the people around you are changing and learning to readjust the balance accordingly. What works today or for one person, may be a complete disaster tomorrow or for someone else.

  18. Trent on May 4, 2011 at 1:47 pm said:

    “Adventure Day” is a great idea. Americans struggle with closing the home office or not working on the weekend and spending time with the family. When I worked in London, I was impressed with how well individuals could partition work and holiday time. It is something I need to improve. An Adventure Saturday seems to be the next step. Thanks Ryan.

  19. For a long time, I have felt guilty on two counts, either spending so much time working that I don’t have time to spend with family or the opposite. After a while, I realised that working hard does not equate to more money or to reaching my goals. I focused my efforts on the services which require less time, more expertise and therefore more income. I have also become more confident in my abilities even though I know I still have a long way to go.

    One major thing I have decided on, is that my family always comes first and I will never feel guilty about that or allow anyone to make me feel guilty about that again.

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