Author Topic: How do you balance personal life (fitness, family etc.) with your career?  (Read 1167 times)

JeanLuc

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Hey everyone, I just joined and I'm currently trying to find out how one could make the lives of busy professionals a lot easier ;)

Which is why I have two very simple questions:

As a career-oriented individual, what are the 2 biggest issues you're dealing with when trying to stay healthy?

When it comes to balancing career with peace of mind and physical health, what would you wish for more than anything else?

Thanks so much in advance - looking forward to reading your answers

thesis

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How do you balance personal life with career? You don't. You become FI so you don't need the career :)

Ok, I'm joking. But seriously. Being career-oriented often means playing office politics and most people here want nothing to do with that. If you really love your job, pursuing excellence in that job is a perfectly fine and commendable thing, and the world still needs workers. I've read plenty of stories of people who continued working after they reached FI but did a better job because they no longer cared if they were penalized for overlooking the BS. On the other hand, plenty of people didn't and just dropped out.

As a software developer, I always want to increase my skills and abilities to be good at what I do. I've also had the fortune of working for some great employers, so it doesn't bother me if I occasionally need to work extra so the people I work with can sleep at night. All the same, I'm not interested in ever moving into management positions, and not planning to do this keeps me more sane, IMO, since I know that focusing on technology is really my only concern. Is that careerism? I don't know. You really have to define what you want out of your career.

MrThatsDifferent

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1. Simplicity. Your goal should be to make everything as simple and easy in your life and work as possible. Develop systems that make everything easier, quicker and less stressful to deal with. Learn to manage your inbox at work, communicate better with colleagues, and structure your day and tasks. At home, find easy ways to deal with the less fun stuff and put your energy into what you love, who you love, and include yourself. Donít make work your life, itís a means to an end.

2. What I wish for: breathing space. Sometimes you need timeouts to gather yourself, have creative ideas, relax and rewind. So take them. 2-4x a year give yourself or take advantage of a long weekend, turn of work and any stressors. Plan a holiday and take it. Have breaks from your phone, spend time with people that bring you joy. Do things for yourself that just let you relax from everyone.

use2betrix

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It doesnít matter if Iím working 40 hours or 80 hours, I always make time for exercise and a healthy diet. From December 2017 to May 2018 I alternated 72/84 hour work weeks for nearly 6 months straight (12 hour shifts, ever other Sunday off). My wife fortunately prepared my meals I would bring to work and eat at home. All healthy, balanced meals. We still made time to have two heavy weight lifting sessions every week and I maintained fantastic shape throughout.

Right now, Iím working 55-60 hours a week, running around 15-20 miles/wk, and lifting weights 2-3x a week. My diet is great, as it always has been.

I fully understand what a positive impact all of this has on my life and my career. I would legitimately go into depression if my exercise was taken away from me. Iíve been injured a few times in the last year and itís placed a major damper on my mood. Fortunately, during nearly any type of injury I have found other forms of exercise to work around it. I have had great success in my career, and I firmly believe that my diet and exercise have been a huge contributor to that. At a bare minimum, the exercise is a major stress reliever.

MayDay

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I have kids and a FT working spouse, so my answer is quite a bit different than use2betrix.

Between commute, work, kids activities/appts (mine are heavy on the appts as one has special needs), and trying to take care of the day to day drudgery, it is hard.  I wouldn't say I am succeeding at everything :)

Typical day is ~8.5-9 hours at work, 1 hour commuting, and 4 hours active parenting + cooking/tidying/laundry/whatever else. 

Things I am doing well at, that help: 
1.  Sleep is #1.  I need a full 8 hours and that is the most important thing.
2.  I go on a walk at work.  Yes this is often my main exercise.  I'm ok with that, I don't really care for serious gym-going regardless.
3.  We prioritize eating dinner together and do so with a semi-healthy meal most nights.  I consider box mac and cheese + steamed veggie minimally acceptable, YMMV ;) 
4.  We minimize the kids' activities as much as we can and involve them in the housekeeping as much as we can.
5.  We hire out stuff that makes sense, trying to do it minimally but not being too cheap for our own good.
6.  I work pretty close to 40 hours, I did a good job choosing a company that doesn't expect 60 hours work weeks :)

Things I am failing at:
1.  My commute is 30 minutes each way (as is H's).  Unfortunately with school age kids we are not willing to move our kids schools.  It is what it is. 
2.  I wish I had more time for exercise and/or hobbies but it would come at the expense of spending time with my kdis and I'm not willing to do that.  As they move in to high school and don't want to hang with me anyway, I think this will change
3.  With 2 FT working people, we spend ~50-100% more than when I was at home FT.  We have neither the time nor interest in optimizing everything.  I make enough that we come out ahead, so I don't worry about  it, but our monthly spending would horrify MMM-ers. 

Overall, I don't feel like I have actual balance, but I feel like we are doing what we can for the current circumstances, and things will change in no time.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2019, 07:34:37 PM by MayDay »

cangelosibrown

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I have 3 priorities in life right now.

1.  Be a good husband and father.
2. Be good enough at my job to get not get fired.
3. Take enough care myself to be able to manage 1 & 2.

It seems obvious that #1 is the highest priority. and #2 seems pretty essential too. So when it's a tough week, the instinct is to sacrifice #3... But read #3 again, by definition, it's impossible to do 1 & 2 without #3.

It took me a while to really get this, but there are things I need to do to stay a sane, decent human being. Get enough sleep, get some time alone, get exercise.  I do those things no matter what. I will take 2 days off those thingsif absolutely necessary (my wife is sick right now,e.g), but when day 3 comes along, there are no excuses for not taking care of myself.

JeanLuc

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Thanks everyone for all the great replies! A lot of you have valuable tips. I think you shouldn't let your health deteriorate below a certain point, otherwise it will affect your mood and productivity as well. However, sometimes it can be incredibly hard to know when to do what exactly.

Malkynn

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The key is to know your limits and know your priorities. Sadly, most people are terrible at both.

I've written before about priorities, and it really is the crux of the matter.
If your health and family life really are your priority, then they must take precedence over your career, period.
What a lot of people call "trying to prioritize exercise" is really them trying to cram exercise in on top of their existing work demands. That's actually the opposite of prioritizing it. Squeezing something in without actively making room for it isn't making it a priority, it's making it an afterthought.

I strongly discourage your from labeling yourself a "career oriented individual" as it's a self label that intrinsically makes your career your preeminent priority. Instead, conceptualize yourself as someone fiercely committed to living their best life, whose best life includes a major career component, but balance is the preeminent priority.

That's where knowing your limits comes in.
@use2betrix mentions always exercising no matter how many hours he works, and that's great, he's found a way to make space for exercise and can still manage a demanding career on top of that priority. Well, not everyone can, and this is where it can be a real gut-punch to find out what you can't sustain.

We're talking about this quite a bit in a burnout thread right now, how working well past your limits is really only sustainable temporarily, and eventually your system will start failing until it totally crashes. That's burnout, and there is no honour in it.

You must respect your limits, if you try to muscle past them, you will suffer the consequences.

That said, back to @use2betrix 's example, you can usually expand your limits BY prioritizing your own wellness. He might not even be able to sustainably manage those 60 hr weeks were he not so committed to being active in the first place. My own DH was not thriving in life or career when we got together, and since he put his wellness and fitness first, his career has dramatically improved.

Me, I'm different, when I was working 60hrs of my physically demanding job, I was well past my adaptive capacity and there simply was no room for wellness, so I started breaking down rapidly and had to cut back by over 50% to find a balance that I could sustain.

@cangelosibrown put it very succinctly, the instinct when stretched thin is to drop the ball on wellness because it feels optional. Well, it is optional, temporarily, for survival, but the longer you stay in survival mode, the quicker your resources are depleted and the quicker everything that actually matters starts to fall apart. The things that actually make life good are the easiest to neglect, so this is where we circle back to priorities. You will never stop instinctively letting the most important things in life slide unless you consciously put them first.

Now...why the hell is that??
Why is it so easy to neglect what really matters? Why is it so natural to put things like career first? Why does that feel so *right*??
Well, it's actually pretty fucking simple: because no one gives a shit about your happiness except you and your loved ones.
All of those weighty pressures you feel to put more energy into work, to push yourself past your limits, etc, that's all external pressure that you've chosen to internalize.

There is no force in this world that will push you to live a good and healthy life, so making that a priority means not only going against the grain of societal pressure, it also means going against the grain of your own internalized scripts of every time you were rewarded for succumbing to that societal pressure.
Fun times, right?

Only you can change that script and create an internal pressure to set your own priorities.

OR

You can just accept compromise and a lack of balance.

Malkynn

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Thanks everyone for all the great replies! A lot of you have valuable tips. I think you shouldn't let your health deteriorate below a certain point, otherwise it will affect your mood and productivity as well. However, sometimes it can be incredibly hard to know when to do what exactly.

For some of us, it's unacceptable to actively allow health to deteriorate AT ALL, if at all avoidable.
Again, it's a matter of priorities.


2Cent

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Actually, for most people working long hours is not more productive. You have a certain amount of mental energy and once depleted you will not be able to produce high quality work. Same for family time. If you spend time with your loved ones but are completely exhausted, that time will likely not be quality time. Better be your best self with the kids for 2 hours a day than 4 hours of grumpy mom/dad/spouse.

The most important thing I learned is to be mentally present. So when you're at work, don't think about what's for dinner, or the holidays.  When you're at home don't check your work email, or phone. Etc. we have actually a lot of time in a day, but we waste a good portion of it. If you work with full energy for 40 hours a week, you'll be exhausted. I never believe people who work 80 hours actually are much more productive because you just don't have the energy.  Unless of course you're hyper fit like @use2betrix ;-)

cangelosibrown

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Actually, for most people working long hours is not more productive. You have a certain amount of mental energy and once depleted you will not be able to produce high quality work. Same for family time. If you spend time with your loved ones but are completely exhausted, that time will likely not be quality time. Better be your best self with the kids for 2 hours a day than 4 hours of grumpy mom/dad/spouse.

This is very true. I am a telecommuter now, and the best thing about it is that I can work whatever hours I feel I'm most productive (not that I tell my boss how little that is). My current job is pretty cognitively demanding, and I don't get much more done past about 10 hours a week of actual work. I can do some light planning/meeting type activities past that, but only 5-10 hours of that. If I did 40 hours of real work for more than a week or two my brain would melt.

Same thing with my daughter, I adore spending time with her, but I still have to be "on" with her. I need some time "off" to be my best self with her.

Malkynn

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Actually, for most people working long hours is not more productive. You have a certain amount of mental energy and once depleted you will not be able to produce high quality work. Same for family time. If you spend time with your loved ones but are completely exhausted, that time will likely not be quality time. Better be your best self with the kids for 2 hours a day than 4 hours of grumpy mom/dad/spouse.

The most important thing I learned is to be mentally present. So when you're at work, don't think about what's for dinner, or the holidays.  When you're at home don't check your work email, or phone. Etc. we have actually a lot of time in a day, but we waste a good portion of it. If you work with full energy for 40 hours a week, you'll be exhausted. I never believe people who work 80 hours actually are much more productive because you just don't have the energy.  Unless of course you're hyper fit like @use2betrix ;-)

Different people have different limits.
The key is not to compare ourselves to those with higher capacities in certain areas and then feel pressure to outstrip our capacity just because someone else is particularly strong in a certain way.

I work with a lot of high net worth people, and know a number of the 80-100hr set who work full tilt the entire time and still have energy to spare. That's the way they are built, the work is what energizes them while it utterly rips apart others. It depends on the person, it depends on the demands of the work, it depends on their priorities.

I do agree though, I find that for the majority, 40+hrs is too much for a full life balance, especially if both people are working full time, and especially since most people aren't doing work they love that energizes them. Being drained by a job for 40+hrs a week is definitely suboptimal.

use2betrix

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That said, back to @use2betrix 's example, you can usually expand your limits BY prioritizing your own wellness. He might not even be able to sustainably manage those 60 hr weeks were he not so committed to being active in the first place. My own DH was not thriving in life or career when we got together, and since he put his wellness and fitness first, his career has dramatically improved.

This is a very good way to elaborate. I am a very high strung and anxious person when it comes to my work. This has, fortunately, been a direct impact to my success. I started out as a welder nearly a decade ago, and have now moved into a corporate position at one of the worlds largest oil and gas companies making over $300k/year.

If I was a laid back person, I donít think that I would have my success. Iíll be the first to say I donít have a high IQ. I struggled in school and only have an associates degree I earned in my 20ís. With that in mind, itís my personality and high strung achiever nature at work that has brought my my success.

In my personal situation, my exercise is one of the absolute best ways for me to reduce stress. Going on an 8 mile run in a 110 degree heat index just completely wears me out and relaxes me. Of course, I think about work the whole time but my mind is clear. When I was battling a lot of injuries the last several months I had a few week period where my exercise was cut WAY back. I noticed it immensely as my stress rose and my attitude deteriorated. I have been wanting to talk to my dr about something to reduce anxiety, but Iím scared it could also make me lose my edge at work, or see less need for exercise. Talk about a double edged sword...

I should add that at my current position, Iím on a day rate and my Saturdayís are catch up days, and I work from home those days. I could easily work 5 days a week, but the opportunity cost of working Saturday usually seems worth it. My wife doesnít work and we donít have kids, so outside work and exercise, I have almost no ďrealĒ responsibilities that take any time.. My wife is a (very appreciated) machine when it comes to handling everything ďelse.Ē



The final good news is - In the last several years I have taken two, 4 month sabbaticals, and much to my surprise, I actually *can* relax when I have no work responsibilities. Starting out my first one, my parents said Iíd be back to work within two weeks, and I had every reason to believe them.. Makes me think that FIRE will be that much more enjoyable.

Schaefer Light

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I would legitimately go into depression if my exercise was taken away from me. Iíve been injured a few times in the last year and itís placed a major damper on my mood.
Injuries really suck when your favorite activities are physical in nature.  I've had several wrist and elbow injuries over the past few years, and each time I've had to give up my favorite hobby.  I'm starting to realize that this is a hobby that I may not be able to enjoy in retirement, and that's a hard thing to accept.  But the alternative (going into a state of depression) isn't exactly a good option.  I think the Stoics have a saying that goes something like "you should consider that the things you love most may be taken away from you at a moment's notice".  Unfortunately, they're right.

honeybbq

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I have a flexible, salaried job.

When I was training for my ironman, I'd often swim (early) in the morning, take a quick run at lunch, or exercise after my daughter went to bed at 8.

With a family, it's important to have support from your spouse and to carve time out as you can; make it a priority.

On the weekends, I could take my daughter to the pool while I swam, she could ride her bike while I ran, or I could bike with a tow bike behind me and we could go together. It was just a matter of making it work and finding ways to get exercise in.

mm1970

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Actually, for most people working long hours is not more productive. You have a certain amount of mental energy and once depleted you will not be able to produce high quality work. Same for family time. If you spend time with your loved ones but are completely exhausted, that time will likely not be quality time. Better be your best self with the kids for 2 hours a day than 4 hours of grumpy mom/dad/spouse.

The most important thing I learned is to be mentally present. So when you're at work, don't think about what's for dinner, or the holidays.  When you're at home don't check your work email, or phone. Etc. we have actually a lot of time in a day, but we waste a good portion of it. If you work with full energy for 40 hours a week, you'll be exhausted. I never believe people who work 80 hours actually are much more productive because you just don't have the energy.  Unless of course you're hyper fit like @use2betrix ;-)

Yep.  This is very good info here.

Quote
That's where knowing your limits comes in.
@use2betrix mentions always exercising no matter how many hours he works, and that's great, he's found a way to make space for exercise and can still manage a demanding career on top of that priority. Well, not everyone can, and this is where it can be a real gut-punch to find out what you can't sustain.



Different people have different limits.
The key is not to compare ourselves to those with higher capacities in certain areas and then feel pressure to outstrip our capacity just because someone else is particularly strong in a certain way.

I work with a lot of high net worth people, and know a number of the 80-100hr set who work full tilt the entire time and still have energy to spare. That's the way they are built, the work is what energizes them while it utterly rips apart others. It depends on the person, it depends on the demands of the work, it depends on their priorities.

I do agree though, I find that for the majority, 40+hrs is too much for a full life balance, especially if both people are working full time, and especially since most people aren't doing work they love that energizes them. Being drained by a job for 40+hrs a week is definitely suboptimal.
I agree with the 40+ hours. A good friend of mine just moved back into town.  Her job is out of town, and her typical life back when she lived here was "1 week working, 3 weeks as a parent".  When they moved, she became almost a FT working mom (they moved to where her job was) and a parent because after her 12 hour shifts she had to be "on" for the kids.  And she looked at me and said "I fucking don't know how you guys do it".

Quote
Why is it so easy to neglect what really matters? Why is it so natural to put things like career first? Why does that feel so *right*??
Well, it's actually pretty fucking simple: because no one gives a shit about your happiness except you and your loved ones.
All of those weighty pressures you feel to put more energy into work, to push yourself past your limits, etc, that's all external pressure that you've chosen to internalize.

Quote
Actually, for most people working long hours is not more productive. You have a certain amount of mental energy and once depleted you will not be able to produce high quality work. Same for family time. If you spend time with your loved ones but are completely exhausted, that time will likely not be quality time. Better be your best self with the kids for 2 hours a day than 4 hours of grumpy mom/dad/spouse.

All these things.  I've had a few periods of time of working part time (when kids were younger), and I was so much more...alert and productive in those hours than when working full time.  And sure, sometimes at work, the SHTF and I end up working late and getting things accomplished - but very very short term only.  I've worked for people who require 45 hours a week because "those extra 5 hours are WORK not goofing off".  But what about the other 40 if you are beat??

The aware people that I know have chosen to cut work hours to prioritize health. For some of them, it took 2 years of illness to do so.  Others figured it out faster.  Even in my own family, I prioritize sleep, exercise, and healthy eating and have for a really long time (but particularly the last couple of years). In contrast, my husband was so sleep deprived and stressed out 2 years ago, that he talked about how hard it was to set the alarm for 5:30 am to work out.  So I told him "stop setting the alarm, you aren't getting enough sleep".  Well, that's turned into 2+ years of no exercise.  And now his work hours have drifted up that he still doesn't get enough sleep (stays up later).  If I didn't make sure there were vegetables in the house, he wouldn't eat them.  (Like, if I died, would you actually feed the kids fruit and vegetables?)  He's an adult.  I can only do so much - I could cut my own hours and take on the bulk of all the things in the house to ease his stress, but I'm not gonna do it.  Because he's an adult.  He needs to prioritize his own health.  If he gets ready to go to work and doesn't feel like peeling a carrot, he will literally take nothing but a sandwich or a few granola bars.

Quote
In my personal situation, my exercise is one of the absolute best ways for me to reduce stress. Going on an 8 mile run in a 110 degree heat index just completely wears me out and relaxes me. Of course, I think about work the whole time but my mind is clear. When I was battling a lot of injuries the last several months I had a few week period where my exercise was cut WAY back. I noticed it immensely as my stress rose and my attitude deteriorated. I have been wanting to talk to my dr about something to reduce anxiety, but Iím scared it could also make me lose my edge at work, or see less need for exercise. Talk about a double edged sword...

I can relate to this attitude.  I run a lot because it burns off stress and the peri-menopause crazies. But to be honest?  If I could go back to 30 hours of work a week, I wouldn't NEED to be training to run half marathons.  I wouldn't NEED to schedule 3-4 hours a week of running, plus 2 hours of lifting and an hour walk.  I could do less exercise because I wouldn't be as stressed.  Those 10 hours I wasn't working I could be doing "things" around the house (cooking, gardening, baking) at the school (volunteering, or goodness gracious - walking my kid to school and back), or commuting by bicycle.

2Birds1Stone

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Step 1 - internalize the concept that you "work to live" and not "live to work"

Step 2 - As @cangelosibrown brown put it, do well enough to not get fired/do "better" than your peers, and don't worry about squeezing the remaining 10-20% of your performance, which takes 80% of the effort. Maybe if you're particularly motivated individual you find some balance here.

Without your health, you have nothing. That doesn't just mean avoiding the blatant lifestyle diseases out there.....it means putting yourself in a position to be healthy and able bodied, well into what most would consider "old age". Exercise, nutrition, and mental health are all very important in designing a balanced life both personally and professionally.

There are 168 hours in the week, and YOU decide how to spend them. If you consider your time/life energy proportionally, and have no problem dedicating 40-80 hours a week to your employer, and can't dedicate 10% of that to your health and wellness, then that is a direct reflection of what your priorities and values are.

I would aim to think more broadly and figure out ways to incorporate health and wellness into your every day activities. Walk/bike instead of driving everywhere, use your lunch hour to do something other than socialize or stare at screens and waste time.

APowers

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...snip...
Without your health, you have nothing. That doesn't just mean avoiding the blatant lifestyle diseases out there.....it means putting yourself in a position to be healthy and able bodied, well into what most would consider "old age". Exercise, nutrition, and mental health are all very important in designing a balanced life both personally and professionally.

...snip....


RWTL

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Couple things:

1. Moved closer - eliminated 2 hours / day in commuting. 
2. Work 8-10 hours per day
3. Exercise first thing before work (Run 3 miles twice weekly during the week, weights the other days).  It sets your mood for the whole day.
4. Be present when at home.  Turn off email.  Told my boss to call me if urgent, but I'm not responding to email after hours.
5. Go in to work early if possible when it's quiet and no one bothers me.  This is highly productive time.

Read the 4 hour work week.  Not everything in it is great, but there are some basic principles - learn to say no, work on the most important things, etc.