So you want a better work life balance? I know how that feels and I strive to maintain the freedom I have built up to protect my own personal work life balance. I am going to explain some details of how I achieved my freedom and some tips I have for you to try so you can find yours.
I remember the first time when I wanted a better work life balance but I hadn’t heard that saying or terminology at the time so I didn’t know what to call it but I knew what I wanted. I had been working in my first proper job in London for about a year, in a very prestigious private Hospital and I was loving it. Being in that job also gave me a chance to build bridges with my father again but that’s another story. The social life that came with the job was amazing too and I had made some incredible new friends but still something wasn’t quite right for me. Coming from the teenage homeless hostel before starting the job gave me quite a unique viewpoint on the world.
Having nowhere to go and nobody to guide you when you are 17 years old is incredibly tough on one hand but on the flip side it gives you the most overwhelming freedom. Absolutely no one is telling you what to do or where to be at a certain time; you can do whatever you like, whenever you like. When you have tasted that total and utter level of control over your own time it is not easy to give up that independence and if you do it’s always there in the back of your mind occasionally reminding you that you want it back.
The day it really hit me I had been working minimum 10 hours a day and often over 12 hours a day. I was quite often working and training at weekends as well to get my skill level up so work was dominating my life. On this particular day my manager told me I could get free eye checks and glasses or contacts paid for by the company and I thought great I should book myself an appointment. That’s when it struck me; anything that needs to be done in work hours will require forward planning and permission, I would need to get someones permission to do anything at all between Monday and Friday, between about 8am and 6pm. This might sound stupid to some people but to me I suddenly felt like someone owned me and they had too much control over me, this did not sit well with me at all. Some people said to me at the time that it’s just life, everyone has to deal with it.
Not long after this the department was restructured and as I was the last one in I was the first one out when they had to lose some staff to save costs. Over the next couple of years I regularly had the same feelings about my freedom being eroded: Negotiating when I can take hard earned vacation time, getting shouted down because I was 5 minutes late despite the fact I worked unpaid overtime every evening and worked through nearly every lunch break. A colleague then told me that for the good wages the company pays us they believe they own us and he was right, again I felt like a corporation owned me, not good.
The culmination of all these thoughts, feelings and issues was that I decided I wanted my freedom back. The first inspiration I got to do this was when I was between jobs and a friend of mine was in a similar position and for a couple of weeks and as it was the summer we filled our afternoons by drinking in his local pub garden by the river. This is where I first came into contact with a wealthy bunch of individuals who didn’t go to traditional jobs every day. I thought this is one small location with a collection of different people making money in different ways that doesn’t require being “owned” by a company so there must be loads of these people in the world and if they can do it then so can I. This is when it also dawned on me that those that said dealing with the rat race and 9 to 5 crap was “just life, deal with it” didn’t know what they were talking about because it wasn’t part of these people’s lives.
My first foray into this quest for freedom and a real work life balance was to do freelance work and I have recommended it to many people since, it’s like “starting your own business lite”. You still do your old job but for a much better hourly (or day) rate, you can negotiate way better terms and pick and choose who you do work for. Some people go down this road to make more money but initially I did it so I could work only half the month and make the same or more money and take the rest of the month off. It worked and I loved it, I got to catch up on all the books I wanted to read, keep seeing my new buddies in the pub on week day afternoons but most importantly it gave me the time and space to plan my first proper businesses.
After a while I started planning a trip to Florida to help a family friend with an IT business he was setting up so I worked every day instead of half the month and I saved up a small fortune for my trip. I then had one of the most fun years of my life, learning, working and enjoying life in Florida. The point I am trying to make here is the control that you have when you are making money for yourself; if things go well you can earn more money when you need to or take more time to yourself when you want to. When things really work out you can have both; you can earn great money while doing whatever makes you happy.
This all happened over 10 years ago and concerns I had about how it would work out or would I make enough money to get by still surface occasionally but I remind myself I survived quite well for over 10 years so there’s no reason why I can’t enjoy the next 10 years of freedom too.
My tips and advice for you:
- Don’t be scared to work for yourself, give it a go, you can nearly always go back to your current career path and that’s the truth no matter what your worries are.
- Freelancing is always a good way to try working for yourself using your existing skills, there are agencies and websites for most industry sectors that will help find you freelance work.
- Every day you work for someone else you are only helping to make someone else’s dreams come true.
- Save up some money or vacation time so you can take time out to think about what you really want to do in life. It might take more than a week.
- Find your own work life balance that works for you, that could include staying in your current job but working less hours, going part time or moving to a company that gives it’s staff a better deal so you can concentrate on your life away from work.
- My blog and my book How To Be Lucky contain loads more advice on developing ideas and opportunities to exit the rat race and do what makes you happy.
Whatever you do, be lucky.