Work Life Balance

My wife and I goofing around In Portugal on a Tuesday afternoon instead of being at work

My wife and I goofing around In Portugal on a Tuesday afternoon instead of being at work

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.
Matt Kinsella

5 thoughts on “Work Life Balance

  1. What a magnificent story, Matt!

    These words jumped off the page …
    ” … exit the rat race and do what makes you happy”
    (My biggest goal in life) :)

    I’ve got a real conundrum going on. You see, I fervently LOVE the work I do!
    However, I’ve spent the past 30 years unable to save a dime because all my efforts have gone into making someone else rich … not to mention I have to work year round as an independent contractor. If I don’t show up for work, I don’t get paid. Not cool. And if I don’t get paid, I can’t pay my bills. REALLY not cool — especially as a single mum. This vicious cycle has kept me in chains for three decades.
    It stinks!

    Would love to hear more about what your earliest “freelancing” days entailed. What is writing you were doing or something else?

    Thanks for an awesome post laced with loads of encouragement!

    • Thanks for your lovely comment. I think what you describe about working flat out to make ends meet is a common problem that many people will associate with. Quite often the reason this occurs is because no matter what we earn we will buy or rent the biggest and best home we can stretch ourselves to and/or the best car we can get with the monthly income we have and this keeps us enslaved to the job. So with our monthly income spent or allocated before we have even earned it we live in fear of a lower income or losing our job all together. What I did (any many other entrepreneurs have done) to tackle this was strip away my outgoings, downsize my home and car, postpone my expensive foreign vacation and I even sold my big TV. This is just a temporary measure to leap to the next level that you can’t get to if you get stuck on the treadmill. Now I have an even bigger TV and several homes :)

      I am getting so into this response I think it will be best to write a proper blog post with my advice on how I dealt with this in more detail. Thanks again for your great comment.

  2. Matt speaking to you last week on facebook has reminded me that things dont have to be like they are now (im the plumber you spoke to) you have given me the inspiration to aim towards going back working for myself.i will have to bide my time a little bit just to get things in place but i am now determined that things will change.its as much about the work life balance as anything else can!’t stand someone else telling me when and where i am going and what i am doing you have truly helped to get me in the right frame of mind.just hope this next time it works,third time lucky.

    • Hi Dave, well done, glad I could help. As I mentioned in our chat I am not immune to problems and I have had my share of failures as well as success. It’s up to us if we get back up and try again. Even Richard Branson has tasted defeat and had to dust himself off to carry on. Don’t do it half heartedly, really go for it this time and don’t lose faith in yourself. The very best of luck to you.

      • Thanks again matt the next article also applies to me the one about been stuck on the treadmill with all your wages spoken for etc so i will look forward to your blog on that one as well i tend to work 6days a week almost all of the time now and sometimes on a night as well so i will keep reading your blogs and get your book and hopefully one day not too far in the future i will tell you i have changed and things have changed for the better .

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