By Aron Rodman
Did you see the movie about the snow fighter who, in his dying days, wishes he could have worked just a little more overtime? He recalls his legacy of clear pavement and the big storms that his crews nailed. Though he had to neglect his family to get there, it was all worth it in the end.
Of course you didn’t see it. None of us want to think of that scenario applying to ourselves either. Yet so many of us live a life that places career accomplishments and business growth at such a higher priority that we could be cast for the lead role in this story.
Blessing or curse
In our achievement-driven society, choosing to work a little less is a very foreign idea. When you are booked out with work for months ahead and are working into the night and weekends, it’s viewed as success and a blessing and is a sign of a thriving company. Those around you will be telling you it is a great business you have built. But I challenge you to ask yourself the question: “Is this a blessing, or is it a curse?” As a 25-year-old single man, this may be the right track. As a man with a family, it could be the end. When we put customers off because we are backlogged and don’t have time for them, they eventually leave us. And the same principle, sadly enough, might apply to our loved ones. People - in particular children and spouses - value time, appreciation, commitment and being chosen as a priority.
When the opportunity to take on more work comes and I know it will be at the expense of the time that my family deserves, I ask myself this question: At age 70, which choice will I look back upon with delight? Don’t get me wrong. I plow snow - and a lot of it. We live the life of a snow farmer. Make hay when the sun shines, or in our case plow when the snow’s falling. There are times when family takes second place in this industry. But not letting second place creep into times when it doesn’t have to be that way is key to balancing work and family.
Balance game plan
Following are some tips I can share from my own experiences.
Decide that you want to change your priorities. The first step is to decide that it is worthwhile to refocus your priorities and commit yourself to making a change. A half-hearted attempt will not yield long-term change. It will probably only foster false hopes in those around you and let them down harder.
Protect your nights and weekends. I am asked several times a week to meet up after 5 p.m. or on a Saturday with a customer about work. It was a big step of faith to start telling customers, “Sorry, I have family commitments. Can we meet a bit earlier or first thing in the morning?” In the 10 years since I have implemented this rule, I don’t believe I have ever had a customer tell me “no.” They simply make it work. In fact, many times they have respected me more for valuing my family time.
Only schedule four days. Keep everything scheduled between Monday and Thursday. When I do this, I am rarely done with what I had scheduled by the end of the day Thursday. However, now it just bleeds into Friday, where before it stole my Saturday. Often you may find everything gets done by noon on Friday. With some perseverance, you may get Fridays off!
Aim for integrity and commitment. Treating your family this way is essential. Having integrity and commitment at work but not at home is hypocritical and double-minded. Ask yourself if you apply the same integrity at home as you do at work. Better yet, ask your spouse or your children. When it comes to work, I hate to let a customer down. It will keep me up at night when I do. If I tell him I will be there or do something, they know I have a reputation of following through. When I make a mistake, I own up to it and can’t move on until I do. But do I have the same reputation with my family, who will be spending time with me at age 70? Our customers certainly won’t. Statistics show they can’t remember the contractor who worked for them after as little as 3 to 6 months.
A few thousand years ago, a man named Joshua declared, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” I encourage you to do the same. Maybe nobody will want to make a movie about your life, but you’ll be glad you lived it.
Jump start solutions
- If you make the commitment to work toward balance, don’t fall back into bad habits.
- Give the same commitment to family that you give to your clients and team.
- Strive to schedule your to-do list in four days to avoid commitments from spilling over into weekends if possible.
Aron Rodman owns Extra Mile Snow Specialists in West Bend, WI. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.