Work Life Balance [You’re Not An ATM]

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I recently had “one of those weeks” at work, you know the kind.

I was in the office past 7pm on Wednesday and Thursday, did not get home until after 5pm on Friday, and was required to work in the office on Saturday and Sunday. I had two major projects that required me to condense a great deal of work into a very short period of time.

I know my situation is no different than what many face, but it’s still difficult to put in these hours while my wife and sons are missing Dad. On Thursday night, my three-year-old son looked at me and said, “Daddy, you come home late again?” That hurt.

His words hurt worse since I believe in wrapping work around the rest of my life, not vice versa. Though I know what I should do I have always struggled to balance my work and family life, but hearing a toddler tell me what I already knew was a strong reminder of why I am pursuing my dreams of self-employment.

You’re not an ATM

While I know we all must provide for our families’ financial future, we are not ATMs. An ATM exists for one primary purpose – to generate cash. They are inanimate and cold; giving us money when we ask and that’s it. We’re more than that!

It’s not a pleasant thought, but when we let work dictate life, we’re treating ourselves like ATMs. Stop putting work on the top of your priority list and start considering what’s truly important to you… otherwise you’ll never feel fulfilled.

Wheel of life balance

In his book No More Mondays, author Dan Miller outlines seven key areas of personal fulfillment. Let’s take a look at the seven areas and how each helps contributes to a rich and balalced life.

Work Life Balance

I use this “wheel of life” to ensure I am not too far out of balance. I know there will be times when one area takes precedence over others, but I work hard to intentionally address all seven areas.

Financial – Am I sticking to my personal and business spending plans? I hate using the word “budget” because it conjures images of rigid spending limits with no flexibility. A spending plan gives you the ability to move and change as circumstances warrant throughout the month.

Physical – I’m currently struggling here. I need to focus on getting 30-45 minutes of exercise five to six times a week. I’m working full time while building Whiteboard Business Partners, so time to exercise comes at a premium. I also must ensure I sleep for at least six and a half hours each night. My wife correctly says I should sleep at least seven hours, but I know I need the time to work on my self-employment passion in the evening.

Intellectual (Personal Development) – How am I expanding my knowledge and skills for future opportunities? I do a much better job with my personal development than with physical exercise. I recently attended Kent Julian’s Speak it Forward Boot Camp as a way to develop my professional speaking and business skills. I constantly reading books, magazine articles, and blogs on business and marketing. I also take time to read and study topics related to family and fatherhood. For balance I need to take time away from this an toward areas I’m lacking.

Family – How can I be a more positive influence in my family’s life? I have a wonderful wife and two little boys who love having dad around. For me, 5-8pm is sacred family time. How do we best spend that time so our oldest son completes his homework, both boys get some exercise, and we spend quality time together? These are great questions to ask… how could your family time be better spent?

Spiritual – Regardless of your religious background, we all believe in something bigger than ourselves. How are you connecting with that spiritual side of your being? Are you doing things to help you see the bigger world around you? Purpose to take even 15 minutes each day to get in touch with your spiritual side… I promise you have one.

Social (Relationships) – Unfortunately, I have neglected this area as I’ve built my business. Friends and family are a great support network we need to tap into. Over the past few months, I have made a significant effort to reach out to old and new friends to take a sincere interest in their lives. I am gaining a lot of new ideas by listening.

Career – I placed this last in this list for a reason. As I have learned over the last few weeks, “living to work” is not a productive way to go through life. We all have times where we have to put more time in the office than we’d like, but it’s hard on ourselves and our families. This is why working in your passion is so important. If you are passionate about what you are doing, those (hopefully rare) times you have to work very long hours will not be so hard.

Life is too short and meaningful to act like we exist simply to make money. Money is important, but it’s just a tool. Building a great life takes much more than a big bank account.

To remain balanced, make sure to give all areas of your life adequate time and attention.


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1 Dee Britton

Hey Dallon,
What a fabulous post. I love the Wheel of Life Balance with the 7 key areas of personal fulfillment. This year I put aside my finances to take a year to travel around Australia with my husband and two teenage children. All other six areas of the wheel have flourished, especially family, spiritual & intellectual. Our financial sacrifices were well worth it as we have learned so many lessons – mainly ‘What is truly important’.
Dee 🙂

2 Dallon Christensen

Dee, I apologize for not responding to your post. This post really hit home for me. I’ve been home alone with my two sons, 7 and 3, while my wife is on a business trip to China. My boys don’t care a lick about my bank account or my salary. They care that I read with them, help them with homework, gush over their colorings, and play with them. I’m almost tearing up as I write this, because I realize that this post and what I’m doing mean more than just bringing home a check every week. Thanks for the reply.

3 Matt Jabs

I agree with Dee, great post Dallon. I have been working on balance for years and understand it to be something that will always require occasional attention to maintain. Right now I’m working on automating and outsourcing bothersome, time consuming, and/or busy-work tasks to free up time.

4 Kevin Miller

Dallon, it’s that care for my family that drove me to do whatever it takes…to be more than an ATM. Love that line, “While I know we all must provide for our families’ financial future, we are not ATMs. An ATM exists for one primary purpose – to generate cash.” Excellent. You’re makin’ it happen Dallon!

5 Jason Scott

I love the idea of ‘being like ATMs, its a great representation of our careers. I’m also a big fan of Dan Miller’s pie chart of personal fulfilment, I think sometimes you can get by without one of those seven areas, but when you start taking away more than one, it disrupts the work-life balance. Great post by the way!

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