Whoah, wait a minute… It’s already May? Where the bleep did April go? And March, for that matter?? It’s pretty sad when your work-life balance is so poor that weeks have flown by in Rip Van Winkle-like fashion. Time to wake up and find a way to avoid this never-ending cubicle hell and get a grip on my work-life balance.
Since the big promotion a few months back, work has been sheer chaos. Time spent hacking and slashing through business administration minutiae has soared to well over 50 hours a week. And on weekends, you’d likely find me reading a book for work training, or even responding to a few “important” emails. If I threw in a bad boss story, you’d probably break out with hives.
After reading It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, I have some newfound knowledge and methods to apply to my situation. (I don’t think I’ll take a Basecamp-inspired sabbatical though. That option doesn’t exist at my company. It probably wouldn’t go over well during this period of crazy-busy nonsense, topped with a hiring freeze.) At any rate, here is what the experiment will look like, at least at the outset…
Work-Life Balance Sustainability: My Steps
The experiment starts as of this draft’s inception, on May 7, 2019. We’ll string it out through the rest of 2019 to determine if I can weather seasonal shifts in work demands. Granted, at my company, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is.
There’s always time for gobs of worthless emails and questionable meetings. Still, we’ve got a solid 8 months or so to see where the work-life balance sustainability experiment takes us.
Here’s the list of changes I’ll attempt:
- Return to blogging at the magic 5:20 AM – 6:20 AM hour, every day AND build in 20 minutes to exercise from 6:20 AM to 6:40 AM.
- No work at all on weekends. Period. Unless it’s a really good book that’s about leadership and better work cultures – I get into that stuff
- Cap my work week to a 45-hour average. No tricks – Vacations do not factor into the numerator.
- Reduce status meetings with staff and implement office hours instead.
- Create a list of top five objectives for the week on my whiteboard (rather than just reacting to emails flooding my days)
- Delegate (appropriately) work to others, including my boss!
- No more checking in on work when I’m on vacation. Call my cell phone if the volcano erupts!
- Block off time on my calendar for concentration-oriented tasks, and disallow others from viewing my meeting subjects.
- Turn all 1:1 meetings into walk-and-talks. Might as well get some steps in and double bonus: have productive discussions.
Things that won’t change (squeeze the balloon at one end, and…)
- No work in the evenings. No change here. Mrs. Cubert and I already have our hands full raising young twins. Brains turn to mush after the kiddos’ bedtime.
- Bike to work when possible. When the weather is nice and I don’t have to pick up the kids, we’ll be pedalin’!
- Taking all my allotted vacation. I’ve got to set a good example for my team. It’s a sustainability thing.
How I’ll Track Progress and Hold Myself Accountable
Just like I did with the Airbnb Experiment last year, I’ll pop a little progress box onto the Right Nav of the blog home page. It’ll be pretty straightforward. Each month I’ll review how I did on each of the items above, pass or fail. Then, we’ll go “old school” and figure an overall letter grade score.
E.g., If I can muster 11 or 12 out of 12, that’s an “A” for the month. If I can achieve at least a “B” average of 85% or higher throughout the experiment, we can this whole thing a success. ALMOST…
Ultimately for this experiment to truly be a success, I need to sustain high performance at my job. I can’t just go off and do those 12 things above and hope for the best, come review time. I need to be effective. (Notice, I did not say “I need to be productive”. There’s a big difference in that nuance. See if you can discern that for yourself.)
If I’m still able to pull the highest possible review score once again this year, on top of getting a B average from the list above, then I’ll know that all that extra time spent chasing nonsense isn’t worth the energy spent. This is NOT a post about how to be a slacker with your work. On the flip side, this post is all about how to be the most effective kid on the block, and being so for the long-haul.
After my promotion, I quickly fell into the trap of believing I had to be “ON” a lot more than I had been. I had forgotten the approach to work that got me to that promotion in the first place!
Repeat after me: Sustainability. Sustainability. Sustainability… Okay, Dorothy, let’s go back to Kansas and start to work smarter, not harder. We need to turn our cubicle hell into something slightly less awful…
The Latest on Cubert’s Plan to Escape Cubicle Hell
Now that I have this fun experiment underway, I can start to ponder early retirement again. I was supposed to be wrapping things up this July, remember? Well, it took a little longer than expected to pay off the mortgage. (Our 2018 tax bill had something to do with that.)
Recalibrating the FIRE Time Machine, my new target is March of 2020. I’m still within a year of being able/ready to walk away. The main thing I need to focus on is finding a new landing. More and more I’m liking what Uncle Daryl and Dave at Accidental Fire are up to, with their Semi-FIRE part-time work. Consulting gigs might just be the answer, and I need to do my homework to figure out what I’d like to jump into.
Originally, I thought I’d sit around and write blog posts and maintain the rental houses. Trouble is, those houses are so passive, and a lot of what needs to get done requires skilled trades (e.g., new roof, new concrete walkways, etc.) There are still some projects I’m planning to take on with the rentals and with our home as well. But again, I wouldn’t mind 16-20 steady hours of work to maintain some cash flow and keep me out of trouble.
Another angle on this experiment: What if the experiment goes so well, that I wind up finding a work-life balance that’s juusssst right? CNN BREAKING NEWS: Goldilocks ditches early retirement for some yum yum corporate porridge… The Lions win the Super Bowl… Atlantis discovered…
For me to abandon early retirement altogether, I’d have to go full-Danish on this shit and reduce my work week to 40 hours or less and add at least one more week of vacation per year. (We have the option to buy up to one week of extra time off at my company, assuming the boss approves.) Still, I tend to think if I’m going to get enough time back in my life for all the side projects I want to pursue, full-time work, even with a sane schedule, just won’t cut it.
What do you fine readers think? What work-life balance sustainability practices have you successfully (or unsuccessfully) tried?