A few weeks ago, I got a question from a CC member about life balance:
I’m a month into my new job and it’s going great! Loving the work, super flexible, and I’m pretty happy with the pay.
There is a pain-point that’s starting to arise and I’m wondering how you handle this. Since I began working, I’ve been starting to date more and get side projects going. I’m curious how you’re able to manage a great career at Microsoft, Cultivated Culture AND have a thriving relationship with your fiancee.
I found that it’s a bit tough, trying to manage/grow relationships without taking a significant hit to my productivity at work and with my side-projects.
Would love to hear your thoughts! If you think this would be valuable to others, would be great to see a post on this!
It’s a question I get a lot – how does someone manage to pursue their goals, build great relationships, and still have time to kick back and enjoy?
I’m taking his advice this week and laying out the method that’s worked for me.
The Importance Of Balance
Balance is critical to happiness.
The problem is, most of us don’t have it. We’re skewed towards one extreme or another.
If you’re unemployed, you have all the free time in the world. But are you happy? Probably not. You might feel like you don’t have a purpose and you’re anxious about the future, finances, etc.
If you’re an investment banker, you show up to work every day and you get paid extremely well to do it. But are you happy? Maybe. Or maybe the fact that you’re working 100+ hours a week might be getting to you.
And if you’re reading this, chances are you fall somewhere in the middle. Working a little too much, not being paid enough, wondering how you’re going to take your life to the next level and find your purpose.
Balance became a top priority for me because I’d been through all of the situations above and none of them gave me the full satisfaction I was looking for.
The times when I’ve been truly happy are when I’m making progress in every area. Doing well at my job, growing Cultivated Culture, spending time with friends and family, consistently exercising, etc.
Sounds like a lot to ask, right? There are a LOT of variables in there and I could write a separate post on each.
For now, I’m going to share the one change I made (that’s cemented into my daily routine) that allows me to get results in my full time job, build a profitable business on the side, have great relationships, and still have time to kick back every now and then.
The Problem With Success Today
The idea of “hustle” has become sexy over the past few years.
At first, I thought it was great. Finally, staying at home on Friday night to work on a side project wasn’t lame. The cool kids were starting to do it!
I also loved that it was encouraging people to step out of their 9-to-5 and take on other projects. It made it easier to connect outside of my circle, companies were becoming more understanding about their employees making money on the side, etc.
But soon, the idea of “hustle” transformed into something more. Like a fad in high school that became a little bit too pervasive, you’re either all in or you’re a pariah with no chance of “making it.”
Fiverr’s little subway ad sums it up nicely:
If you’re not spending every waking second of your day working on becoming successful, what the f**k are you even doing?
It makes me sad.
Should you strive to learn, grow, and achieve more every day? Yes!
Should you do it at the cost of your health and your happiness? Absolutely not.
And it doesn’t have to be.
It’s completely possible to find a job you love, start a profitable business, and connect with amazing people without working yourself to death.
Paying Yourself First
Rich Dad, Poor Dad is one of my favorite books on investing.
Every time I read a book, there are usually one or two points that really stick with me. Stuff I remember far into the future, that influences and shapes my decisions.
In Rich Dad, Kiyosaki introduced me to one of the core principles that I still follow today:
Pay yourself first.
There are lots of things out there vying for our time and attention. Our jobs, our boss, our friends, our bills, our side projects, our health, etc.
The problem most people have is that they pay everyone else before they pay themselves.
Take a look at the typical schedule for someone working a 9-5:
6:30/7:00 am – Wake up
7:30 am – Breakfast
8:15 am – Commute to work
9:00 am – Work begins
12:30 pm – Lunch
5:00 pm – Work ends
5:15 pm – Commute home
6:00 pm – Arrive home
7:00 pm – Have dinner
10:00 pm – Prepare for bed
10:30/11:00 pm – Go to sleep
The largest window of free time is between 6-10pm and, for most people, that is their “me” time.
By that point, their brain has been churning away for close to 12 hours: commuting through traffic both ways, meetings with their manager, managing relationships with colleagues and clients, responding to a few personal emails, worrying about the laundry list of things they need to do this week, etc.
When 6pm rolls around, they have paid everyone else with their time and energy.
Why is this such a big deal? After all, that’s pretty much what the entire population is doing, right?
Will Power Is A Finite Resource
Recent scientific research has shown that willpower is a finite resource. You get a certain amount every day that’s only refreshed by a full night of quality sleep.
The moment your alarm goes off in the morning, you begin depleting your will power:
- Getting out of bed
- Deciding what to wear
- Sitting through meetings
- Negotiating with that client or co-worker
- Getting nervous about your presentation
- Figuring out what to have for dinner
- Meeting friends for happy hour
- Going to the gym
Pretty much everything you do during the day drains some amount of will power. This is why it’s so much easier to choose Netflix over spending a few hours on your side hustle or job search at the end of a long day.
When we do this, we tend to tell ourselves that we’ll make it up later.
“I’m skipping it tonight, but I’ll just spend an extra two hours tomorrow or on Saturday morning.”
This hardly ever works.
When It Comes To Success, Consistency Beats Intensity
Whether it’s starting a business or finding a job you love, accomplishing your goals is exactly like going to the gym.
Consistency beats intensity every time.
You’re going to lose more weight by showing up for 30 minutes, five times per week than if you knocked out out a four hour marathon session once on Saturdays.
When you break your goals down into daily rituals, several things happen:
- You create inertia and build momentum that helps you maintain your habit
- You give your mind time to work on the problem throughout the day, leading to more creative approaches
- You reduce burnout
If you can find a pocket of time every day where you isolate yourself from distractions and totally focus on your goals, that is where the magic happens.
My “Secret Sauce” For Finding Balance
It took me several years to of trial and error before I figured out the two concepts above.
I knew that if I wanted to land a job I loved and start a business, I had to put in the work. The problem was, life kept cutting into the “me” time I had allotted at the end of the day.
- Our company would have a happy hour.
- There would be an industry event in the city and I wanted to meet someone who would be my springboard.
- My clients turned out to be an absolute nightmare that day and all I could think about was melting into my couch with a beer.
At the end of the week, I’d be lucky to have put in a few hours worth of work. Despite that, I still expected results and got frustrated when they never showed…
Eventually, I became so frustrated that I flipped the entire equation.
Screw happy hour, screw networking, and screw relationships.
Every night I came home, went to the gym, and cranked out 4-5 hours of work.
The results were amazing, but once I had made some progress I noticed a different kind of frustration.
I was pretty damn lonely. On top of that, I hadn’t done anything “fun” in months.
I had to find a better balance.
Some way to work uninterrupted every single day, while still having time to invest in my job, my friends, and my health. Using the two concepts above, I found something that worked.
Reversing The Equation
I realized that if I shifted the block of “me” time from the late evening to the early morning, I would be able to knock out 4 straight hours of work before the rest of the world had finished their commute to the office.
I’d be giving myself the best hours of my day, when my willpower was at full capacity, and I’d free up my evenings and overlap with everyone else’s “me” time.
So I switched up my schedule and set my alarm for 5am.
A big perk of waking up early: the view.
I’d wake up, put in 3 hours of work towards Cultivated Culture, hit the gym for half an hour, and head to work.
When I walked into the office, I’d already paid myself for the day and my work wasn’t hanging over my head.
If someone wanted to grab a drink after work, no problem!
Cool event going on downtown? I’m there.
Binge watch 3 hours of Stranger Things when I get home? You know it.
The only real sacrifice I had to make was climbing into bed around 9:30pm (along with the jokes you’ll inevitably get from friends and colleagues because of it).
Trying It For Yourself
Waking up early is a major change and, like any major change, you shouldn’t go from 0 to 60 immediately.
Instead of setting your alarm for 5, try moving it back 15 minutes every few days (and going to bed 15 minutes earlier to balance). When you wake up, use that additional time for something related to your personal development.
Read a book on business, meditate, send a few emails.
Eventually those 15 minute blocks will add up to several hours and you’ll be able to make a dent in some larger projects. Don’t be upset if it takes you a month or two to get there though.
Remember, consistency beats intensity every time.
What is the biggest challenge for you when it comes to balancing life and hustle?
Drop a comment below and let me know!
Austin is the founder of Cultivated Culture where he helps people land jobs without connections, without traditional experience, and without applying online. His strategies have been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, & Fast Company and has helped people just like you land jobs at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, & more.