A Seaman's Journey

Adventures of a Lifetime

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7,666 Shopping Days Left

According to the actuarial statistics my life expectancy is another 7,666 days. When I first wrote this article it was at 10,000. The clock is ticking. How do I plan to spend that time? I've been working diligently on this question and have finally arrived at the answer.

The subject of work/life balance means different things for each person. For some it brings up strong feelings of resentment caused by the insatiable demands of an employer or family members. For others it is a call to get back to work. Since work is my drug of choice, it is a mandate to spend more time on Facebook, or watching kittens on You Tube.

Balancing work and life is mostly about investing our life in the things that we actually value. Money is important because it allows us to do other things, like eat or live indoors. This brings us to the first decision point. How much time will we spend working as a percentage of our overall life?

We have roughly 100 waking hours to budget each week. I intend to spend half this time on all forms of work combined. This leaves the remaining 50 hours for all the different types of play activities.

The second choice you make is related to private or public activities. You have a certain amount of time that you must work for others versus providing for the needs of your family. In the same way, play activities may be built around other people, or for the purpose of individual enjoyment.

I find my balance by spending 25% of my time in each of these quadrants: Working for my family, Working for others, Playing by myself, Building relationships.

Since half of all the time is spend working you can substitute the hours spent working for the actual money that you spend in your budget. I use the following categories:

Work for us: Housing expenses, Living expenses, Savings (25 hours/week)

Work for others: Tax, Church, Community service (25 hours/week)

Play for us: Vacation, Entertainment, Personal growth (25 hours/week)

Play with others: Family time, Friends time, Social networking (25 hours/week)

You need to configure your own life budget based on what you most value. Here is a simple way to do it. You can complete this task in about a half hour, plus a week while you argue with yourself and your spouse.

Select twenty tokens (use poker chips, m&ms or coins). Each token represents five hours of your time weekly. Use two kinds of tokens for work and play. Write the twelve categories of things that you want to spend time on every week. Allocate the tokens according to what you value most.

Smaller goals can be combined into other categories that you are more committed to. The smallest level of ongoing investment is five hours every week. Things that take a couple of hours weekly do not show up at this level. Group them with another category. Notice that "Living Expenses" is my catch-all bucket for spending.

This exercises will teach you three things. 1. You will understand how much work you intend to do. 2. You will know how your work time is converted into actual life goals. 3. You will realize the ideal balance for meeting the needs of others compared to your own personal needs.

No one answer is right for everyone, but there is an answer that is right for you and your family. Live long and prosper!