Plug the phrase “Work-Life Balance” into Google, and the search returns roughly 845,000,000 results. This is more than twice the estimated US population. I think we can all agree that this is a topic on most of our minds. But what is it? Can it really be achieved? And how can we approach it within the context of our voice-over business?
Defining the goal
Before we can discuss work-life balance, we have to define it.
When I worked in corporate America, most people that used the term meant “I want to play more than I work.” I understand wanting to minimize work for play, or for all of the other things we need to accomplish in a day, but I don’t think this is the best way to approach it.
A former CEO of mine proposed a different definition to me, with which I’ve found success. He suggested that a work-life balance based solely on the amount of time you spend at work or away came up short in actually moving your life forward. Rather than define a successful work-life balance in this way, he proposed that you determine a greater vision for your life and let that vision inform the way that you spend your time.
I’m going to be using this definition for the remainder of this blog post.
Establishing the vision
First, you need to clearly define a big picture for your life.
Take a moment to ask yourself “What is important to me?” and “What do I want to get out of a career in voice-over?” Write down 3-5 answers to these questions. As an example, my answers, in order of importance, include:
- Being present & available for my family.
- Being able to give generously to my church, missionaries, and other charities (and people in general).
- Becoming independently wealthy so I can eventually turn some of my attention to other pursuits.
When considering what actions I will take in my voiceover business, I will now filter those actions through this lens – “Is XYZ helping or hindering me from achieving my visions?”
It’s extremely important that you spend as much time as is needed on this exercise. Don’t rush through it, even if it takes an uncomfortable amount of time, because wrong or poorly defined visions now will only create more work later.
Planning your attack
The next step is to determine what actions to take to move toward these goals. This is where it gets a little tricky, and requires critical thinking and a long-game mindset. What seems good in the short term may actually work against your bigger picture. What hurts now may actually be moving you toward your bigger picture. Unfortunately, there is no easy one-size-fits-all answer here, but there is a simple method.
Let’s look at my vision items again. When I’m working I can’t be engaged with my family, so my first vision is focused on maximizing my time away from work. However, in order to give generously to others and create independent wealth – visions two and three – I have to make more money.
So do I work more, work less, or work differently?
Yes. And no.
None of these answers is the holy grail, and all of them may be appropriate at different times. Let’s look at a few examples:
Example 1: I decide to spend two hours per night generating leads and doing marketing after the house goes to sleep. It’s more work, but it doesn’t interfere with my desire to be present for my family during waking hours. This extra work is moving me toward my second and third visions while protecting vision one. Additionally, this move now could lead to less work later if I can score a few recurring big-ticket clients, so in the long-term, it could work for vision one as well.
Example 2: I decide to hire someone to help with lead generation. I normally set aside two hours on Mondays and Fridays to generate new leads which I market to throughout the week. Hiring this assistant could help me to gain more time to spend with my family while not interfering with my other visions. If I play it really smart, I could still spend some time generating my own leads and hire this assistant to focus on my highest grossing genres, which could also simultaneously move me toward my other visions – a win all around!
Preserving the flow
Once you’ve developed your plan and the ball is rolling, how do you keep it rolling in the right way? This section will be short. It’s the simplest, but also the most challenging part of creating a proper work-life balance. To preserve a good work-life balance you need to do a few things:
- Re-assess your vision. I find that bi-annually – at the start of Q1 and Q3 – works best for me. The big picture shouldn’t change very often, but sometimes major life events, such as getting married, having kids, or a big financial emergency require some changes.
- Re-assess your actions. Here I find that a quarterly assessment is best. Some actions you take may appear to be moving you toward your visions on paper, but after some time it becomes apparent they aren’t. Learn when to drop activities.
- Be thoughtful. Sometimes new opportunities will come your way that seem great. And in the short-term, they may be. But in the long-term, you may be setting yourself up for a harder road or all-out-failure. Always remember to test any action you take against your visions first.
- Be disciplined. It should go without saying that no plan will work if you don’t stick to it. If you have to make a hard decision now, keep the big picture in mind and push through. You’ll thank yourself later for not giving up.
As a final note, if you don’t have to, don’t go it alone. I’ve written about accountability partners before, and I can’t stress how much more successful efforts like this are with someone in your corner either supporting you or trying it themselves as well.
So, is this a fool-proof definition and method of achieving work-life balance? Of course not. But I encourage you to give it a try. I know that it worked for me, and I hope that it helps you to come to a comfortable balance in your life and reach your goals.
Check out this interview with SAV Alum Andre Johnson – someone who knows all about work-life balance!