“We should catch up more often!” “Ooh, I could get used to this!” “I’ve been meaning to do that more often” “Mmm, this is the life…”
Sound familiar? If you’ve ever said (or thought) the above, you’re not alone. It’s natural for the holidays to shape your ambitions for work/life balance in the year ahead. Unfortunately, the stats show for most the situation is less than ideal. The OECD Better Life Index ranks Australia a miserable 31 out of 38 countries for work/life balance. In late 2014, the Australia Institute found that only one in five workers are working the hours they would like to. Does this include you?
What does your ideal life look like?
The first step is working out what you want the ‘life’ part to look like.
Everyone’s values, commitments and drivers are different. Working out and acknowledging what you want from life is an important first step. You might want to spend time looking after an elderly relative, keeping an eye on kids or grandkids, or volunteering in your community. You may want to broaden your horizons by going back to study, or filling up the pages in your passport. It could be as simple as having enough hours in the day to shop for produce and cook a delicious meal from scratch. The important thing is to formulate your own vision.
Once you’ve worked out what you want, beyond just ‘more work/life balance’, it’s time to turn those wants into goals, and those goals into plans. And that starts with knowing how to cut down on the work side of it.
Finding more time for the good things in life
• Trying to cut down your hours? It might be a matter of working smarter, instead of just stacking on the hours. Try implementing one simple time management initiative at a time. Start by creating a to-do list at the start of each day.
• Feel like you’re at work even when you’re not in the office? Time to start setting some limits. Avoid taking calls and responding to emails out of hours.
• Don’t hoard your annual leave and save it up for one huge holiday every year. Take time off throughout the year; you’ll feel better in the long run.
• It doesn’t hurt to enquire about flexibility. Even if flexi-hours aren’t a standard policy where you work, you have the legal right to at least ask your employer.
• Working for yourself? It’s all too easy to pour all your (non-sleeping) time into your business, but try setting boundaries so that you’re not working 24/7. Making the aforementioned to-do list will help you feel better about stopping work for the day, when the only things left to do are less urgent tasks.
Things to consider
There’s a strong likelihood that your new work/life balance goal will throw up a few financial challenges. If you’re reducing your overall working hours, you’ll have less in your paycheque. Depending on your life stage, coping with this may mean getting smart with your household budget, developing a new income stream, or transitioning to retirement. It’s not just a matter of opportunity cost, either; the very thing you want to spend time on could become a growing line item on your expense list. Setting firm savings goals can help ensure you have enough to cover more frequent holidays, outings with friends and relatives, or that brand new set of golf clubs.
If you’re running your own business (or thinking about striking out on your own), the game changes altogether. You may have much more or much less flexibility to alter your working hours outside the 9-5, take on staff to cover your responsibilities, or work remotely. It could take some serious business strategy adjustment.
Seeing our clients achieving their lifestyle goals is what gets us out of bed in the morning. Make an appointment with us today and we’ll get you started with a financial plan that fits your new work/life goals.