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The 5 Keys for Successful Work/Life Balance

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The 5 Keys for Successful Work/Life Balance

Five, 10 or 15 years ago the American Dream was to own a bunch of “stuff” – a big house, luxury SUVs and the finest clothes. Well, we have learned from the recession and mortgage crisis what overspending and living in a fantasy world has done to millions of Americans: The American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.

So what’s the New American Dream? Dozens of nationwide surveys show that what Americans want most in life is work/life balance. True happiness and fulfillment comes from doing fun, exciting things – not having fun, exciting things.

So, how do you have your cake and eat it too?  Here are 5 important “must-dos” in order to successfully live the New American Dream and have successful work/life balance:

  1. You must learn to live below your means. The only way to have time and energy to do the things most important to you (time with kids, travel, church, service, reading, exercise or just relaxing) is to spend less time at work and more time with life. The higher your monthly expenses are, the more you feel the pressure to be at the office. It’s a very simple formula, yet the majority of Americans fall into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses (or Kardashians) and never learn to live below their means.
  2. Your job must be a good “vehicle”. Many people admire brain surgeons for their abilities, clout and paycheck. But saving lives and being on-call 24/7 is not a good vehicle for healthy work/life balance. Any job that sucks you dry emotionally or physically is also not a good vehicle because when you leave the office you are too drained to do the things you really love to do. So ask yourself, “Am I able to leave work behind when I drive home? Do I have a boss who builds me up and doesn’t tear me down? When I come home, am I energized to spend time with my kids?” If the answers are “Yes” then you probably have a great vehicle for work/life balance – regardless of your job title or paycheck. (See our article “The Biggest Key to Work/Life Balance”)
  3. Am I running my career and life, or is someone running it for me? It’s important to stand up for your own schedule and work with a company who is willing to work with you to help you have life balance. (See our article “One Thing Your Boss Will Never Tell You”)
  4. Learn to turn off your cell phone before you walk in your front door. Emails, text messages, Facebook, YouTube, games, apps – they are now killing the New American Dream. These things are fine in small doses, but more than a few minutes a day these gadgets will kill quality time with your kids, distract you from exercising and derail any goals you set for yourself. Smart phones are creating a lot of dumb people. Don’t be one of them.
  5. Carve out time (daily) for the things most important to you. If your children are your priority, then carve out quality time for them every day – and do not let anything and anyone get in the way. Schedule everything else (including work) around your priorities. Protect your priorities like an offensive lineman protects his quarterback. Push and shove distractions out of the way – or else all of your life goals will get sacked.


Kate Raidt Kate Raidt is author of The Million-Dollar Parent: How to Have a Successful Career While Keeping Family a Top Priority and founder of advantage4parents.com. She is also an alumnus of the Southwestern Company's summer work program. Kate is also the mother of two young children.
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