There are few joys in life greater than being a father. And for those of us fortunate enough to have a job we enjoy, many dads also take joy in their work. But as well all know, there are only 24 hours in a day, which is why it is so important to make the most of the time we have. It’s a well-known fact that Americans put in more hours during the workweek than adults in other developed countries. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the “40-hour workweek” is actually closer to 47-hours long. And that doesn’t factor in commutes and working from home! This can be attributed to the fact that our society has placed a premium on working long hours. We’ve somehow become confused into believing that logging more time at work is a reflection of our value as human beings. So in this high-pressure, work-obsessed culture, it’s vital (to our health and our happiness) that we find our true value in something other than our work, and put the effort into balancing the time we have.
Establishing your priorities.
My wife, Summer, and I have been blessed with three amazing kids: Jude (5), Nolie (2) and George (1). We have also both been blessed in our professional lives: I have been an attorney for 10 years and Summer is both a massage therapist and a doula. And while we both enjoy what we do professionally, our family is our first priority. In other words, we work to live, rather than the inverse. Establishing your number one priority is the first key in balancing your time.
It’s easy to say that your family comes first. But the real indicator of where your priorities lie is your use of time. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21. We automatically equate “treasure” with money, but our most valuable resource is our time. Expenditure of our time is a zero-sum game. When you spend an hour doing one thing, you’re taking away an hour that you could be spending on something, or someone, else. There’s no way to earn any more than what we’re given. So if time represents our treasure, the use of our time is a reflection of our hearts and the things we value.
Practically speaking then, the simplest way to determine your true priorities is to assess where you spend most of your time.
Resist the pressure to work longer hours.
If you have decided that your family is your top priority, the next step is to figure out a way to give them more of your time. With our busy lives, there are only so many places where we can find an extra hour or two, but the first place to start is definitely with your work. For those of us who have the opportunity to work overtime, or can choose to work beyond the typical 9-5, this is especially important. The lure of working more is that it typically means more money in your pocket. In a world where we find value in comparing ourselves to others, this presents a dangerous trap. Even those of us with the best of intentions, believing we are providing the best for our families, can become consumed with our worldly possessions – our houses, cars, and even clothes. But when that happens, those things become our treasure. In my profession, I have seen firsthand the negative effects that the pursuit of things can have on a family. And it only takes one unexpected event for someone to go from trying to give your family the best to drowning in debt. At the end of the day, the things of this world are fleeting, and working more hours to acquire more possessions cannot bring us the fulfillment that can be found in spending time with our families.
Balancing family time.
Once you’ve established a healthy work-life balance, the next hurdle is managing your time at home. If time with your family is priority number 1, then time with your spouse should be priority 1A. As much as some might be tempted to put their children before their marriage, the kids have to be relegated to 1B. Otherwise, the limited time you have with your little ones can become overshadowed by stress from failing to foster a relationship with your spouse.
In the midst of dividing your time among work, your spouse and your children, you must also be sure to make time for yourself. If I’m not happy with myself, it’s hard for me to be happy with my wife and kids. So it’s critical to take a few moments for yourself amidst all your other responsibilities. Whether it’s reading, exercising, or taking a few moments to meditate, investing in yourself is a key component of balancing your time.
Through the years, our jobs may change, our kids become involved in more and more activities, and life can throw us the occasional curve ball. All of these events can force us to adjust our schedules and how we manage our time. But at the end of the day, taking a moment to identify our priorities ensures that what we truly value always comes first.