One of the reasons I became an independent contractor was to have the freedom and flexibility to control my own schedule. Growing up and in college, I had worked in many jobs where I effectively punched in and out, and I had a feeling that I would prefer the independent contractor lifestyle, as long as I could survive check to check. The one thing I didn’t account for was the almost obsessive nature that takes you over when you are running your own business.
To run your own business and be accountable to the lives of others is a great responsibility that cannot be taken lightly. As I got deeper into my brokerage career, I became more and more focused and hungry to make it bigger, better and faster. As I built my business and added people to my team, I began to take things more seriously, because others were depending on me for their success. Along the way, my balance got thrown off. In my three-legged tripod of work, health and family, I became off-kilter.
Anytime you lose your balance, you risk the whole thing. You can become off balance and not fall over, as long as you take corrective action when you identify what is out of kilter. For me, the first thing that started to suffer was my health. I started making excuses to myself that I didn’t need to go to the gym as often, that I couldn’t find the time. Every time there was a choice to do more work, have dinner with a client, go home and see the family, I never ended up going to work out. When your health suffers, everything else can fall apart pretty quickly. After several years of burning the candle at both ends and putting on a good amount of weight, I decided to get back in balance. It was a tough choice, because it meant sacrificing two other areas in my life that were instinctually more important: my family and my work.
I came to realize, though, that if I worked smarter, used my time more efficiently, and created systems that allowed me to leverage technology and talented people, I could do more with less and have time to spend on my physical well-being. Things were going good for a while once I made this change. And then my wife and I had a baby, and it was a new game. It took me about a year, but I then was able to get my health back again and get on a new schedule that allowed me enough time not to be an absentee father, stay focused on my business, and dedicate enough time to my mental and physical health. After all, what good is your work if you are going to check out early because you don’t take care of yourself?
Here are a couple practical tips that I found useful in maintaining my sanity in the concrete jungle:
- No iPhone/emailing after 8 p.m.—I was glued to my electronics at home, and that’s never a good thing for your family.
- Exercise four times per week—I try and make at least two of those playing some sort of sport with a client or an agent whom I work with, so I can work and exercise at the same time.
- Home for dinner with my son two nights per week, minimum
- Stick to a salad for big work dinners and lunches, where I normally would have gone for something more unhealthy
These rules I live by have helped me get my life in a better place, and I hope you can use some of these ideas to improve your balance.