Creating a “Team” Approach to Family Finances
We had a powerful discussion about work family balance and finances on our recent Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar. Missed it? Check out the YouTube link we’ve created for you. Scott Behson also provides some great advice on this topic in his book – Working Dad’s Survival Guide.
Read on for a few of Scott’s words of wisdom:
1 – You May Need to Choose – Big Bucks or Work Life Balance
Scott references Warren Farrell’s book at the start of his discussion of family finances. He does this because, as Scott explains, “among other things, jobs that require or strongly encourage extensive travel, long commutes, long work weeks… earn significantly more than jobs that are more stable, have more regular and reasonable hours, and do not make such time-based or psychological demands.” However, Scott also reminds us that jobs that pay less may have other non-financial benefits, like “more satisfying work, better work-life balance, less stress and more free time.”
2 – Success Is the Freedom to Live by Your Priorities
Throughout the section that focuses on family finances, Scott argues, “My over-arching philosophy when it comes to finances, work and family, is that the key to success is the freedom to act in accordance with our priorities.” To do this, Scott encourages his readers to be careful around the big financial choices they make, like the decision to buy a house. “Maybe instead of working harder and sacrificing family time, you can free up time by examining and reducing these large expenses.”
3 – There is a Lot to Gain From Smart Budgeting
Scott talks about the value of creating a family budget. In fact he compares it to something he does at his workplace. In August his organization creates a very conservative budget, “not quite a worst-case scenario, but a bad-case scenario.” Then, a few months later when they have a better handle on their financial picture, they create a second budget. This second budget is almost always better than what was originally projected, and as a result, people are more at liberty to spend on things that are “nice to have” not just “need to have.” Scott points out, “If we do 85% budgeting, we have more slack in our finances to accommodate unexpected expenses.” In contrast, “If your regular income and regular expenses simply equal out, your finances can be compared to a rope already taut. With no slack, the rope has no more capacity to be stretched further without fraying.”
4 – Create a Team Approach to Your Financial Goals
Scott ends the chapter by encouraging parents to talk through different options with each other to create a common plan. He concludes with one father’s illustrative story. “My wife and I talked about my transition from a long-hours, good-paying job with good benefits to going out on a limb and starting my own consultancy… We had some financial cushion, but it was scary. Now I can have a much more family kind of lifestyle, and we can share the load more easily at home. The fact that my wife and I talked all the implications through – what does this mean for our mortgage, for college savings, for health insurance, for her work? – made the transition so much better.”
We also know real and lasting change will only happen when societies support men and women to share in the work of earning income and caring for their families. Want help designing your Shared Care work-family solution? Check out our “Work Family Options Resource Book.”
After Fifteen Months of Chronic Overwork, I Still Have One More Month to Go
The last 15 months have been challenging, not just because of some unexpected life events (learn more), but also because our organization is growing. Growth is a good thing. We want to reach more people with our exciting and important mission. But the trick is figuring out how to have growth happen at approximately the same rate as our capacity to manage this growth.
Luckily, at ThirdPath we very purposefully build in slower periods of work over the summers so we can make changes to address these types of issues. In fact, this summer we put a great plan in place to manage this growth. However, hiring and training people takes time, so my chronic overwork continued through the end of the year, and I’m hoping it will be behind me in the next month (or two).
There is a silver lining. I now have a better understanding of what it feels like – and how I start behaving – when I’m chronically overworked. I also know that too many professionals in today’s 24/7 business environment are chronically overworked. So this past year has given me greater insights into what their lives must feel like.
I like to tell people to think of their capacity for work as a glass of water.
Is your glass filled to the brim? Overflowing? Or do you have a little wiggle room at the top of the glass?
When managing my capacity for work, I’ve learned to very intentionally plan around busier and less busy periods of work – or continuing with the glass analogy – to plan for the times when my glass is filled to the brim and spilling over versus when I have a little extra room at the top. If I’ve done a good job preparing for a busy period, I have created extra support and good personal habits to handle this peak period more effectively.
During slower periods, I use the “extra room” in my glass to make changes that will improve how I work going forward. I systematize processes, re-prioritize tasks, and decide what to delegate so that I have more time for what I am uniquely qualified to do.
It turns out working this way isn’t just good for you, it’s also good for your organization. It means you are better able to manage the unexpected – both at work and outside of work. It also means I come to work more refreshed, and better able to keep my perspective about what’s really an emergency and what’s really most important. However, this Fall, I could tell living with this on-going level of stress wasn’t good for me.
When constantly in a state of overwork I began to notice how smaller things pushed me off balance very easily.
I was quick to lose my perspective. I even caught myself working less efficiently, and even making some mistakes.
In October, my husband and I planned a long weekend away to celebrate my birthday. I pride myself in my ability to turn off work while on vacation, and I was able to do this during this trip as well. But even with this break, when I got back to work, I was shocked to see how quickly I returned to the same stressed perspective I had before vacation.
Once again there was a task that needed to get done that was going to require more time than I had available. And just like before vacation, it pushed me immediately into a stressed response, instead of being able to step back and imagine a more creative solution.
The truth is with so many months of stress behind me and a few more to go, I shouldn’t be surprised that I’m still behaving this way.
I didn’t do anything wrong. Growth is good. Life happens. ThirdPath has also developed and begun to implement a plan that will end this period of overwork. But I also have to admit that during the last 15 months, sometimes I have traveled to a bit of a dark place. A place where I start losing hope, and believing things will never change.
Luckily I have developed and maintained a number of good habits to regain my normally optimistic outlook. I exercise regularly. My husband cooks amazing healthy dinners for our family. I carve out routine times during my work week without calls or meetings so I can get focused work done. And all year long I relied on my staff to help me keep focused on my top priority work.
When I get overloaded, I also try to remember to stop and take a walk, or to call a friend, or to do both. This helps remind me that it is probably the chronic overwork that is causing me to see things worse than they are. But I’m also really tired of it, and I’m looking forward to a much more balanced 2017!
Did you make a New Year’s resolution to push back at overwork and create more time for life? Let us help you.
Check out our free resources, including our “Key Integration Practices” handout.
Revolutionary ThirdPath Community Members Changing Work and Life
ThirdPath has become the premier work/life organization supporting men and women – as both parents and leaders – to achieve integrated lives.
We were able to do this by learning from you.
You’ve taught us meaningful change can only really come about when we look at our lives from an integrated perspective – we need to make changes at work AND changes at home. Read on to see just a few of the ways ThirdPath’s amazing community members are changing the world.
Read more …
Revolutionary work practices … This month’s “Meet the Pioneer” story illustrates how to put these ideas into practice, including practical ideas for shaping a flexible work team.
Revolutionary parents … But our community members also taught us how changes at home are linked to changes at work.
Changing What We Do at Home Changes Our Workplaces
Gay or straight, living together or separate, when both mothers and fathers are supported to flex work around the needs of children, great things happen.
Both parents learn how to work more effectively
They learn how to: reduce interruptions; focus on tasks that make the best use of their skills; eliminate lower priority tasks; strategically delegate; use slow periods to re-prioritize work and put more efficient processes into practice.
Both parents learn how to manage changes in schedules
Parents can work together to handle predictable and unpredictable changes such as school closings, snow days and a sick child. They can also help each other out to manage the ups and downs of their workloads.
Families have more “wiggle room” to plan for what’s needed next
Families need time to for many small things (when to get the car fixed) and big things too (how to make the most of summers, or how to manage a job relocation). Having time to anticipate and organize around these changes increases the likelihood of developing the best possible solutions.
Organizations learn how to develop less gendered career paths
Normalizing both parents involvement in family care, doesn’t just change our assumptions about gender at home, it also changes our assumptions at work.
Both men and women become role models for the next generation
When fathers are supported to be active parents at home, and mothers and fathers learn how to work as a team to meet work and family needs, both parents become powerful role models for their children.
We explored the importance of flexibility at work and at home at our last Pioneering Leaders Summit – a biennial event that brings together all of ThirdPath’s “integrated leaders”. Are you a leader who has moved ahead at work while also creating time and energy for your life outside of work? Contact us. We’d like to tell you more about our plans for Pioneering Leader Summit 2017.
Millennial Dads – Changing Our Workplaces and Families
Did you know that two-thirds of millennial men want to share caregiving responsibilities at home?
We learned about this from the wonderful Boston College Center on Work and Family report “The New Millennial Dad.”
It also got us thinking about what a positive impact this change would have on families, workplaces, women’s careers and our larger society!
Read more …
For over 15 years, ThirdPath has been working with dads who have designed very diverse ways to succeed at work while also being an actively involved in the care of their children. Like today’s millennials, these dads were interested in finding ways to share caregiving responsibilities.
Bill started parenthood as an attorney working full time, Alexandra his partner, worked an 80% schedule in marketing.
“After the birth of our first son, Alexandra worked an 80% schedule (every Friday off). Seven years later, after the birth of our third son, Alexandra asked me to reduce my schedule so I could take on more responsibility at home and she could maintain her career. In response, I went to an 80% schedule (every Monday off).
“One year later, with a newly assigned manager, I met resistance to my schedule because of the workplace and societal views of men’s roles, and was told I would have to go full time. I pushed back and negotiated a 90% schedule (every other Friday off). Shortly thereafter, Alexandra was promoted and asked to go full time. In response, she followed my lead and negotiated a 90% schedule (taking the alternative Friday off). We maintained that for four years.”
Ultimately Bill ended up changing his career and staring a web design business. Today, they have settled into a healthy dynamic, where Alexandra works from home two days a week and Bill has plenty of flexibility from owning his own business.
Brett started parenthood as an attorney working full time. Together, he and his partner decided Angelike would become the stay at home parent.
“Angelike and I have been very focused on insuring that each of us can live a fulfilling and varied life. That focus – mixed with an interest in being actively involved parents and role models for our children – have been the guiding principles of our family decision making and lead us both to career and caregiving identities.
“At the time my daughter was born, we were both lawyers. We discussed maintaining both of our careers and hiring a nanny, one of us working part-time and one of us staying at home. We both liked our jobs but we both realized I got a lot more satisfaction and enjoyment out of my job than she did. We also decided that the nanny route,during the early years was not for us. Angelike’s boss was also not willing to accommodate a part-time schedule.
“Today, we are a family of an 8 year old, a 12 year old, a partner in a law firm and a mindfulness and self-compassion teacher whose work hours are increasing as her parenting hours get cut back. There are a lot of interests and needs to juggle and we approach them the same way we approached that first decision when my daughter was born: we sit down on the couch (all 4 of us), talk about all of our upcoming needs and, together, figure out the best path forward. Because that’s the only path there is.”
Roger started parenthood as an engineer working reduced hours. His wife Shimul, also an engineer, did the same thing.
When Roger’s son was born, both he and Shimul decided to work reduced hours so they could share in the care of their new baby. To begin with – even though they both worked for the same employer and had the same benefits – Roger’s wife assumed she would be the one who worked reduced hours. It was actually Roger who suggested they both could work part time. Now both parents have regular “alone” time with their child. Roger can see how this has helped the couple build a high level of trust.
Both parents feel comfortable in the other’s ability to take on any responsibility in their absence. This feeling of trust has also helped the couple feel closer in their relationship.
What can we learn from these choices?
- Families are diverse – What you want might be very different from the family right next to you.
- Families keep changing – Children change and work is probably going to change as well – change is part of the process.
- Supportive workplaces make a big difference – Roger and Shimul work for a company where people role model moving ahead in their careers while working reduced hours. This made their decision to both work a reduced hour schedule much easier.
Remember – Even in less supportive environments couples can work together to craft a solution that works well for their whole family.
Would you like support designing your own work family solution? Sign up for a free 30 minute consultation. Let us help you get started today.
The New Revolutionaries
Change is possible. Brigid Schulte’s book – Overwhelmed, Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time – provides the road map to get there:
In Overwhelmed, Schulte describes the web of forces that make us feel stuck in a life that is going too fast – a life that includes little time for reflection and even less time for joy. Outdated assumptions at work, new expectations around intensive parenting, the ever present pull of technology, make us all feel like we are on a gerbil wheel with no exit.
Read more …
Schulte asks us to think bigger,
“What if not just women, but both men and women, worked smart, more flexible schedules? What if the workplace itself was more fluid than the rigid and narrow ladder to success of the ideal worker? … And what if both men and women became responsible for raising children and managing the home, sharing work, love, and play? Could everyone then live whole lives?”
At ThirdPath we know men and women who are putting these ideas into practice. These courageous parents and leaders are also showing us that changing our approach to work and family is not just good for their own lives, but also good for their workplaces and society.
Click on the SoundCloud icon to listen to Brigid and two leaders describe how they have redesigned work and family to create more satisfying lives. Or read on to hear how a young dad switched to a four day work week and created a win for his workplace and a win for his family.
CJ – the new revolutionary:
CJ is one of the father’s ThirdPath has worked with to “redesign” his work so he had more time to care for his children. Our job was to help CJ find a “win-win” solution – one that was good for him and good for his workplace.
In order to reduce his workload from five to four days, CJ was asked to think about whether or not he could: systematize tasks to reduce the amount of work required; change who did the work – for example delegating tasks that no longer were a good use of his time; slow down the pace of his work by reprioritizing the deadlines of less critical work.
CJ also noticed how many of his “highest priority” tasks required focused attention for prolonged stretches of time. As the company’s sole engineer, CJ was often the person came to to ask for help – but these constant interruptions got in the way of him getting his own work done.
Although CJ was a little nervous, he decided the next step was to talk to the company’s general manager, Molly, about the suggested changes. And what he noticed was that as CJ sought input from Molly around these changes, they both also became clearer about what CJ should really be working on. CJ explained, “I can get confused about what my top priority work should be because everything seems like a priority. I can see where a regular review of what I am doing could be really valuable.”
“In both areas of my work, R&D and process improvement, I have a list that is two miles long. My daily tasks are chipping away at these two long lists. By having too much to do, all that happens is that the progress in both areas slows down. Now I’ve gotten better at asking, ‘What is my biggest priority?’ and, ‘At what rate do I need these things to get done?’”
Molly also became one of CJs biggest advocates to create routine “quiet time.” Later, when CJ was still challenged by the constant interruptions during his designated periods of quiet time, it was Molly who gently encouraged CJ to take a look at his own inability to say “no” to the various disruptions. “I do enjoy those interruptions,” CJ admitted, “but my job suffers, and engineering and design tasks get put on hold.”
Six years later we asked CJ for an update. What he said sure sounds like a “win-win” to us:
“One of the best thing about the changes I made is that I have more energy at work (which means I’m more productive when I’m at work) and I have more energy at home (which means I’m a better husband and father). Combined with my commute, my work days are long, but then I get 3 full days to focus on my home life. It also means I’ve been able to schedule all personal appointments on Fridays so I rarely if ever take time off work for personal matters, this is a benefit for both me and my employer.”
If you would like to know more about the various ways ThirdPath is helping people create better solutions why not take a look at our many resources. Click here to learn more.