One of the toughest things for ambitious people is to find balance. One of the great qualities in ambitious people is that we want it all and we want it all now. However, that is also one of our biggest downfalls. Either you tend to obsess with work and neglect your friends or you burn the candle at both ends and never sleep. I’ve been guilty of both. In this article I show how I’ve found balance between work and friends, how to identify which friends are worth your limited time, how to say no and my long-term solution to having a balanced life that isn’t boring.
Ambitious People Are Prone to Obsession
When you’re an ambitious person, it’s easy to get obsessed with your goals. One of the casualties of this obsession is often friendships.
This past weekend I hung out with some good friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, despite living in the same city. In my mind I thought I hadn’t seen them in maybe a month or month and a half. It turns out we hadn’t hung out in over 3 months.
I know a big reason for that is because I’ve been obsessing in my businesses for the last several months and haven’t allowed any social time for myself. However, it wasn’t completely (but mostly) my fault. They are all ambitious people with busy schedules as well, but we all decided enough was enough.
I’m glad we did, because I gained some much needed perspective this weekend. You don’t want to lose high quality friends and you’ve got to find balance.
I’m a fan of short bursts of obsessive work, but we have to learn to recognize when we’ve gone too far. I had been avoiding my social life for too long. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.
The Key to Longevity is Balance
Burnout is inevitable if you don’t have balance. This goes for all areas of life.
When you’re focused on reaching goals, you might feel like you don’t have enough time. Well, you have to make time. I know I always preach on about how time is limited and we can never get time back, so how do you make time? You make time by:
- Being more efficient
- Managing time wisely
- Sacrificing other time consuming tasks
Efficiency isn’t just important for work, it’s important for all areas of life. Say you want to get in great shape, but have limited time to devote to this task – you need to program your workout schedule accordingly.
When people tell me they want to start working out or get in shape, the first question I ask is how many days they are willing to go to the gym. People usually say, “I want to go everyday!” Well yeah, so do I, but let’s be realistic. How many days a week can you commit to for the next year?
Once you decide how many days you can commit you can decide how to schedule your workouts. If you can only commit 3 days then you should consider a full body routine like 5×5 training. That means you’ll be training every muscle group at least twice a week, in only 3 days total. That’s an efficient use of your gym time.
You’ve also got to be better at managing your time. While efficiency is more about how much you can accomplish in the shortest amount of time, time management is how you decide to use your time to begin with.
Is social media slowing down your efficiency at work? Schedule a time block for that. Give yourself half an hour a couple times a day to do nothing else but get your social media fix. The catch is that you have to follow through on not wasting time on social media outside of those time blocks. Time management requires discipline.
Sometimes you have to make sacrifice. If you’ve been working every Saturday for weeks and you want to cookout with friends on a Saturday morning, that means you must sacrifice work time.
Going to the gym might mean sacrificing TV time. Going to dinner with friends might mean sacrificing working on your side project.
This sacrifice is inevitable. However, if you plan your time well and use that time efficiently you will find that you aren’t required to make as many sacrifices.
Know When to Say No
If you have a big meeting the next day to prepare for, drinks with your buddies tonight probably isn’t the best idea.
Accomplishing goals requires you to put yourself first a lot and that requires you to say no more often than you might be comfortable with. That’s something you’re going to have to get used to.
I can help make the decision of when to say no a lot easier by having you analyze your friends. There are good friends and bad friends.
- Support you and your goals
- Don’t require your constant presence to maintain a friendship
- Allow you to pick up right where you left off, even if you haven’t seen each other in weeks, months or sometimes years
- Have their own lives and goals
- Criticize your goals or make jokes about your ambitions
- Are needy and require constant attention
- Get mad at you if you haven’t talked in a few days and try to guilt trip you when you haven’t hung out in a while
- Lack ambition, goals and a sense of the big picture
Rule #1 is start saying no to bad friends, every time! Your life can only improve when you eliminate negative people from it.
When I see someone get mad at their “friend” for not wanting to hang out that night that raises a big red flag in my mind. If you were a fun person to be around you wouldn’t need to guilt everyone into it now would you?
Good friends miss you when you haven’t seen them, they don’t get mad at you. I have friends from my childhood that I only see once a year or so and when we hang out we can pick up right where we left off. That’s what you’re looking for.
Let’s say you’re fortunate enough to already have a lot of good friends, but you’re still busy – now what? This is when saying no is hard.
I can’t tell you when is the right time to say no and when isn’t, you have to decide that for yourself. However, I will offer a few suggestions for a general starting framework.
If your gym time is the same time as your friends’ happy hour time, go to the gym. Happy hour has always and will continue to always be available to you. Now, if that particular happy hour is celebrating a friend’s birthday – go to happy hour. That’s a once-a-year thing and you should be there for your friends’ big moments if you can.
Now, if you have a rare opportunity to advance your career or business and it falls on that same friend’s birthday – take the opportunity. Good friends will support you in that decision. Just be sure to make it up to them and be supportive when the tables turn. Once in a lifetime beats once-a-year.
Just remember to keep balance. If you say no too many times you’ll stop getting invitations, so keep that in mind.
Also, if you find the urge to say no because you don’t want to be around that person then just go ahead and drop them altogether. When I talk about saying no, I mean when you feel torn between wanting to work on something and wanting to see your friends.
Blast and Cruise
The phrase “blast and cruise” has been used in bodybuilding for years to describe a pattern where you go ALL OUT for a short period of time and then take it easy for an extended period of time. This might mean focusing intensely on your training for a month and lifting very hard and heavy. Then you spend the next 3 months taking it a bit easier, focus on improving things like form and flexibility and allowing yourself to recover without going backwards. Then you repeat.
This is an approach to life that I enjoy and I think it works very well for some goal-oriented people.
What you do is you set aside some planned time to go all out towards whatever your goal is. You can let your friends know in advance that you won’t be able to hang out as much for a few weeks or so. This allows you to get obsessed and accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.
Then when you start to burnout, take a breather. Once you’re cruising again you can give yourself more time for your social life and other pursuits.
I’ve found that I can get a lot more done with this approach and it gives me the balance I enjoy. Rather than a constant medium intensity pace I prefer to have bursts of high intensity followed by periods of slower pace. It’s not for everyone, but this works well for a lot of people.
If you struggle with balancing work and friends, I would encourage you to take the blast and cruise approach. Chances are you’ve already done something like it on accident. That’s how I was, until I decided to actually plan out my goals that way.
Finding balance is vital to your sanity and to your friendships. If you are fortunate enough to have high quality friends you shouldn’t risk losing those people. Even if you don’t use the suggestions I’ve offered, I hope you at least got some ideas to help you find balance in your own life. I can’t tell you step-by-step how to do that, I can simply offer my experiences and ideas, but you have to take control of your life for yourself.
What strategies do you guys use to find balance in life, especially when it comes to work and friends? I’d love to hear them, let me know in the comments.
Until Next Time,
What do you think? Do you agree, disagree or have any thoughts to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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