Busy and Coupled? Here’s How to Strike a Greater Work-Life Balance
You’re ambitious and focused on your profession —and so is your significant other. But unless you both have the amazing ability to clone yourselves, juggling demanding careers and personal pursuits can prove extremely challenging. Creating a work-life balance that truly serves your goals and passions can feel impossible.
But there are couples who are proof positive it can be done.
Meet SoFi members Matt and Mary Blair of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Adeleke and Keyona Oni of Durham, North Carolina. They’re kicking butt at striking a balance between work and play, and have offered seven tips to help you do the same.
1. Guard that shared free time
Finding the overlap of free time can be especially tough for couples on opposite schedules. Adeleke and Keyona, who are both doctors, do all they can to protect their time together from outside commitments. Since Adeleke works mainly night shifts in the ER, and Keyona works days as a family physician, they make most of the evenings to catch up over dinner before Adeleke heads to the hospital. “That time is blocked off for us, period,” says Keyona. They also make a point to go on a date night at least once a week when Adeleke has a night off, and to get away for a weekend as often as possible.
2. Offer each other breathing room to thrive
Driven, passionate people need support—and space—to succeed. If couples don’t give each other ample breathing room to pursue career and personal goals, ill feelings may start to brew, and the relationship can suffer.
When Mary took on two very challenging one-year residencies back-to-back after finishing school, the couple decided it would be a good time for Matt to jump into the field of management consulting, which demands long hours and frequent travel.
“When it comes to opportunities we allow each other to have, it’s an equal balance,” says Mary, who is a clinical pharmacist specializing in surgery and anesthesia. “Because we each like to take on a lot, we push ourselves in our careers. But we also try to play hard to maintain our sanity.”
3. Plan around the madness
When approaching a hectic few weeks or months, squeezing in a bit of one-on-on time is vital. And, flexibility is key.
Matt and Mary have learned to go with the flow when pockets of free time open up. For instance, if one of Matt’s business trips is suddenly cut short, allowing him to avoid that red-eye, Mary is the first to know. Hello, unplanned movie night! They also enjoy relatively spontaneous getaways when they can, using travel reward points.
4. Rack up empathy points
Work stress can put a big strain on a relationship. So Keyona and Adeleke rely on small gestures of thoughtfulness to help ease the tension. Whether it’s sending a sweet text, cooking a meal you both love, or taking care of mundane household tasks without a grumble, the little things show you’re in your spouse’s corner. “Sometimes it requires setting your own stress aside for one night to support your spouse,” explains Keyona. “For instance, if Adeleke is exhausted and runs out of scrubs after working four nights in a row, I’ll step up to do the laundry.”
5. Tech up
When face-to-face time just isn’t in the cards, tap into the tools in your digital arsenal to stay connected in as intimate a way as possible. Since Matt usually travels three to four nights a week, he and Mary hang out with each other on Skype when he’s away. “Sometimes we’ll just turn Skype on, not necessarily to have a face-to-face conversation, but just to be in the same room with each other,” Mary explains.
6. Streamline your personal and professional commitments
While calendaring date nights or morning hikes isn’t very romantic, time together won’t carve itself; you have to be proactive. The tools and methods that help you stay organized at work can help give your personal obligations equal weight. “A lot of couples see work and personal tools as separate things,” explains Matt. “But there’s a big grey area.”
For instance, if Matt or Mary gets wind of a fun event, such as a Bikes N’ Beer Tour, a calendar invite easily blocks that time off. While for the first few years of their marriage they let their careers take priority, they’ve been making more of a conscious effort to put their relationship first. “Early on in our marriage we were so busy with work, we weren’t able to spend that much time together,” recalls Mary. “And it made us think, is it really worth it? That’s when we realized we needed to make a change. And treating our free time like a separate job helps with that.”
7. Negotiate for a greater work-life balance
You already know that you can negotiate your salary and benefits with your employer, but don’t forget that you can also cut a deal for more flexibility in your schedule.
“If you want more free time, don’t be afraid to ask for it,” says Keyona. “Sometimes we don’t realize the power we have, and what we’re worth to our employer.” Because she wanted to make more time for her family, volunteering, and training for half marathons, she negotiated with her employer to cut back on her hours.
The delicate dance you and your partner orchestrate to create and maintain a great work-life balance is, like your relationship, always evolving. So make appropriate adjustments all along the way. To have those awesome “a-ha” moments that partner support and breathing room can bring, be flexible. Over time, you’ll discover new ways to achieve the balance you both need to succeed in your careers and in love.
“Try different things,” suggests Mary, “and when they work, keep doing them!”
Aiming to achieve a great work-life balance? Discover how SoFi’s Career Coaching Team can help you strike a happy medium between the two and support your success.