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Getting the right work/life balance

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“Eleven years?”

 

“Yep.”

“It can’t be.”

“It is.”

“Wow.”

“We need to fix that don’t we?”

“We do.”

“When are you next free?”

“I don’t know. My wife manages my diary.”

“Hmmm, I don’t think I’m free for at least three months.”

“The summer will be over by then.”

“It will. Might as well call it 12 years then.”

The conversation carried on between the two brothers for another few minutes. They were in the younger brother’s kitchen sharing a beer after the elder brother had popped in to give his niece her birthday present. It was a rare opportunity for the two men just to chew the cud without interruption from the usual suspects.

Sound familiar?

The elder brother was me, and the conversation we were having ended up being the inspiration behind a major change in my life. Chris, my youngest brother, was telling me about the joy of cleaning out his shed the previous weekend. While doing so, he stumbled across his old golf bag, sitting neglected and covered in cobwebs.

It was then that I wondered when we had last played a round of golf together. It turned out, it was when we both took a few days off before my wedding in May 2008. Our kitchen conversation was taking place in May 2019.

Between us, since my wedding back in 2008, we’ve had six kids, given homes to five pets, moved home three times while both working full-time, commuting a combined 200 miles per day, five days a week. Our evenings and weekends are spent ferrying our offspring to various clubs and activities. I often wonder how we both get time to actually do anything around the house. The truth is, we don’t. Not really. Yes, we do the weekly chores, but things like decorating or sorting out the broken fence panels, they just never get done.

I expect you’ll be smiling and nodding in acknowledgement right now. I bet it’s very similar to your own life. I know my case isn’t really very different from anyone else's, but that doesn’t mean I felt comfortable accepting that my brother and I hadn’t played a round of golf together for 11 years. I knew I had to do something about it.

Perhaps more of us should make time for ourselves and see what difference it could make to life?

The next day, I spent the 60-mile journey home from work thinking about what I could change to allow this game of golf to happen. In the 90 minutes it took me to get home, I still didn’t have the answer. I walked through the front door and after saying hello to the family I headed into the garage. As I grabbed a beer from the fridge, there opposite me was my bike. Just like my brother's golf clubs, it was covered in cobwebs. The tyres were flat, too. It looked how I felt. I realised I hadn’t ridden it for 18 months. I hadn’t had time. It was then the answer came to me.

I opened my beer and grabbed my laptop. I worked out how I could condense my hours in a way that wouldn’t impact my team, my colleagues or my ability to get my job done. Twenty minutes later, I had a proposal that I felt confident enough with to pitch to my boss.

The next day, my boss and I went for a walk up Bromley High Street. I explained my proposal and before I had even finished talking it through, he had agreed. A feeling of freedom washed over me. For the foreseeable future, I would have every other Friday off work. Time to myself. Time to ride my bike. To fix those fence panels. To paint my son’s bedroom. To play 18 holes with my brother...

I work in the Digital team at DLG. I have a team of 20 staff. I'm the lead product owner. I'm a dad. I'm a husband. I'm rubbish at fixing fence panels. I struggle when cycling into the headwind on the Kent coast. I have a golf handicap of 16. And I'm proud to work at DLG, a company that really understands we're all individuals. 

DLG has given me the opportunity to take some time for myself, so I can do the things I love. That means I can enjoy everything I do in all my other roles so much more. I no longer resent the early morning starts on a Saturday rushing my eldest off to swimming. I don’t get frustrated when my youngest wants to “help” me in the garden. I’ve made time for myself and I’m so much happier for doing so.

Perhaps more of us should make time for ourselves and see what difference it could make to life?

P.S. My brother and I ended up playing that round of golf. It was two months to the day after we had sat in my brother’s kitchen. We also managed to convince our dad to dust off his clubs and join us. It was beautiful sunny day. We got to spend the best part of a day in each other’s company doing something we all enjoy, that we hadn’t done together in more than a decade. The golf was almost inconsequential.