Today’s Buzz is by Tim Gomez– connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter!
What I am watching: Nothing because we have no wi-fi from our recent move!
What I am listening to: Loving the Braveheart Cinematic Score
What I am reading: Fall of Night (#2 in Dead of Night Series) by Jonathan Maberry
I love talking about my career in local government to anyone that will listen. Heck, that’s why many of us joined and continue to stay involved in voluntary professional organizations like ELGL. I absolutely adore local government and my career in it, and I feel blessed to be in this profession. Since the first day that I’ve entered the profession, I have felt like I am playing with house money. How could someone get so lucky?
But I don’t like talking about my job.
I don’t talk about my work when I am away from work not because I’m not committed, but because I am ready to engage in another part of my life. I am ready to change into the next role that I find brings as much, if not more, fulfillment to my life. These roles are different for all of us. When I get home, I want to move on and reengage in the next important part of my life whether that be being a husband, dad, or the 4th member of my Call of Duty gamer group (#SquadUp).
I’ve stopped checking emails after work. I’ve stopped worrying about the project that was left unfinished when I walked out the door. I’ve stopped being consumed by the “what ifs…” and the FOMO from community events and socializing events. This is what work-life balance, and it is very important.
Like all of my Morning Buzz posts, I will create a list of what works for me.
Don’t Overvalue Yourself
This one, I think, will hurt. In general, human beings have a tendency to overvalue ourselves in our lives and the impact we have on the world. In our minds, we are the heroes of our own story. Our cause is the righteous one, our vantage point is the one that makes sense, our rationalization for our actions makes sense. We matter and what we do matters because, hey it was us that did it!
One of my favorite cognitive biases is known as the endowment effect. The endowment effect states that we consistently overvalue objects in our possession for no other reason than we own them at the time. Our brains absolutely overvalue our work product for the simple reason that we are the ones that created it.
One of the ways I have been able to instill work-life balance is to be constantly reminded that I am not essential to my organization. Despite how diligently I work and produce excellent work products, if I leave tomorrow I will be replaced by someone (hopefully) as tenacious and eager. They will accomplish their own great things, and over time my impact and influence will be forgotten. Despite our best intentions and ego, all of us are replaceable in our professional organizations. We are all just renting our current position and opportunity. Yet, while we are replaceable in our profession, none of us are replaceable in our own tribe of family and friends.
*Pro Tip: Every time I start to get cocky about how smart I am (i.e. a good policy memo), I look down at my wireless mouse and realize I have absolutely no idea how that functions. Also, how does my smartphone even work?! I feel immediately humbled.
Be a Good Human First, and a Good Professional by Circumstance
No one really wants to be the City Manager – we all just want to embody the things that the City Manager/CEO embodies. We want to be intelligent, committed, respected, diligent and talented. We want to be good listeners, empathetic leaders, great decision-makers, and many of the other attributes that we see in the roles/positions that we want. Our career is a journey, not a destination.
My skills as a local government professional matter very little to my family. When I get home, my children couldn’t care less how good of a Council Aide I am. Our family and friends are proud of us and our achievements in our career because it is an extension of ourselves and a large source of pride. However, these important people in our life care about the other variables that make us successful, including our compassion, humor, generosity, honesty, intelligence, reasonability, empathy, listening abilities, and others.
No longer do I want to find attributes that make me a good local government professional. I want to find attributes that make me a good human and a better local government professional by circumstance. I want to just be a dependable human being and a dependable assistant by circumstance. I want to be a dedicated father and a dedicated administrator as second added benefit. Finding these variables independent of your career will likely have a larger and more lasting impact on your life. And, most importantly, all of these can also be achieved independently of our career!
Which leads me to my final suggestion…
Diversify Your Life
Without a doubt, the easiest way to instill work-life balance is to diversify what makes you…you. Just like your financial investment strategy, make sure to diversify yourself.
When I was early on in my career, I could work day and night honing my skills to better improve my career. I would think about work outside of work, on my lunch break and when I got home. I would read and reread the best books on local government, listen to audiobooks on management, and download all of the latest podcasts from various channels. But then I started to see how many other things I was missing out on as the steady hand of time began to continue moving forward. The longer I get in the tooth in my career, the more I realize how important work-life balance truly is.
We all have friends that eat, sleep and drink their profession. Heck for many of us that was us, or even still is. I think one of the biggest things you realize as you transition from your 20s to your 30s is the importance of work-life balance. I still have friends who only talk about their work, and those conversations do not last long.
One of the most important things we can do in our lives is to have a broad and wide understanding of the world around us. Exposure to different ways of life, hobbies, viewpoints and ways to value time is immensely important to a well-rounded and intentional life. This has and always will be the argument for the importance of a Liberal Arts education. We each spend an entire full-time work week and the better part of our functional abilities solely dedicated to our profession. That’s why it takes effort and conscious planning to make sure we expand our viewpoint and enjoy what life has to offer for each of us, whatever that may be.
Final Thought: Only You Can Know What Matters
What is most important in life? Ask 100 different people and you will get 100 different answers.
Deep down, we are all longing for the same thing during our short time on this planet. We all want a sense of purpose, respect from our peers, self-satisfaction of a job well done, the ability to support our family, and many others. This is what drives us to get out of bed in the morning.
None of this is meant to say to not give your all to your profession. If you are even reading this, you likely already go above and beyond. But don’t let it be the only thing you do. Not only is our time on this earth short-lived, but our careers are also even shorter than that. We have to make the conscious and deliberate decision to enjoy this life while we have the opportunity to do so.