You’d think a self made millionaire would always have the freedom to spend as much time as he desired with his wife and kids. But nobody can get to this level of income without putting in the time and sweat equity. That’s exactly what I did for many years as I built my brokerage firm, Solo Capital. Three kids and a wife can’t be ignored though, especially when one of your children has been diagnosed with autism. Eventually, I had to make my own work life balance a top priority, to enable me to be more of a family man.
After two years of running a global brokerage firm, my wife and I took the momentous decision to move our young family to Dubai. This was made possible by taking advantage of the million pounds I had earned in my second year in business. I am eternally grateful for the chance I had had to move to Dubai. The pace of life here is much slower than in London, with greater emphasis on family and free time. The business culture here is much more friendly to a man in my position, as people understand that work is for work, and the time outside the office is very much your own.
This type of thinking even applies to lunch breaks, meaning that I can eat better and at a more relaxed pace. This sort of daily experience spills over into your attitudes and thinking in everyday life. I’m much more relaxed in the mornings when I take my kids to school, and just as happy to pick them up at the end of their day. Once my wife and I have put them to bed, the time difference between Dubai and London means that I can catch up on important emails without being disturbed in the evening, but still make sure people back in the UK have their replies during working hours. My wife also appreciates that I’m able to spend time at home with her.
Now that you know what my day looks like, here’s a list of tips that you can also put into practice to give yourself a better work life balance.
- Put relaxation time into your diary every day. A Dubai lunch break is pretty good for this.
- Get outside every day. Even when the weather is sweltering, a bit of time standing on a balcony will do you a world of good. It rarely rains here, which is another bonus when you want to get a regular dose of fresh air.
- Learn how to delegate tasks. Anything that can be repeated you can usually delegate. I use my business revenue wisely to make sure I have the right staff across my home and business. You may think that you can do it better yourself, but you can’t do everything better all at once, every day.
- Remember to say no. This will empower you whilst at the same time allowing you to maintain a healthy schedule. Always ask if this task is essential for you to make money.
- Spend time alone to reset your mind every day.
- Try to have a fun weekend, something special or out of the ordinary at least every six weeks. Being based somewhere like Dubai, or anywhere else as an expat for that matter, presents a wonderful opportunity to travel to neighbouring cities or countries.
- Prioritise your workload. Ignore and then delegate anything that is nonessential.
- Once you’ve prioritised your workload, write a to-do list that have to help you keep track of everything, and make sure everything is completed. Make sure your secretary also has a copy, to keep you on track.
- If you can afford it, get domestic help. Even a cleaner for a few hours a week will work wonders in your home. Cleaning your own house is a massive drain on your time and energy.
- Quit shopping. At least quit shopping in person. It’s always going to be much quicker to do your shopping online rather than trail round the supermarket or shopping centre. A nice side effect is that you’ll spend less money on frivolous junk that will only clutter up your house. Keep shopping to a minimum.
- Separate your personal and business calls. This might mean getting a second phone, or a phone with two sim cards, one of which can be disabled outside office hours.
- With your landline, let the answering machine pick up first. If it’s a non urgent business call on a Saturday for example, make a note to return it on Monday. Your weekend is your weekend.
- Don’t connect your phone to your work email account. This will help remove some of the temptation to check your work emails outside working hours.
- Leave the office on time at least on two out of every five days. This becomes more important as you get older, or as your family responsibilities grow. Nobody ever went to their death bed wishing they had spent more time at the office.
- Make room for fun in the evenings. This can often be easier in an expat environment like Dubai. Remember that new hobbies are a great way to engage with your new community, and other expats are also looking to meet new people.
- Ask the right questions. Instead of ‘Is this an emergency’ try ‘Will this matter next week?’ You’ll be surprised by the answers.
- Keep on top of your diet. With a general absence of alcohol, the Middle East makes up for it with an abundance of fatty food. Delicious as it is, you need to be aware of your health. Nothing ruins work life balance like having regular trips to the hospital thrown into the mix.
- Finally, make sure your children have a chance to regularly visit their homeland, and connect with their culture. This will make a world of difference to their lives once they have flown the nest, giving them the option to be fully integrated in their country of birth. Sure, my kids do feel that they very much belong in Dubai, but from a practical standpoint, they are British passport holders.