For Richer or For Poorer – Part 2

My wife and I are not big planners. We like to think it makes us more spontaneous, although having children has greatly reduced our spontaneity. So we’ve had to plan more in recent years than we did when we first got married. Planning doesn’t come naturally to us. For the first several years of our marriage, we would get paid, spend like we’d been paid a lot more, and put the difference on credit. We made what in hindsight seem like spectacularly dumb financial decisions. We moved to another state without a job lined up… in the middle of a lease… with no savings. We ended up paying rent on an apartment we weren’t living in (in addition to rent on the house where we were living) because we thought it more honorable to enslave ourselves with massive debt than to skip out on our obligation… giving the owners no incentive to find a sublessee for months and burying us in debt for years. This was stupid with zeros on the end, as financial guru Dave Ramsey would say.

emptypockets

So I can safely say that we’ve been poorer than the day we got married. We are currently richer than that day. We own a comfortable house with a good-sized yard. We don’t want for food, clothing, or shelter. My job pays me well enough to allow my wife to stay home and homeschool our children. We have paid off all of our debts except the house. So our financial riches have grown. Our non-financial riches have, too. We have four children, a dog, and even a frog. We have great families, good friends, and are part of a good church. In every way I can think of, we are richer now than the day we got married. How did we come to this point? The non-financial stuff is just that we are richly blessed by a loving Father, but what about the financial stuff? How did we get all that debt paid off?

This brings me to my second recommendation for improving communication about money in marriage:

Have monthly budget meetings.

As far as our financial “riches,” budgeting played a huge role. When we learned how to budget, everything about our financial situation began to change. We could see what we were spending. We made adjustments, scrimped for a bit, saved enough money to pay cash for emergencies, and then focused on throwing every “extra” dollar we had towards paying off debt. And it worked! Budgeting allowed us to get free from debt, and freedom from debt feels amazing! We can use our money on things that are more important to us than paying the interest on a loan for a slightly nicer-than-usual meal 8 months ago, for example. 

Most importantly, budgeting brings us closer together. Every month, we sit down together for about half an hour to make a plan. (It took maybe an hour the first few months, but these days it’s almost always half an hour.) As we plan our spending, we set the priorities for our family for that month. We both get to see how much money we have to work with, and we both agree on how we’ll spend it. We assign ourselves some “mad money” as well so that we can have a little wiggle room for fun within the budget.

dollar-spiral_1920

The Right Tools for the Job

For the longest time, my income was an irregular feast-or-famine situation that I used as an excuse not to budget. We went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program (which I highly recommend), which got us excited about paying off debt and willing to work on a budget, but we didn’t really understand how to use the budget forms that come with the program. Then one Sunday around that time, Joe Sangl came to speak at our church and give a talk on personal finance. We got his book and began using the budgeting tools on his website, which made everything really easy, even with our somewhat unpredictable income. These work well for regularly monthly budgeting as well as budgeting for sudden windfalls (like tax refunds) and planning for Christmas. If you’re having trouble getting started on a budget, try these tools. They helped us to finally get comfortable with budgeting.

Homework:

If you’re not already budgeting, talk with your wife about getting started this week. If you do already budget, do you work with your wife on a plan, or does one of you handle all of it? I highly recommend budgeting together as a way of getting on the same page about your finances. Leave me a comment letting me know how well you and your wife communicate about money.

For Richer or For Poorer – Part 1

Money stress makes the cut for every “top ten” list of reasons people get divorced. This strikes me as especially sad because it seems like one of the easiest areas of a marriage to work on. Some marriages struggle due to extremely serious issues that can only be resolved over time with marriage counseling and/or individual counseling. Financial stress in marriage often boils down to lack of communication, and if TV sitcoms have taught me anything, almost any communication issue can be resolved within half an hour including commercial breaks. In rare circumstances, a two-parter is required.

frasier

In all seriousness, communication issues are relatively easy to fix compared to the other items on the top ten lists like infidelity, religious differences, or physical issues.

My wife and I dealt with some significant money stress in our marriage early on, as you may recall from my previous mention of the credit counselor incident. While there was some pain involved initially, working on resolving the issues causing that stress has greatly improved our lives. I could probably start a whole separate blog on this topic, but I’ll limit myself in this two-parter to two ways of greatly improving communication about money in marriage. My wife and I have actually always done the first one, and I believe in it strongly. The second one we had to learn, and it transformed us, as you’ll see next time. My first recommendation for improving communication about money is:

Only have joint bank accounts.

I’ve only recently come to realize that there was more than one school of thought on the joint bank account issue. Joining accounts when you join together in marriage seemed perfectly natural to me; it honestly never occurred to me to set up our finances any other way. It turns out, however, that some couples continue to maintain separate bank accounts after they get married. If that’s your situation, I’d invite you to consider the pros of combining:

When you join bank accounts, you create a stronger bond with your wife. You’re strengthening your commitment to her by declaring that all that you have belongs to her (and vice-versa). There’s no more “my money vs. her money.” It’s all “our money.” That’s a powerful statement, especially when you first make it.

MoneyHeart_small

Maintaining joint accounts also makes life more convenient. The number of bank statements to reconcile is minimized; seeing how much you have in the bank becomes very easy; and neither spouse feels like they’re asking permission of the other if they need money and their account balance is low. When it’s all in one place that both of you have full access to, then both of you are equal partners in your financial obligations and privileges.

The last point I’ll mention on this is that having only joint accounts increases trust and accountability without even trying. When both of you have full access to all of your money, neither of you can be tempted to hide expenses from each other. If you buy something major, she’s going to see that and vice-versa, so you’re going to discuss those purchases beforehand.

If you’re ready to take that step, Dave Ramsey recently had a good article on his blog discussing several aspects to consider and how to go about merging accounts.

Homework:

The homework may be obvious: if you haven’t already done so, seriously consider joining bank accounts with your wife. Do you agree that having joint accounts is important? Let me know in the comments.

We Need to Talk

So, I had planned to move on to “for richer or for poorer” in the wedding vows series that I started last week, and I will get to that at some point. This week, though, turns out to be about service and communication. In the past few days, I’ve discovered that more than one couple of my acquaintance has at least one member whose primary way of expressing displeasure with the other is to completely stop talking.

Men, if that’s your default technique, let me encourage you with two little words that will change your life and set you free:

Man Up.

Because that’s childish.  And, deep down, you know that it’s childish. When your child announces that they’re not speaking to a friend because some friction has arisen, odds are good that you encourage your child to talk things out with their friend because you know that’s the only way these situations get resolved. If you’re worried that you’ll say something to your wife that you end up regretting: take a breath or take a walk around the neighborhood.

Then talk to your wife.

LionsNotTalking

If she’s made a mistake, if she’s offended or insulted you, shutting yourself down may be an effective way to make her feel lousy, but it doesn’t resolve anything. Shutting her out doesn’t make either of you feel better. You have to talk. Even arguing is better than the silent treatment because with arguing you get to vent. (Pro tip: you can vent without shouting. Try it!) You get to explain why you’re upset.

Because here’s the thing: she might not know what you’re mad about. She may think you’re being a jerk for no reason or for trivial reasons. Talking it out may help her to realize why the issue is so important to you. Talking it out may lead you to realize that the issue isn’t actually as important to you as you thought. If you don’t talk, you won’t know.

The Heart of the Matter

When you stew, you’re stuck. You can’t resolve an issue until you address the issue. These may sound like platitudes, but they’re true. Moving past the problem requires talking because moving past the problem requires forgiveness. You have to forgive her. If you’re a Christian, this is non-negotiable (Matthew 6:14-15, Colossians 3:13). If you’re not a Christian, I can tell you that you will not feel better yourself until you’ve forgiven your wife.

I believe that when you’re wounded by your wife and you go silent, that wound festers. It makes you bitter in ways you don’t even realize. And ask yourself this: is this how you want your kids to think of you? Is this how you want them to handle their own problems, either now or once they get married? I’m confident that, if you’re still reading this, the answer is no. So model the behavior you hope they’ll have.

Homework:

Think about how you want you children to handle conflict in their lives. Do you model that now? What’s your primary method of dealing with problems that arise in your marriage? Let me know in the comments. And if you disagree with the above, tell me where I’m wrong.

A Quick Word on Service

Today’s post is going to be a short one. This weekend my wife went away for a mini-retreat with some other homeschooling moms, and I stayed home with the kids and dog. Friday morning I realized that she’d never done this before, at least not since we’ve had 4 children. And, actually, the only two other times in our nearly 17-year marriage that she left me with the children, my mom came up to help out. I didn’t panic… much. Really.

I did make a decision, though. Whenever the kids wanted to do something fun and not unreasonable, and I wanted to veg out (my usual weekend goal), I would choose to do what the kids wanted.

We ended up having a pretty good time. The kids ate 3 meals every day (of course they were junk food; I’m a terrible cook, and I didn’t want them to be miserable. Besides, my wife was gone less than 48 hours. How much damage could I do?). We stayed up late Friday watching movies. The girls and I got the dog to her obedience class Saturday somewhere in the ballpark of on time. Against all that was within me longing to spend the entire day reading in my favorite chair, we went to a park to allow the dog to stretch her lungs at every single other dog within a 2-mile radius. Dishes got done. Laundry got done. There was not much downtime for me (I’m writing this after midnight), I missed my wife dearly, and the kids definitely missed their mother, but overall, as stated above, we had a pretty good time.

KidsAndDogAtPark

This weekend I got to serve my wife by taking care of everything while she took a break from always taking care of everything. It was a privilege. Hard work, but a privilege.

NO HOMEWORK TODAY

Though if you want to leave me a comment on times and ways you’ve served your wife when she needed you, I’d be happy to read about them.

For Better or For Worse

Some days life as a married man is all aquaria and yogurt pies. (You’ve never had a yogurt pie, you say? I just had my first one yesterday, and I intend to use it as my depiction of the good life for the foreseeable future.)

Yogurt Pie

All aquaria and yogurt pies, I say. Other days life gives you lemons, and you just have to make lemonade. Then there are the days when life gives you lemons and fails to provide sugar, a pitcher, or even water enough to make lemonade. All you can do is suck those lemons and hope for a future that brings more sugar, pitchers, and water, and on the really good days, yogurt pies.

Aquaria and Yogurt Pies. Mmm…. Yogurt Pies…

This past Thursday was definitely an aquarium (literally) and yogurt pie (metaphorically) day. I took the day off of work, and my wife and I took the kids to the Georgia Aquarium as a homeschool field trip. We had a blast, and early in the day our normally-hard-to-please 7-year-old was already declaring it “the best day ever!” Our 3-year-old got to see these amazing animals up close for the first time, and all of us were impressed by the new dolphin show. Overall, it was a great day to be a husband, a great day to be a dad.

The whole family at the aquarium. No idea who that kid is on the left.

The whole family in the dark at the aquarium. No idea who that kid is on the left.

Lemons

But, of course, not every day is like that. My wife and I have also shared the day when the credit counselor told us we had so much debt and so little income that we didn’t qualify for her help because there was no way she could come up with a debt payoff plan that we could finish within five years. We’ve shared the day when we went from the joy of expecting another child to the loss of that expectation due to miscarriage. We’ve brought some bad times on ourselves, and we’ve had some bad times thrust upon us. We know couples who’ve dealt with and are dealing with far worse struggles, some self-inflicted, some just life.

Dancing in the Minefields

But none of this should be surprising to us. However amazing they may be, our wives do not have the power to make life perfect. And, men, we know we don’t have that power. Sometimes life is hard. We knew that before we got married; why should we forget it after the wedding?

Most days life is better than it was the day we got married, but some days it’s worse. That’s what the vow “for better or for worse” means. We made a promise when we got married to celebrate with each other in the good times and support each other in the bad times for the rest of our lives. As I’ve put it before, this is exactly what we signed up for.

Which is to say, no matter how difficult life gets, we’ve made a promise to face it together. That togetherness is worth any price. Even if it means sometimes letting her have the last piece of yogurt pie.

Homework:

Reflect on how you and your wife handle hard times. Do you face them together, or do you face off against each other?

Okay, now stop thinking about the bad times. Remember some of the best times in your marriage and share them in the comments.

And, if you live near a di’lishi, order yourself a yogurt pie. Seriously.

To Have and to Hold

The distorted sound of a man’s voice cut through the low hum of the electrical room as we lifted a server into position in the rack.

“Set it back down,” José said. “I’ve got to take this.”

We lowered the server back into its box, then José quickly grabbed the phone from his back pocket and stepped out of the room.

The distorted voice turned out to have been his own. He had recorded a personalized ringtone that announced, “Happy wife, happy life! Answer the phone; it’s your wife!” When José returned, I asked him about the ringtone.

“I’m not just a computer guy. I also preach at my church once a month,” he said, “and a while back I gave a message on having a strong marriage. When I was preparing the message, my wife said I should include some practical advice, like always answering the phone when your spouse calls. Now, I don’t always catch on this quickly, but I figured out that if she felt like this was practical advice all couples could benefit from, then she thought we could benefit from that advice, too. So I make sure I answer when she calls no matter what I’m doing. Because if I do this right, she’s the only wife I’ll ever have, and I plan to keep her for a long, long time.”

Legal Documents

(Legal) Terms of Endearment

José understood the concept of “to have and to hold.” The phrase has its origins in the law, referring to the transfer of property, and meaning to receive the property and to retain possession of it thereafter. José had acquired a wife on his wedding day, and he intended to retain “possession” of her from that day forward.

In a marriage, of course – and men, if this isn’t obvious to you, we’ve got a lot of work to do – our wives are not actually our property. Recall that our wives also acquired us as husbands that day with full rights to retain “possession” of us. So a married couple is bound together, but they don’t own each other in quite the same way a person owns an inanimate piece of property. Once the wedding is over, we “have” each other; “hold”-ing each other takes a lifetime of (mostly enjoyable) work.

The Goal of Marriage

A wise man once said, “The goal of marriage should be to out-serve one another.” When we approach married life with an attitude of service, when we work to find ways of making our wives’ days a little easier or happier in any way we can, we are investing in a happy life for ourselves as well. Whether that investment means always answering the phone when they call, whether it means tackling any household projects without complaint, or whether it just means intentionally coming home on time every day, working to serve our wives well helps ensure that we get to “hold” them from now on.

Homework:

Do you agree with the idea that “the goal of marriage should be to out-serve one another?” Why or why not? What are some ways you can try to “out-serve” your wife this week? Leave me some ideas in the comments.

Why We Make Vows

The power of a firm commitment lies in sticking to it. If you make a firm commitment to exercise 4 days a week and then you start to let that slide to 3… and then 2… and then… oh never mind, I can’t even finish this sentence. You get the idea; it’s effectively not a commitment at all if you don’t keep at it. On a completely unrelated personal note: Honey, tomorrow, 2 miles; we’re walking 2 miles. I promise. Where was I? Oh yeah. Let’s start again.

MomAndDadWedding

The power of a firm commitment lies in sticking to it. Marriage vows sound permanent because they are meant to be permanent. That’s why most grooms commit to love, honor, and cherish their brides until death. Very few of us made a vow to love, honor, and cherish our wives until, ya know, we just don’t feel like it anymore, or until someone we might be more compatible with comes along, or until she decides that we should really work on getting in better shape because we’re not getting any younger and we want to be around to see our children graduate from college and get married and this is going off the rails again. Tomorrow. 2 miles! I promise!

What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?

Marriage is supposed to be fun. You should always enjoy your wife, right? Right, but… But sometimes it’s not fun. Sometimes life gets really, really hard. Sometimes work becomes extremely stressful. Sometimes our children get unruly and ungrateful. Sometimes terrible tragedies come on suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving us struggling to cope with the swirling chaos of life. Sometimes our wives may be selfish or petty. In the midst of all that, we may start to think our wives aren’t helping the situation; maybe they’re actually causing more stress; maybe we’d be better off on our own.

But all of that’s got nothing to do with what we agreed to when we got married. Some might argue that we made our vows precisely because there would be times when we might want to weasel out of the deal. We made a promise to be faithful to our wives no matter what life threw at us. Life might get better, but it might get worse. We might get richer, but we might get poorer. Hopefully, we’d have a long life of health, but we might have sickness. Someone new might come along, but we agreed to forsake all others. We agreed to stay together for as long as we both shall live. I can’t think of many situations in life that don’t fall under one of those conditions. Our vows and the memento of them on our ring fingers were given to encourage us to stick with it whether we got the good conditions or the bad ones.

Focus on the Future

Having said all that, I believe that marriage is meant to be enjoyed and that most marriages are enjoyable most of the time. Even when times are tough, studies show that couples who persevere and stay together through those times find their marriages stronger and happier within just a few short years (though, admittedly, the years may not seem so short at the time). So, when married life gets hard, we need to focus on the future. We need to picture better times to come because the odds are good that they will. We need to reflect on how we want our children to view their parents’ marriage. Will they be able to say their dad was a good husband?

Ten days ago, my parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. While I’m sure they’ve had their share of struggles, my mom refers to my dad as her “partner for life,” saying that they have had “the most wonderful marriage anyone could hope for.” I believe it. I cannot recall a time when I wondered if they still loved each other or worried that they might get divorced. They may have had such times that I wasn’t aware of, but if so, they stayed committed and persevered. They are retired now and seem to be enjoying life and marriage more than ever. Here they are from five years ago, celebrating their 40th anniversary!

My parents celebrating their anniversary at the Coliseum in Rome. Not pictured: Russell Crowe

My parents celebrating their anniversary at the Coliseum in Rome. Not pictured: Russell Crowe

Homework:

Imagine celebrating your 45th anniversary with your wife. What will you do? Will you take a trip? Go to a fancy restaurant? Have a huge get-together with your children and their families? Give me some ideas in the comments on how you plan to celebrate.

What Not to Say to Your Wife

The English language provides a great many words from which to choose to convey our thoughts. Some languages provide more, others less, but all languages use words to transmit the thoughts and feelings of the speaker or writer to any available listeners or readers. Finding the right word for a given moment can be a real challenge, and often different people will disagree on what the correct words for a given situation should be. For example, a great many of you firmly believe I should have used “some languages provide more, others fewer” in the second sentence of this paragraph (I agree), whereas others of you didn’t notice and/or couldn’t possibly care less (not fewer).

Was It Something I Said?

I’ve hinted at this previously, but the words we use with our wives have a profound impact on their perception of our love for them and how our marriage is doing. If all they hear from us is criticism or even just general complaining, they’re naturally going to feel less loved and less fulfilled than if they were hearing encouragement and positive messages.

I see this being especially important when interacting with our wives in public. When we contradict, chide, or reprimand our wives in public, we make them feel invalidated, unappreciated, or even insulted. How do you think that’s going to go over?

That question came alive for me when my wife and I were hanging out with a large-ish group of married friends some time ago. One of the wives was giving her take on a sermon several of us had heard, and the moment she finished speaking, her husband said, “No, that’s not it at all…” and proceeded to give his take. Now whether either of them had a correct interpretation of the sermon is not important. Honestly, the husband’s public disregard of his wife’s opinion shocked me so much I lost all track of the discussion. All I could think for the next 10 minutes was, “Ooh, he should not have done that. I hope he’s got a comfortable couch.” (Note to any wives reading: don’t send your hubby to the couch; work it out. Ephesians 4:26-27, after all).

HagridShouldNotHaveSaidThat

Speaking kindly to and about our wives comprises a big part of one of my foundational principles for a healthy marriage:

Don’t be a jerk.

But I’m A Man…

You can (and should) still be a man: you don’t have to write flowery poetry, pick her flowery wildflowers, or start eating vegetables of any kind to achieve “not a jerk” status. You just have to treat your wife like a lady, and that starts with your tone (how you speak to her) and your word-choice (what you say to her). The following advice may seem obvious, so consider it a cheat-sheet:

  • If she cooks something you like, thank her and compliment her on it.
  • If she completes a big project, congratulate her (and celebrate!).
  • If she has a hard day, listen and do not criticize.
  • When she tells you about a problem she’s having, do not offer advice on “fixing” it unless she specifically asks something like “what do you think I should do?”
  • If you disagree with something she says, especially in public, affirm her first before telling your view. Use phrases like “I hadn’t thought of it like that” or “I love how you think; that wouldn’t have occurred to me.”

The point is simply to speak lovingly to and around your wife. Especially if you’re a man of few words, make sure they’re good ones. If you’re not a man of few words, think before you speak. Once they’re out, you can’t take them back.

Homework:

Pay attention to the words you use with your wife. Think of a time when you’ve said the right thing (or the wrong thing, if you’re brave enough) and leave the story in the comments. Also, help me expand the cheatsheet to cover other situations.

You Need an Attitude Adjustment, Mister

I’ve lived all of my life in the southeastern United States (“The South,” as we say in the South), and around here we have a saying: “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” This is true no matter what else may be happening with the other family members, partly because everyone wants Mama to be happy (so they get sad when she’s not) and partly because Mama seems to set the tone for the family, making it very clear when she’s unhappy. What this saying leaves out, though, is that Mama’s unhappiness often can be brought on or exacerbated by Dad.

(You can buy this shirt from Amazon by clicking the picture!)

Men, if we have a tough day or something doesn’t go the way we want and we come home in a funk, that is going to affect our wives’ attitudes. If we take a deep breath and snap out of it or if we can find a few minutes to talk to our wives about it in a way that helps us move past it, we can greatly improve the tone in the house. A man’s ability to recover himself, to “[pull] himself out of a funk when he [is] in a bad mood,” is extremely important to a woman in terms of making her feel loved by her husband.

The Queen Elsa Method: Let It Go

I didn’t realize this myself until I read it in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Good News About Marriage, in the chapter entitled “It’s the Little Things: How Most Marriages Can Be Fixed by Small Changes.” In her research, she found that NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT of women place a high level of importance on a husband’s ability to quickly recover from a bad mood. After reading that chapter, I reflected on times in my own marriage when I would come home stressed or frustrated by some situation at work. I could easily remember that frustration bleeding over into my wife’s attitude towards me and both of our attitudes towards the children. Thankfully, I could remember many more times when I had decided, “I’m not going to stress at home over something I can’t change from here,” adjusted my attitude accordingly, and had a pleasant evening thereafter as the stress slowly faded behind the enjoyment of time with my family.

Communication Soothes Frustration

That said, this particular recovery method still leaves the stressful situation in the back of your mind, and I no longer believe that just setting it aside is the best way to handle stress. The best way, if possible, is to take a few minutes and talk to my wife about whatever’s stressing me out. I find that talking through a stressful day with her eases the stress on me, which eases her stress as well.

Two more quick notes on this:

1) All of this assumes that we are generally in a good mood, and that we mostly need to just vent before we can recover. If you find yourself constantly in a bad mood, you may want to look into finding an outside counselor rather than effectively making your wife into one. Check out the Resources page on this site if you need to find someone who can help.

2) This cannot be a one-way street. If we are to expect our wives to be our support, we must be theirs as well.

The main thing is we change our attitudes rather than remaining in a funk. Try talking it out, either to your wife or a counselor, and then letting it go. It works, and our wives need us to do it.

Homework:

Think of ways to improve your attitude with or without your wife’s help. Leave a comment with any techniques you use.

The Good Kind of Cheating

Guys, you already know this, but you spend too much time at work. I know I do, and I bet you do, too. We dads tell ourselves (and our wives) that we’re working long hours to provide for our families. But, more than our provision, our wives (and kids, too, for that matter) want our presence.

In his book, When Work and Family Collide (formerly titled Choosing to Cheat), Pastor Andy Stanley describes the difficulties men face in wanting to do right by our employers and to do right by our families as well. He draws the conclusion that, with only a finite number of hours in the day (24, for you statistics buffs), someone is going to feel cheated. Your work, your family, your health – all of these will make demands on your time to an extent that they will eventually come into conflict. Even when you may not be aware of the conflict, the odds are good that your wife is aware, and she feels that she’s losing.

Cheat the Right People

Choosing to cheat your work instead of your family is a simple decision, but one that will have a profound impact on your marriage. When it comes time to leave work, leave. Don’t start the next task no matter how small. Go home. If your wife asks that you leave early, do everything in your power to meet that request. If she needs you to take time off during the day, find a way. Make being available to your wife, being present for your family, a priority.

This is not as easy as it sounds. You will have clients or customers maybe even an unsympathetic boss demanding that you stay late to work for them. As tactfully as you can, you will need to tell them that you value their business or your employment and request to handle their tasks first thing tomorrow. Honestly, most of the time, people are understanding about this. Not always, obviously. In those times, you have a decision to make: either you disappoint your family or you disappoint the other person. My advice: Do whatever it takes to meet your wife’s need for your presence. Do whatever it takes to meet your wife’s need for your presence. It’s that important.

Confession Time

I am actually terrible at this. I tend to want people to be happy with me; I tend to be a procrastinator; and I tend to define success in my day based on the number and/or importance of tasks that I accomplish. The combination of these factors can mean that I place a high value on making my clients and employers happy, but I may delay starting on a task that they want done, and subsequently make myself late getting home in my efforts to get their task done before I leave the office. It can actually be harder for me to leave when work hits a slow season precisely because tasks may not be as urgent, meaning I can delay starting those tasks but feel even more compelled to finish them before heading home.

Quittin’ Time!

So, I’ve had to make a shift. My work hours are 9AM to 6PM. I now have an alarm on my phone set for 5:30PM every weekday, and when it goes off, I pack up my stuff and finish what I’m working on. Then… I DO NOT START ANY OTHER TASKS.

I am at my desk until 6PM, and if I get a call, I answer it and help my client if it’s urgent. If it’s not urgent, I request permission to handle it the next morning, then make a note to tackle it first thing. This may seem like cheating my employer or client, and maybe it is. It is also a way of being faithful to my wife and family, and while I may have other employers and other clients over the course of my life, I want to keep this wife forever. I’m okay with cheating people who are necessarily less important in order to ensure that my wife knows she’s more important.

Homework:

Does your wife want you home earlier? If so, can you think of steps you need to take to make that happen? This week, pledge to be home on time every day. Comment to this page to let us know you’re in, and keep us posted on your results.

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