10 Lessons Investment Banking Taught Me About Work-Life Balance

Stop striving to anything but a life you love.

Photo Credit: Jon Flobrant via Unsplash

I’d been working in the investment banking industry for over 10 years. I regularly had 15-hour days and was available to my clients 24/7. For the longest time, my job was fun and exciting. I didn’t really have any work-life balance but I didn’t mind as I felt like I was constantly growing in my career.

But then… things started to change. The structure and culture of my team shifted and I felt like I was no longer able to do the kind of work I liked most. I grew more and more frustrated and I started to resent having no work-life balance. And, I missed being able to spend quality time with my family and friends as well as to have time to myself, my yoga practice and being outdoors in nature.

So what’s the deal?

We all want balance… But, when it comes to actually achieving it, we question ourselves, compare our lives to other people’s and end up frustrated and even more stressed as a result.

Through lots of observation, self-reflection and trial and error, I realised that work-life balance is subjective and only you can determine it. So it’s really about how we frame work-life balance.

These 10 insights helped me define and sustain my version of work-life balance and live a life I love.

  1. Quality over quantity

Shifting focus from quantity to quality eliminates the pressure. Nowadays, I’m focusing on spending quality time with each of the priorities in my life rather than stressing about how much time I’ve spent on each.

2. There is no “right” way

It isn’t a “one size fits all” approach. Your version of work-life balance will look different to mine. It is unique to your specific situation and needs. Think about “balance” as an internal sense of what works for you so that you stay centered and happy.

3. Be passionate about your work

When we don’t enjoy the work we do, we put more focus on achieving “work-life balance”. But, when you’re passionate about your work, it becomes an integral part of your life, rather than something that takes away from it.

4. Balance is a dynamic concept

Balance isn’t a state you achieve and stay in forever. As you evolve and your life changes, your needs will change too. So check-in with yourself about what you need on a regular basis and adjust as needed. If you feel happy, engaged and connected, chances are you’re balanced, regardless of how much time you spend at work.

5. Establish boundaries

These days for me it’s all about what makes me feel good in every aspect of my life. So ask yourself how you feel about something before you decide to say “yes” or “no”. It’s your life and it’s OK to say “no”. Just be honest about why and do it respectfully. People will understand — they are human too.

6. Learn to make choices that work for you

Pay attention when you commit to requests out of habit. Often, we end up regretting it later. Instead, pause to think so that you can make the kind of choices that work for you. After all, you have to live with your choices, so make good ones.

“I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time.” — Oprah Winfrey

7. Don’t stress about what others think

It’s not their life. You have only got one shot at it in this lifetime. Your ideal life may not include a corporate job, driving a BMW or being a homeowner (with the mortgage that comes with it!). Who knows, it may be more important to you to do things you love — be it yoga, traveling the world or doing a job that fulfills you on more than a financial level.

8. Create “feel good” goals

Typically we come up with our to-do lists, our bucket lists, and our strategic plans — all the things we want to have, get, accomplish, and experience outside of ourselves. However, they are driven by a desire to feel a certain way, according to Danielle LaPorte’s book, The Desire Map.

“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.” — Danielle LaPorte

So start setting your goals by making sure they “feel good”. Connect to a deeper understanding of WHY you want them. In turn, it’ll also be easier to know what to say “yes” and “no” to, you will be more optimistic, and it will be easier to find your balance.

9. Make self-care a “non-negotiable”

You carve out time for work and play, so make sure you carve out enough time for self-care. Self-care will look different for everyone, it can be a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, meditating, taking time to relax or spend time with friends, etc. This probably seems obvious, but they are essential elements of feeling happy, productive and fulfilled at work and in life.

10. Be present

Often we’re struggling to disconnect from the constant demands in our lives. But, what we really want is to be fully present in the moment when we talk about “work-life balance” so we can soak it up and let it carry over into other areas of our lives . If you’re struggling to disconnect, mindfulness exercises or meditation can make a big difference.

“Look past your thoughts, so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment” — Rumi

Remember to be compassionate with yourself and others and that it’s OK to be a little selfish with your time. Balance means only one thing — balancing the life we have, so we can be at our best.