As I take my once a year vacation with my family, I thought it would be fitting to post this blog on work life balance as a private investigator. Individuals with their own small private investigation business or those working for someone else may be able to take something from this and apply it to their life.
There is nothing more frustrating to me than to kill myself for a company to provide for my family only to be able to spend one or two weeks a year with them on a vacation. Or to work a 10 hour day only to come home and have to put another couple hours in while my wife and children wait to have some of my attention.
I have learned a few things over the years as an employee and as a business owner that can help you with your career.
Early in my private investigator career there was no work life balance
Early on in my career as a private investigator I was doing all I could to impress my supervisors and move up within the company. I worked every holiday and every weekend. There were times I worked 20 days straight. Living in California there were times where I spent weeks at a time on the road and away from my family.
To make things worse I was recently married with a small child and this took its toll on my relationship with my wife. What wife wants to come home alone with a baby and not have the help and support of the husband? Needless to say it was tough on my wife and it was tough on me. My wife did not marry a private investigator, she married me while I was a Loss Prevention Agent. She wasn’t accustomed to that kind of life. And being a new husband and father at the time I didn’t see the damage it was taking on our relationship.
To sum it up, I did not have a work life balance in the early part of my private investigator career. I didn’t know how to say no. I accepted every assignment regardless of the location. I didn’t know what it meant to design the type of life that I really wanted. Since I didn’t know how to balance my life, it made me unhappy and placed an extreme amount of stress upon my family.
What are you working for? This is a question you need to ask yourself
So why was I working so hard? Well I wanted to support my family, make more money and move up within the company. I wanted to own a home, have a safe vehicle for my wife to drive, live in a safe neighborhood to raise my child. I think this is the objective of most people in the work force. There is nothing wrong with any of those desires.
Nigel Marsh who is an author and known for branding and marketing states, “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” (Nigel Marsh). I can say I was a bit like this 6 or 7 years ago.
One of the main differences between a private investigator and any other occupation is a routine (or lack thereof) , a steady schedule, and the fact that private investigators travel away from home frequently. It’s a difficult occupation. And for a family it can be a balancing act of schedules with a spouse and children, especially if your spouse is working as well.
With all that being said, if you never get to spend time doing things that are important to you, it will likely make you bitter and resentful of the private investigation occupation. You will hate going to work and it will come out in your actions and passion for the job will fizzle away. In my experience, people who don’t like working as a private investigator don’t care enough to do a good job each and every day.
What made me happy was spending time with my family and being there for important moments. And it was also important for me to be able to just spend time with my wife to let her know how much I love her and want to spend time with her.
I am not for a moment saying that working is not important but my family will always come first. For some, participating in hobbies is what is important to them like hunting, fishing, etc… And for others what might be important is spending time with their families, making it to their children’s sporting events and just watching their children grow up.
To be completely honest I didn’t start working on a work life balance until probably the past couple of years. The one thing I can’t seem to add in my balanced life is enough time to take care of my health (going to the gym). But I will save that topic for another article.
How to get a work life balance
I would be lying if I said I had it all figured out like some guru. A work life balance is something you strive for but will most likely never master. For me personally my family is extremely important in my life and I don’t want to miss a moment of my children growing up. And of course I want to spend as much time with my wife as I can. For you it could be something entirely different, but there is something you enjoy doing outside of work. But a work life balance doesn’t have to be perfect. It can be small things you change in your life or work life that makes a significant different.
Small changes could include:
- Working more from home one or two days a week
- Getting some weekends off for more family time
- Arranging your work schedule to incorporate hobbies or exercise
- A slight reduction in weekly hours
Smart employers know it costs them more money to hire and train new employees then to retain the good employees they already have.
While being an employee of an investigation company it is important to let your employer/manager know that you do have a life outside of work. For me personally, I reassured my employer by letting them know I was dedicated to them as an employee and will work hard for them. In the same breath I let them know that I have other responsibilities and they have to be flexible with me just like I am flexible with them.
Smart employers know it will cost them more money to hire and train new employees then to retain the good employees they already have.
At one point along my career path I had started a dart league with my wife which was every Tuesday night for a few months. Before I was hired with the investigation company I told them that this was important to me and I could not be out of town on Tuesdays or Wednesdays so I could participate in league with my wife. The employer saw my resume and agreed that they could accommodate that small request as I had the experience and qualifications they were looking for. This was one of the first steps I took in designing my life in a way that made me and my family happier. The moral of that story is don’t be afraid to tell your employer what is important to you.
Other important tips for work life balance
Though I shared work life balance specific to private investigators, there are many things you can do outside of the job itself to make sure there is some balance in your life.
Just Saying No to Extra Things
Forbes magazine discusses some tips on work life balance that are helpful to anyone. They advise that you say no to things that really aren’t important to you. If people ask you to volunteer for something you really don’t want to participate in then don’t do it. Spend that precious time on things you actually care about.
Dedicated Time for Tasks
Lori Axler wrote an article for the Huffington Post citing some things that she did to achieve some work life balance. One thing that I thought was interesting was she stopped multi-tasking and just focused on one thing at a time.
If you really think about it, there is really no such thing as multitasking as we can only truly give our full attention to one thing at a time. When I am trying to write reports for a surveillance or an interview I had conducted, I can’t talk on the phone or write emails at the same time. My focus has to be on the video that is associated to the surveillance report. If I am writing a report for an interview I took, I have to focus on my notes or by listening to portions of the interview recording. The more I am interrupted during my report writing the longer it takes for me to finish the report and get paid for my work.
What’s the point?
I guess the main point I am trying to get across to you today is that you shouldn’t forget about the things that make you happy or that are important to you. Being a private investigator doesn’t mean you lose your life or you have to work a crazy amount of hours. In my experience, if you only focus on the work, you are going to miss out on life around you.
There is much more to life than to spend every waking moment on work. Your business or your job is a means of making money but it doesn’t own you.
Though I won’t get deep into this I think work life balance has to be important to you to make it work. For me I feel successful as a parent because my wife and I balance our current careers to be there for family time and to spend quality time with our children.
Here is an interesting infographic from the Harvard Business Review showing how people perceive what personal success means. While rewarding relationships appears to be the most important, I don’t think many realized that a work life balance is a gateway to rewarding relationships as well as happiness.
Work Life Balance Resource
After writing this article I came across this speaker on TED named Nigel Marsh. This speaker really understands what work life balance is all about. If you haven’t heard of TED, it is definitely something you should check out.
Is work life balance important to you? If it is, share some things that have worked for you in keeping your life balanced.