Personal Improvement

An Honest Approach to Work-Life Balance with Kevin Lawrence

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Table of Contents  
  1. Shut Up Mind Body Green
  2. Your Oxygen Mask First
  3. And While We’re At It
  4. Show Notes

Work-life balance gets a lot of ink but how do you achieve it? We’ll show you an honest approach to work-life balance with Kevin Lawrence.

Work-life balance has become one of those annoying buzzwords, but it does have merit. We’ll strip away the touchy-feely aspects of the concept and teach you how to achieve it.

Shut Up Mind Body Green

I enjoy reading about issues surrounding wellness, but I hate bullshit and goofy new agey crap. I used to read Mind Body Green as part of my morning routine but one day there was a story about the best kind of stones to use during naked, hot yoga to balance your chakras or some such nonsense and that was my limit. It was so stupid it actually made me angry.

But once in a while, I’m lucky enough to come across an article or book about wellness that isn’t a bunch of Gwenyth Paltrowy mumbo jumbo. That’s how we found Kevin and his book Your Oxygen Mask First: 17 Habits Every High-Achiever Must Adopt to Survive and Thrive in Business and Life.

It’s a guide for the non-woo woo among us to achieve work-life balance.

Your Oxygen Mask First

The title of Kevin’s book comes from the advice given during airplane safety demonstrations. Secure your own oxygen mask before helping people around you. Why? Because if you can’t breathe, you aren’t going to be much help to anyone else.

Many of us have so many obligations, family, work, friends, school, that we put ourselves at the bottom of the list of priorities. We’re burnt out. But if you aren’t taking care of yourself properly, all of those other things aren’t getting your best.

Pay Yourself First

If you’ve been around LMM for a while, you’re probably familiar with the concept of pay yourself first. You don’t save whatever money happens to be left at the end of the month because often there isn’t anything left.


Instead, you pay yourself first whether that means putting money into your emergency or opportunity fund, your Betterment account, or your IRA. 

You need to do the same in your day to day life. Make the decision that you’re the priority. Devote 10-15% of your best energy to yourself. When do you have your best energy? For me, it’s early in the morning. That’s the time I use to do things for myself, to lift weights, run, and eat a healthy breakfast.

In that 10-15% of your day, what can you do that would benefit you and help you achieve a better work-life balance? Work on a hobby, meditate, exercise, write in a journal?

A very wise former co-worker once told me, “Don’t live for the weekend.”

What she meant is don’t only do fun stuff on the weekends. I’ve headed this advice for years, and it is a good way to get a little more life in your work-life balance.

If you have five hours a day to watch TV, you can spend a few of those hours doing something more enriching like taking a bike ride, meeting a friend for happy hour, or seeing a local band perform live.

What Would You Do If…

Did you break your leg? Would you ignore it, try to fix it yourself, rub it with crystals? No, you’d go to the doctor. Why do we treat emotional injuries so differently? Well, lots of reasons. There is often a stigma around emotional pain or mental health.

Accessing treatment is difficult and expensive. Gun nuts and the politicians that pander to them in this country love to blame mass shootings not on the obvious culprit, guns and lax laws, but on mental health. But they don’t do jack shit to make mental health care accessible or affordable.

Some insurance policies cover therapy. If you don’t have coverage, you can look into an online therapist at a service like Talk Space. 

Even talking to a friend or family member is better than keeping it bottled up.

Run Away From It

Not literally, we all know you can’t outrun your problems, but you’ll be amazed at how much better running, or any type of physical activity, can make you feel. Emotional problems are often rooted in stress and exercise combats stress and depression.

“For some people, it works as well as antidepressants, although exercise alone isn’t enough for someone with severe depression,” says Dr. -Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Proper nutrition and sleep too. If doctors were as quick to prescribe things like exercise, nutrition, and sleep as they are drugs, we could put big pharma out of business pretty quickly.

What Does Good Mental Health Look Like?

People often talk about good mental health but what does that mean?


It’s a little different for everyone, but generally, it means your moods are stable, you sleep well, you feel well, you socialize, and any bad habits you have are under control.

You don’t have to tick all these boxes 100% of the time. There are situations that can disrupt all these things, but most of the time, you should be able to say you meet all of the criteria.

I Have a Family

So what? Most people do. Having a family is no excuse to neglect yourself. If you aren’t functioning well, you aren’t giving the most to your family. The next time you let something important slide because you “don’t have time” try this.

Rather than saying, I don’t have time, say the truth, it’s not a priority. I don’t have time to exercise becomes exercise is not a priority.  I don’t have time to read to my kid before bed becomes reading to my kid before bed is not a priority. 

If this doesn’t make you change your priorities, I don’t know what would. It sounds much starker when phrased this way. And it’s the truth.

Finding the Sweet Spot

What is the sweet spot in your career? Finding your passion?


No, we already said that’s not always a good idea. The sweet spot is doing something that you find some enjoyment or fulfillment in, that you’re reasonably good at, and that someone else will pay you to do.

How do you find that? The same way you find a beer you like. You do some research; you do some experimenting. If you’ve never tried Beer X, you don’t go out and buy seventeen cases of it. You buy one and see if you like it.

If you want to brew beer, how do you know you would like it? Sure it sounds like a cool job, but lots of cool sounding jobs actually suck. Or maybe they don’t suck, but they aren’t really a good fit for you.

Is there a beer brewer near you? Ask him or her if you might buy them a glass of wine (because the mail carrier doesn’t take a walk in his or her day off) or lunch and pick their brain. Ask if you might spend a day with them to see what a day in their work life is really like.

Brewing beer is a pretty solitary pursuit. What if you’re an extrovert? Well, maybe brewing beer is out but you can be the person who does the beer tastings at local stores and events. They get to talk to tons of people!

It’s Not All Fun

Even the most fun jobs have parts that suck. How can you discipline yourself to do those things because they have to get done too?

If you’re in a position to do so, outsource them. Find someone who doesn’t hate those tasks and let them do it. You might hate it, but it might be someone else’s dream job. Andrew is a terrific writer, but he hates doing it, so that’s why he hired me because it is my dream job.

If you can’t outsource it, do it first thing. I have learned this, and it works.

If there is something I don’t want to do, whether it’s a work task or calling the sewage and water board (something I had to do last week and is a well known New Orleans nightmare), do it as soon as you wake up, get to the office, or the place you need to call is open.

If you put it off, you will dread it the rest of the day. This is the dumbest thing ever. Something that might take 15 minutes to get done, instead looms in your brain all day or for days on end, tormenting you.

Another good trick I learned a long time ago was to time a task you hate. If you hate cleaning the toilet, time how long it takes. What is it, like two minutes? You can endure a lot worse than scrubbing a toilet if it only lasts two minutes!

Be a No Person

Sometimes our lack of work-life balance is our fault because we say “yes” too much. Can you drive me to the airport? Yes. Can you bake 50 dozen cupcakes for the school bake sale? Yes. I know I told you that report wasn’t due until next month but can you get it to me by next week? Yes.

No is a complete sentence.

Tweet This

Sometimes we have to channel Nancy Regan and JUST SAY NO. And nothing else. Just a no. The more you fumble around trying to explain, the more likely you are to back out and make that no a yes. Not everyone is entitled to your time. You are your gatekeeper, the last and only line of defense.

It’s okay to say no.

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And While We’re At It

If you really want to fix your work-life balance in a meaningful way, take back your vacation. I wrote a whole article about this because it makes me angry how little vacation Americans get and the paltry amount we do get, we don’t take. Take your vacation. 


Life isn’t short. It’s the longest thing there is. What can you do that’s longer? You have this long life ahead of you, and you’re meant to do more with it than work.

Show Notes

Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy: A traditional weiss beer with refreshing natural lemonade flavor that makes it the perfect summer beer.

WeldWerks Spectral Class: A New England style IPA.

Modelo Negra: A full-flavored lager.

Your Oxygen Mask First: Kevin’s book. Where you can find more information on Kevin.

Now Discover Your Strengths: Find out what you’re good at.

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Candice Elliott - Senior Editor
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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