Four Actionable Steps to Achieve Work Life Balance for Firefighters

We have a lot of stuff to do in this life and we don’t have a lot of time to do it. Between Work and Play- and then every day life, time seems to slip through our fingers!

When you think about the First Responder Life, you know that the hours are anything but traditional.

We ALL know that firefighter that works 24/48/72 hours at a time… and then goes to work at a second job or volunteer department.

But that firefighter DOESN’T have work life balance.

I’d argue they have no balance at all… here’s why.

Why Work Life Balance is Important 

There’s this magical term called “work life balance”.

People love their jobs, but they also want to enjoy themselves.

its when people have learned to prioritize doing something they love, making an income doing that, and still have time for their family and themselves.

Too many horror stories have trickled down the ranks of people dedicating their life to a position, only to be fired when they were no longer wanted by the company. 

I can assure you, that the fire station will have an a job listing up the same week you leave the job.

Then there’s a dirty word: STRESS.

Yep, I said it. Stress is going to happen, but too much is a bad thing.

Firefighters aren’t immune to it either, we know that stress is KILLING our firefighters. Not just stress, but poor sleep, lack of proper nutrition and not enough behavioral health support.

🛑🛑🛑

So how can we avoid this mess of missing out and working ourselves to death? It’s actually a pretty simple answer – learn how to apply work life balance.

With work life balance, we can look at and manage the important parts of our job with enjoying our family.

We can ‘make everyone happy’ in a sense that we know what we can contribute and when.

Practicing work life balance doesn’t have to be hard either, all we need to do is take a honest look at our lives, and make some simple changes in our time management and priorities. 

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4 actionable steps to achieving work life balance for firefighters 

Firefighter Work Life Balance is Important- Do you know how to achieve it?
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One- Respect your time- (eliminate what isn’t important)

One of the big keys to work life balance is removing what isn’t necessary.

So what do you need to do?

👨‍🚒Obviously you have to work, so those hours are accounted for. 👨‍🚒Another big one is making sure you have food and that you eat 👨‍🚒 Of course you need to be spending time with family and friends. 

So ask yourself, what are you doing, say, on a weekly basis, that is robbing you of your time?

Do you spend your off days watching TV with your spouse, but then still feel like you haven’t had any quality time with them? Do you work 90 hours a week at your main job, volunteer and then help out your buddy with his job?

We only have 24 hours in the day. If we don’t respect that time and use it wisely, we can never get it back.

This doesn’t mean you need to chuck your TV out the window-

were not even suggesting you quit your job. This isn’t extreme.

There’s no respect for family and off time if you:

  • spend 2 hours after every shift hanging out at the station
  • never turn off your CAD pages/alerts/radio and run in to every call (even on days off)
  • take off days and then still go in because ‘they need you’
  • get a second and third job (means you don’t respect your budget so you are always catching up)
  • Don’t know how to say NO- it means that people don’t respect you because they know your a push over ‘YES man’

Two- Enjoy your time off- (Don’t be afraid to go on vacation)

Anyone know a Firefighter that has a hard time taking time off? All of you? Yeah, me too. 

Don’t get me wrong, My husband is excited for vacations, it’s just that putting in the time off two months in advance (when we’re too far out to be really excited about the trip) that gets him. He also tends to stress about his coworkers- who will cover the shift, who else is going on vacation, should he do swaps instead, will he miss training or (the worst) will he miss a fire. 

Basically, Most Firefighters get a severe case of FOMO.

FOMO = Fear of Missing out

But

Firefighters really shouldn’t have FOMO.

Whether you are going on a trip or having a staycation, taking time off to recharge is important! 

For my Husband, the FOMO about a fire is a very real, and I’m sure many others in the fire profession can relate.

The thing is, there will be another fire, there will be more cool calls, and there will be more adventures.

Don’t let the fear of missing out on the job cause you to miss out with your family. Contrary to popular belief, you are actually needed at home and needed at vacation.

Three- Balance- (Find out what your priorities are)

Ahh balance.

Of course there is ‘balance’ in work life balance.

But what does that mean? Images of kids on balance beams come to mind, and a waiter who has a teetering tray full of plates. But is that what balance really is? 

Or does balance have more to do with making sure that the important things in your life are cared for regulary, and that one thing doesnt get 80% of your time.

Balance has much more to do with setting prioritizes and less with piling as much as you can onto a plate and hoping that you don’t run into anyone in the restaurant.

When you balance, you know what has to come first, second and third- with some emergency exceptions.

For example, within your job as a firefighter- who know that structure fires take precedence over a car accident. There is an emergency exemption though, a structure fire on an unoccupied dwelling wouldn’t take precedence over a multiple vehicle pile up on the freeway.

Yes, you would delegate resources to the fire, but life is more important so you would send the majority of your resources to the vehicle accident.

That is balance, knowing what is important, and knowing the emergency exemptions that would change what you delegate time too. 

So in order to apply balance, you need to determine what your top three priorities are, and the emergency exemptions.

So for example:

40% of your time is spent at work

40% is spent with family

20% is spent for yourself

and these things can overlap. You could read a book (for yourself) at work. You can do chores at home and bring the kids along, you can go to a work conference and take your spouse.

One last note, Even though it is the best job in the world, it is still a job. That’s why my husband always says, “First Family First”.

Four- Take time for yourself- (no matter what )

Your Brain is important. Your attitude is important.

Say it with me. 

taking care of yourself is important. 

If you are laid out, sick and stressed and down right tired- you aren’t helping anyone. Not at work. Not at home.

Now, I’m not one to place blame on a sick person, shit happens.

But what lead to you getting sick?

Are you eating right? Do you take vacations? Do you respect your health with proper supplements, exercise and sleeping?

I know this sounds amazingly basic BUT we’ve all had times in our lives where we put ourselves second, or third… you know its happened.

You’re ‘too busy to eat’. Bullshit.

If you don’t eat and take care of yourself, your disrupting the natural flow of man. Do yourself a favor, keep your body and mind healthy so you can do be there for others.

We know that Firefighter stress and PTSD is robbing us of our Fire Family. Please- Don’t be another statistic.

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4 steps for Firefighter Work Life Balance
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To Recap

1.Respect your time- don’t waste it- you should practice saying NO

2. Enjoy your time off- no more FOMO when it comes to fires or calls that you might miss

3. Balance your priorities- make them known- what’s your top three? is it 90/5/5 or better balanced at 50/30/20

4. Take care of yourself- stay mentally and physically fit- you can’t work or live if your body is broken

With these simple truths in your life, you can master work life balance. You can enjoy your time at work and enjoy your time at home. 

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