When we think of work-life balance, we often think of both being in perfect harmony, with equal hours spent on both sides. However, a view this literal is unrealistic and will often leave you feeling incredibly unrewarded. We need to redefine work-life balance to be truly able to use it to our advantage.
First, work-life balance is much more flexible than a 50/50 split. Truthfully, it is more of a juggle, or a blending of both aspects of our life. Work-life balance will mean different things to different people, and can change on a daily basis. It will contrast drastically if you are single, married, starting a new job, or retiring. It varies so much between us because we lead such individual lives, and we all have our own unique priorities.
Work-life balance should make you feel like you are paying enough attention to all the important aspects of your life – that is the balance part. When you feel like that scale of attention is tipped too far in one direction or another; that is when changes need to be made. The idea of finding balance is to allow us to find the point in-between our work and personal life that ensures the flourishing of both.
It’s all about you
For you it might be more of a work-life juggle – sending emails while waiting to pick kids up from school, or having a conference call with Singapore while you make dinner in Houston. You are fitting things in where they can, all while making sure it gets done.
Or you’re a work-life blender – you run a business out of your home, potentially with your partner, or perhaps you work with extended family. In these situations, a work day never has a hard end as your family life and your business life are intermingled.
Maybe you’re more of a work-life ‘segmenter’ – separating one from each other and ‘never the twain shall meet’. From 8-5 you are available for clients with only a moment’s notice, but when you get home, you shut down all of your work programs.
Adversely, you may be work-life embracer – all day, every day on a massive project for a year, followed by a long sabbatical. It is all of one and none of the other.
Tips to find your balance
- Let go of perfection: we have more time to focus on perfection when we are children. By the time we are adults there are just too many tasks that need to be accomplished and there never seems to be enough time for everything to be perfect. Instead, strive for excellence not perfection. A small mental shift that makes a large difference.
- Disconnect: when you are available all the time, your work day never ends. You need those times when you shut off your phone and just enjoy the moment. Give yourself a chance to separate from work. It can be as simple as not conference calling while on the road to a weekend away. Allow yourself that moment of calm.
- Exercise: often the first to go when our calendars fill up, exercise should actually be the first thing we make time for. It reduces stress, pumps up endorphins, and lifts your mood. Don’t have an hour to lift weights? Start with a brisk walk around the block. It will give you the same benefits (on a smaller scale) with the added sense of accomplishment and self-care.
- Get rid of time wasters – both activities and people: if it doesn’t reflect your true priorities, put it on your not-to-do list. Draw boundaries. Politely excuse yourself from conversations that trap you. It is not selfish to devote your quality time to activities and people that reward you most.
- Change your routine: routine can turn into ruts that trap you in bad habits. Try delegating instead of doing it all. Just because you have always done it, doesn’t mean you need to keep doing it. The time you free up may astonish you.
- Go home on time: this doesn’t mean going home at a set time every day. It means, decide what time you will go home that day, and when the clock gets there – go home. Judge your productivity by your results, not the hours you put in. You will be much more efficient with the extra sleep anyway.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: as with every new undertaking, you will not be perfect at it first time around. Give yourself a break if your work-life balance shifts too far in one direction. Stop, quickly reassess, and move on. Don’t dwell, instead make changes fast.
There isn’t one tried and true rule to finding work-life balance. In fact, how you approach it will be as individual as you are. No matter what this balancing act looks like, the most important part is that it works for both you and your family. As long as both your life and work get the attention they deserve, whatever you are doing is right for you.