Just coming off a vacation gives me a good chance to think about work-life balance.
As leaders and achievers it is a topic often discussed in workshops and in casual conversations. People are so busy and feel pulled in so many directions that they find this idea of work-life balance elusive.
Let’s start with three truths about this topic, then share some strategies to help you move toward the work-life balance you desire.
Judgment gets in the way. One work-life balance challenge is that most people deal with guilt and judgment. Many live in a land of “should” – you should do that next report, make one more call, read that new book. And, at the same time, you should be home; you should spend time with your spouse, friends, kids, etc. And the judgment doesn’t stop there – it extends, real or imagined, to other in your life. Colleagues wonder when you will get something done, while people in the rest of your life wonder when you will be home. All these judgments, internal and external, real and imagined, get in the way of finding the balance you seek.
Work-life balance isn’t static. One mistake is thinking you can find work-life balance like it’s a “thing” or a “place”. You find a book or a new couch. You reach a destination. Work-life balance isn’t that tangible or permanent, which means it’s variable. Like balancing a scale, your time and focus will necessarily shift more heavily one way, then the other, based on situations and circumstances. To assume you can reach a balanced spot for more than a short time is folly.
There is no perfect. Your balance isn’t static, and it isn’t perfect. When you consider work-life balance to be a journey, you will have a healthy approach to it. While judgment gets in the way, so does comparison. People often look at others who appear to have the ‘ideal’ balance and try to emulate them. This is also a mistake because your balance must be based on your values (more on this in a second) and your needs. You won’t reach your perfect by emulating someone else.
Focus on values. The best place to start finding your work-life balance is with your values. Your balance will be defined by your values. The things you value most should, over time, occupy the most of your time, thought and energy. Once you are clear on your values you can map your activities and time to them. When you do that your ability to understand your perfect balance will be clearer and therefore easier to achieve.
Be present. Balance isn’t about raw number of hours. It’s about being present where you are at all times. When you are home, are you on your laptop or are you communicating with and interacting with those you care about? When you are at work are you focused on your work or checking your eBay listings? A big part of balance is being present, in real time, in each situation. Not only will this help you be more balanced, it will allow you to be more satisfied with the moments of your life.
Eliminate unnecessary activities. One practical way to find more balance is to take things out of your calendar that aren’t important or necessary. As you get more ruthless with your calendar, you get more time back that can be devoted to any portion of your life you wish. Look closely at your calendar and eliminate what you can to give more time to your most important things.
Get feedback. One way to stay on the journey is to ask people in your life how they think you are doing on your work-life balance. Their perspective, especially the most important people in your life, will be valuable to help you from getting too far off track one direction or another.
Work-life balance is a topic worthy of your ongoing consideration and thinking.
This article won’t solve all of your balance problems, but hopefully gives you ideas and food for thought as you continue on your personal path to your perfect balance.