You begin your day before dawn and head off to work, picking up McBreakfast on the way to the office—staggering home 10-12 hours later with more reports to review.
When on vacation, you spend most of your time checking emails and returning phone calls—handling one situation after another.
You don’t quite remember the last time you and your family had dinner together due to your frequent travel schedule—and you’ve missed most of your kids’ events.
Your family and friends strongly urge you to “get a life.”
Any of those scenarios sound remotely familiar?
Studies have revealed that over the past two decades the average time we spend working has jumped by nearly four additional weeks annually. This is the same figure that Juliet B. Schor’s study indicated in her book, “The Overworked American,” one of the first publications to address what she coined as “the decline of leisure.”
Another study conducted by the American Sociological Review showed that an astounding 70% of American workers are “juggling” life and having a difficult time finding the proper time to fulfill work commitments while also staying committed to family obligations too.
In our fast-paced, frenetic world the distinction between work and leisure has blurred.
Online resources, such as Work-LifeBalance.com, recommend that you take a deep look at what exactly is causing your work-life to be so heavily out of alignment; e.g. what’s causing you the most stress and identifying those “time sucks” that are keeping you from effectively multi-tasking smaller tasks or finishing one larger project that causes you to work so much overtime.
But, at the end of the day, we all know there’s a problem with our schedules. Right?
This isn’t exactly “hot off the presses” news.
But, what is disconcerting is that although we know there’s a problem, few of us ACTUALLY do something about it.
Sometimes we forget that we are the makers of our destinies — and by making deliberate choices and being honest with ourselves about what is/is not working (and doing something about it), we can be much more in control of our lives.
Practical Thinking When You’re Trying to Define What Work-Life Balance is RIGHT FOR YOU
It’s easy to have your life spin out of balance before you realize it for many different reasons—including temporarily to achieve a specific goal or to simply catch up at times. If you feel that your work has taken control of your life, there are steps you can take to regain—or gain—a sense of balance.
Because life is fluid, work-life balance does not mean an equal balance.
It’s unrealistic and unnecessary to try and schedule an equal number of hours for work and personal activities. Instead, your individual work-life balance WILL VARY on a daily basis and over time.
Having trouble keeping a decent schedule? Check out this work schedule template by SmartSheet.com to help you map out a much more favorable work calendar. Sophisticated time management tools, such as When I Work, can help managers and executives improve conversations and efficiencies with hourly staff.
The right balance for you today will differ from tomorrow because there is no perfect, one-size fits all balance that you should be striving for.
Achievement and enjoyment of life are two key concepts that are at the core of our life values in our country.
Therefore, a meaningful daily combination of achievement and enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants—work, family, friends and self—defines work-life balance. A balanced life requires paying attention to all areas—your health and fitness, family, recreation, career, financial, social and spiritual activities (such as the spirit of
A balanced life requires paying attention to all areas—your health and fitness, family, recreation, career, financial, social and spiritual activities (such as the spirit of church and/or the spirits of learning, love, adventure and energy).
To provide a competitive advantage, many leading US companies have work-life programs, policies and practices in place—such as flextime, telecommuting, child care, elder care, family leaves (paternity, maternity, etc.), job sharing, employee assistance programs, in-house stores/services, gym subsidies, fitness programs, concierge services, vacation and more.
However, to be effective, work-life balance requires a two-prong approach beyond the framework of what a company does for its employees—to what individuals can do for themselves.
Creating Your Work-Life Plan and Finding Balance
To maintain a sense of balance and to grow in each of the four quadrants listed in the prior section, you need to develop a plan. The process is similar to creating a business plan for your life.
Begin by soul searching and writing down your responses to the following questions:
What are my core values?
What’s important to me, and am I living out my life based on those values?
Examples of core values are personal development, money earned, personal relationships, family time, independence, security, helping others, variety, etc.
What are my dreams—my purpose or mission?
Examples: Travel around the world, homeschool your child, take a sabbatical and study …, go on a safari, etc.
Do I make time to pursue and enjoy my interests?
If you don’t think you have any, what would you do if you had all the time in the world to spend exactly as you wish?
Examples: Traveling within the US or overseas, reading novels, home improvement, playing sports, etc.
Am I taking the time to keep yourself healthy and fit?
Examples: Begin a home exercise program, meditating, become a health club member or take an exercise class.
Am I spending enough quality time to continually develop and strengthen relationships with my family members or significant others?
Examples: Having dinner, planning and taking family vacations or doing other things together as a family on a more routine schedule.
Where do I (or my family and I) want to live?
If you do not want to continue living in your present community, are you able to relocate? If so, to what other city/state/country and in what timetable (for example: after your last child completes the school year or the last year of high school)?
Am I enjoying my work?
If not, what’s missing—what would you change about your professional life?
Examples: Increased income, reduced working hours, shorter commute, opportunity to telecommute, advance or downsize career, change to another position internally or externally, etc.
Do I have a retirement plan?
Identify when you want to retire and what you want to do with that chapter of your life. Examples: relocate, choose a “retirement” career, volunteer in the community, travel, take classes, etc.
Am I maintaining existing friendships, building new ones and spending time with them?
Am I giving back and feeling connected to my community?
If you derive satisfaction from being active in your community, think of ways in which you may volunteer your time or skills.
Examples may include coaching youth sports teams or serving on a committee at a non-profit organization whose mission is important to you.
In creating your work-life plan, you can choose to have a 2-year, 5-year, 10-year plan or whatever you prefer—identifying an area to focus on, as needed. The important point is to set measurable goals so that you can see areas of progress and areas that need change or improvement. It’s a fluid, adjustable plan that changes with you as you move forward.
Now take your answers to the above questions and map out your plan in writing as follows.
My dreams and purpose are to:
My measurable short- and long-range goals for each area are:
My priorities in each area:
Get Your Butt in Gear
Then implement and evaluate your goals—making certain they are realistic while giving you an opportunity for growth.
Select someone to share your goals with and to keep you accountable.
Since goals and situations in our lives continually change, review each of your plan goals once or twice a year and make any adjustments as needed.
At a time when work has become all-encompassing and the future is fraught with uncertainty, carving your own version of a balanced life can help you not only to regain some control but also enjoy it more.