If you are among the half of Americans that make a New Year’s Resolution List, it was. With complicated work, home and social expectations, information overload, kids on the go, and unhealthy lifestyles, etc., it is no wonder so many are feeling “out of balance.”
When I coach others who are looking for a better work-life balance, my first question is, “What does a work-life balance mean to you?” Oftentimes the answer is, “I just don’t want to keep feeling like I am working all of the time. I need to spend time on other things in my life.” When we dig a little deeper, we often discover that the real issue is not that you are simply working too much, but instead there is a lack of focus, direction or a clear idea about where you want to go or what you want to achieve.
A work-life balance isn’t simply measured by balancing the actual number of hours you spend at work and/or at “life.” After all, just because you force yourself to leave the office at a certain time doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a “balance.” In my opinion, having balance means having the ability to be “fully present where you are”. In other words, when you are working, you are not worrying or distracted about the things (or relationships) that aren’t being properly taken care of in your personal life; and when you are away from work, you are not worrying or distracted about the things that aren’t being done at work.
The only way to do this is to get clear about your roles, goals and objectives and then to get better at taking care of or focusing on the more important things you need to do, pushing back on less important things. To do this will probably require you to take some time to clearly define what your true goals and objectives are. Most people skip or ignore this essential part of the process and they end up, well, like where you are now.
• Defining your goals and then using your time to work with the purpose of achieving them isn’t always so easy, but it also doesn’t have to be so hard. In addition, there isn’t just one way to do it. Some can make great strides defining and creating a better plan on their own and/or in a short amount of time. Others will find it best to talk it out with someone else and/or spend a few days creating their better plan. In any case, here are some steps and key questions that can help you discover, and then move toward a more fulfilling job and life: a better work-life balance. What do you know you need to do/have more of in your life that makes you feel good, happy, at peace, satisfied, proud, etc.? What has that little voice inside your head been telling you that you have been putting off? Is it quality time with your spouse, kids or other family member? Is it growing your spiritual life? Is it exercising? Is it a hobby that you are passionate about? Is it being outdoors? Once you have answered this (and perhaps it is two or three things), then you will get a clearer idea on what successfully adding this would look like. When you think about it, what mental pictures come to mind? Does it mean protecting Friday night with your spouse as date night no matter what? Does it mean that you read to your kids before bedtime every night or plan to have breakfast with them at least three days a week? Does it mean joining a class or group that supports your interest so you can connect with other like-minded people for camaraderie? Does it mean 30 minutes of exercise four-five days a week? Once you decide what this is, put it in your calendar as a non-negotiable time commitment.
• Then, ask yourself what is the purpose of your work/job and does it align well with “who you are” and how you are wired? Does it/can it meet your needs? Do you genuinely like what you do, even though you may not really like the way you are doing it?
• What would be considered a job well done? How would this be measured and/or how would you know if you are meeting these goals successfully? Can you attach a number to it? Do you believe you are capable of achieving this?
• Do the math. Run the numbers. Decide what needs to be done and the kind of time and resources it will take, and then set up your calendar, planning your time accordingly.
Warning: There will be many, many distractions, temptations, offers, requests, ideas and “shiny things” that will come at you on a regular basis. Try to remember that this is what most likely got you out of balance to begin with – giving in to distractions! When this happens, ask yourself “Is doing this unplanned thing more important than my planned thing?” Choose wisely.
-- Kimberly Medlock, Productive Matters
What are your tips for achieving work-life balance? What are your roadblocks?