Balancing life and work… is it even possible?
Until two months ago, when I had my wake-up call, I didn’t think too much about living a balanced life.
It took some rather frightening physical symptoms to make me finally realize that I was letting my work take precedence over other things that matter in my life, including my own health.
So I’ve been making some lifestyle changes. I’m setting aside time each day for long, brisk walks (I’m so thankful for the south Florida weather right now!), and getting away more often from my office to have some fun.
And it’s working! I can thankfully say that my life has changed for the better in just two months. I feel more energetic. I’m more focused. I get more work done in less time.
Balancing life and work is a matter of choice
A lot of people talk about wanting more balance and flexibility in their work and in their lives, about wanting to achieve “work/life” balance.
The idea of work/life balance doesn’t make much sense, though. It somehow implies that work and life are separate, that there’s a choice to be made between the two. But work isn’t something you do when you’re not living your life. It’s just as much a part of your life as family time or play.
Maybe it’s better to just think about living a more “balanced life”, one in which work and the various other aspects of your life are integrated and honored. You get to choose what matters most to you and how much attention you wish to give to each area of your life.
To create more balance in your life and work:
1. Clearly define what you want your work and life to look like. Very few people actually take the time to do this. But a sense of balance doesn’t just happen by itself. Clarify which areas of your life are most important to you at this point in time. Then narrow your list down to the top 6 or 8 areas.
2. Prioritize what’s most important to you. Balancing life and work involves choosing what you want in your life first, second, and so on, and then deciding how much time you want to put into each. Identify and eliminate activities that are time-wasters or energy-busters. Either cut them out or see if someone else can help you with them.
3. Assess what throws you out of balance. Pay attention to what restores you and to what depletes you. Shut out the noise of the outside world and learn to listen to what your body and your heart tell you. Come up with ways that work for you to get you back in balance, so you don’t keep running into the same problems over and over.
4. Set limits and simplify. Be able to say “no” to what’s not important, to what’s not on your list of priorities. Know when and how to set boundaries, in order to honor the various aspects of your life.
5. Find work that fits who you are. If your work feels out of balance, find out what work would be a better fit for you or consider more flexible work alternatives. Work that’s a good fit leaves you with more energy to enjoy the other aspects of your life without feeling drained or stressed.
6. Make a commitment to yourself. Consciously set aside time for what matters most to you. Be mindful of those times when you find yourself spending more energy in an area than you’d like, which takes energy away from other areas. When things start to feel out of balance, make a conscious choice to not allow one aspect to take over all the others.
Balancing life and work is an ongoing process that takes constant attention and requires a certain amount of vigilance. You’ll probably never achieve lasting “balance”, but you can certainly be more aware about what matters to you, as well as more conscious about how you spend your time.
How do you create balance in your life?