Ah… work-life balance. It is elusive, and some would argue that it is downright impossible to achieve.
I offer a workshop on work-life balance, and it is a topic that is intriguing because it is, in fact, complicated, complex, and feels so illusive to so many. Part of the dilemma, of course, is that it means different things to different people. What might feel balanced for one feels overwhelmingly out of balance for another.
I also believe that men and women view work-life balance differently. If you are a man, your idea of work-life balance may be that you go to work, do your job, and then you come home and hit the couch for some down time before engaging with your wife or the kids. You are happiest if no one talks to you for about an hour because you need to decompress from work. You may want to catch whatever game is on TV. You don’t really care what game… you just need something to watch that can take you away, at least for a while, from the cares of the day.
If you are a man, you may also consider work-life balance as doing well at work and also having quality time with your family. Vacation time may be part of your definition of work-life balance. Having time to keep your lawn mowed and the hedges trimmed might also be part of your overall ideal of work-life balance.
For women, the ideal is more complicated, I believe. As a result, it may feel a little (or even a lot) more difficult to achieve. In spite of the fact that we live in a 2014 society where many women work outside of the home and sometimes have jobs that are even more demanding than the jobs of the men in their lives, women still carry the brunt of the work load at home.
Unless she is married to an exceptional man, the woman of the house is still mostly responsible for meal planning and preparation, laundry, childcare, and keeping the home picked up and clean. Women in a particular economic demographic may be able to hire nannies for childcare and cleaning ladies for some of the household duties, but at the end of the day, most women don’t have the luxury of hiring that kind of help.
So, what does one do if they are feeling that time is slipping away and their lives are grossly out of balance? The first order of business is to recognize the problem and make a decision to do something about it. Only you have the power to make a decision about how you want to live your life. You can let life dictate how you spend it, or you can decide that you are going to take charge of your life.
It is also important to remember that work-life balance is different for everyone. Having said that, there are five things you should start doing today if you want to create a greater sense of being in control of your life:
1. Schedule time for the important things and stick to your schedule.
Stephen Covey talked about the importance of “first things first.” The “first things” are your family, your friends, and your other significant relationships. Don’t let those key relationships suffer because you have a busy work schedule.
2. Think in terms of what you want to achieve and for which you want to be remembered.
David Brooks offers a powerful TED Talk about the difference between living your resume and living your legacy. Understanding the distinction helps snap things into perspective. I recommend taking a few minutes to watch it and consider its message.
3. Stay healthy by taking care of yourself.
I offer a whole workshop around the things you should do in order to manage and reduce your stress. They include staying hydrated, eating well for good nutrition, getting the amount of sleep you need, working in some physical exercise, and remembering to breathe properly throughout the day. These are not new techniques that you haven’t heard before… but they are important to implement each day for optimum performance—and a sense of balance—at work and home.
4. Create a practice of prayer or meditation if you don’t already have one.
Increasingly, studies are showing that those who have a regular practice of meditation or prayer built into their routines are more grounded, more centered, more productive, and… happier. Wouldn’t it be worth the effort to explore if the pay off were to be happier with your life?
5. Finally, don’t forget the importance of having FUN!
Life isn’t meant to be endured… it is meant to be enjoyed, and at the end of the day, in general, the things that bring us the most joy are times spent with our families and friends. Staying in the moment, listening to the laughter of your baby—or your grandbaby—who has just discovered her toes… watching the sun set over the horizon with that person with whom you have chosen to live your life… those are the moments that add up a life well lived… and a life in balance.
At the end of your life, someone will start pulling together the things that people want to say about you. They may or may not comment on how hard you worked and all that you achieved at work. They will most certainly talk about what type of person you were and how you made them feel.
Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Do you make the people around you feel valued and worthwhile? Are you patient? Are you generous with either your time or your money or both? Do you care about other people? Or are you mostly interested in yourself? Do you take the time to be present when you are in a conversation, or are you thinking about where you would rather be or what you would rather be doing in that particular moment? Are you a person who will be truly missed when you are gone? What will your life legacy be?
If you haven’t considered these questions, I invite you to do so now. They can help you decide how to create the life of balance that you seek even though you have a demanding job.
This post was originally published at an earlier date.
About the author
Kitty Boitnott, Ph.D., NBCT is a Certified Life Strategies and Stress Management Coach and is an ICC at CareerHMO. Visit her coaching page here.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CareerHMO coach. You can learn more about coach posts here.
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