Work – Life Balance…Can you REALLY have it?

A long time ago, in a generation far, far away (OK, not so far) there used to be very clear boundaries between work and home. Remember Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy or Happy Days (now I have you guessing how old I am =). Dad came home when the sun was still out and never thought about work until he left the next morning.

The reality today is that in most families, both parents work and the job is far more demanding, as are the schedules we keep! Wikipedia states “Work–life balance is a broad concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) on one hand and “life” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development) on the other.” Using that definition as a framework, creating, yet alone maintaining, a work-life balance seems so elusive. Truth is, it is attainable, but it takes identifying boundaries and then applying them in your life.

Where to start…begin by evaluating the rank of importance of yourself, relationships and work in your life. In America, we tend to “live to work” while most European countries “work to live”. These are very different attitudes and thus produce very different results in terms of work-life balance. If you find that your relationships are more important, but that work has taken over all of your time then try these things to try and get back in balance:

  • Track your time & create a “Need/Want” Square: For one week track how you spend your time, both work and personal activities. Categorize all of your activities in terms of “needing/not needing to do them” and “wanting/not wanting to do them” and then input them into a “Need/Want” Square. Now stop doing the things that appear in the “Don’t Need”/”Don’t Want” square!
Need/Want Need/Don’t Want
Don’t Need/Want Don’t Need/Don’t Want
  • Just Say “No”: Volunteering is an admirable thing, but when you volunteer to the detriment of yourself and your family, then it is time to stop. I used to be a volunteer addict, saying to myself “Oh that won’t take too long”. Then one night when I was furiously working past midnight to fulfill my commitments I realized how crazy it was. There will be a time in my life when I can volunteer more, just not right now – and that is OK!
  • Talk to your employer about options: Do you know for sure if your company offers flex hours, compressed workweeks, job sharing, or telecommuting? They may be options that are just not publicized. Take a moment to ask your boss or HR department. You may just find that they can work with you.
  • Leave work at work: When you walk out of the door of your office, do not to bring work home! Create boundaries, make those who work for and with you aware of them and then be firm in enforcing them. If you don’t, know one else will! Don’t answer e-mails, texts or phone calls that are work related when you have committed to be with your friends or family. The world use to revolve just nicely before the iPhone & Blackberry. I guarantee you that it will continue to do so if you choose to turn it off for a few hours to spend time with those you care about!
  • Get organized at home: Be organized at home so you don’t spend all of your free time grocery shopping, running errands, cleaning or doing laundry. It is true, that you capture more time if you are organized! If you need help here, give me a call. I have lots of great ideas and would be glad to help!
  • Create a support system: Do what you can and don’t be afraid to ask for help from co-workers, friends and family.Take care of yourself: How can you be good for anyone else if you aren’t even good to yourself. Eat healthy, exercise and get the right amount of sleep. Make sure you take time to do the things you enjoy so you can feel fulfilled personally.
  • Ask for outside help when you know you need it: Whether it means hiring a cleaning person, a professional organizer or a therapist, don’t try to do it all alone, especially if you know you need help.

Creating a work-life balance is a lot like organizing in that it is not just a one-time event, but a continually process. You have to be flexible to change as your personal and professional life changes. Take time to revisit your boundaries and priorities and make adjustments when you find that the scale has begun to tip too much to one side. It is through this process that you will ultimately be able to achieve the best balance of work and life for you!

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  1. Please leave work at work and be in the moment at home. Having these areas compartmentalized means you can do you best in both places! Thanks for sharing all these great tips!

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