As another year draws to a close and a new year just around the corner, this is generally the time when everyone takes a deep breath and comes up with an impossibly unsustainable new years’ resolution…like going (back?) to the gym, eating out less, or spending more time with the family. However, one resolution that tends to come up with most of my workaholic friends is striking the right “work-life balance”.
I first heard of the phrase “work life balance” in the early part of my career as an accountant for one of the Big 4 accounting firms (it used to be the big 5). The managers and senior managers were always talking about not having time for dinner with their families during the peak of audit season. In fact, they had not seen their wives or husbands in daylight as they generally left for work before sunrise and when they came home, the whole house was already asleep. They always said, “I have to get a job with more work life balance, man.”
What exactly is “work-life balance”? In a nutshell, it is the holy grail of the art of balancing work (i.e. career and ambition) with life (i.e. family, leisure, health). This balancing act can be tricky and many of us have fallen into the trap of focusing on the work aspect….leading to the demise of the other. Burnout and the compounding stress of a never ending workday in contrast with boredom and the compounding stress of always watching the purse strings are just some of the results of too much focus on either work or life.
In Nigel Marsh’s TEDtalk about work life balance, he brilliantly sums the paradox as “it is quite easy to balance work and life when you don’t have any work; not a very useful skill, especially when the money runs out.”
So where does this leave us? Work life balance is different for everyone but these are some of my thoughts and tips that may help in find YOUR balance:
1. It was never about Balance
Consider the three words again: Work, Life, Balance.
It was just recently that I realized that perhaps I was looking at this phrase all wrong. Isn’t “work” really just part of “life”? Why would “work” garner 50% of this equation? In fact, in thinking about this more deeply, MY life would likely be broken down into these components: work, my family and friends, and my SELF. All of these contribute to my overall happiness—but certainly not 50% of work!!!
Work is just part of life, such as my family and my health and wellbeing would also be. Put another way, work is really just a piece of the Pie of Life; we should not give it more (or less) importance as the other parts of our lives. Alas, sometimes, this realization comes too late when our health fails us or when we suffer our first anxiety attack, for example. As far as I know, no one on their deathbed has ever said “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.
So perhaps, a change in perspective is warranted since it was never about balance to begin with….it is really about integration of the work in the overall scheme of things.
2. Beware the Golden Handcuffs
Maybe it was just me but I found that even though I made a good living, it seemed as if it was never enough. So, I went for promotions that paid me more money which meant more responsibility and more stress; other times, I would change jobs just for the fact that it paid more. You would think that if I had more money, I could save more and be happier. Quite the opposite. Ironically, I found that the more money I made, the more expenses I seemed to have! So, when finally I realized my happiness was inexplicably connected to my work life imbalance, it was so much more difficult to just throw in the towel and say, ENOUGH!
Faced with choice—would you quit a job that makes you sick or would you just suck it up?
So beware the golden handcuffs…
3. Establish boundaries
Employers try to attract talent or keep employees by giving incentives like flexible work environments including work from home, the perks of having the newest smartphones in the market, dress down Fridays, or even a daycare in the premises. If you come to think about this though, these incentives just make your work day even longer! I am sure that these employers have good intentions but it is critical that boundaries are set early on or else work will definitely take over all of your hours of the day.
“But wouldn’t that limit my career?” you are probably asking. Well, that would be up to you. I think that you would likely come out to be a more productive and happier employee since you actually have time to BREATHE. Have you ever worked with someone who always seems to be on edge since they have too much on their plate and everyone is tiptoeing and walking on eggshells around them for fear of being yelled at? I worked for someone like that—I remember I used to take the longer route to the washroom so I wouldn’t have to walk by his office. Yah, not nice.
So, there you have it, a few thoughts to ponder as a new year is once again upon us.
Do you have any work-life balance tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to follow me by email so you never miss another blog… sign up below!!!
As always, thank you so much for following and reading my blog and may 2018 be a year filled with smiles, love, much happiness and prosperity.
This is my heartfelt wish from me to you. Happy New Year, everyone!