What is work-life balance? Everyone talks about it yet everyone struggles to achieve it. How many truly have it all figured out? Is there such a thing as “work-life balance” or have we just imposed more stress upon ourselves by creating and holding this unattainable goal on a pedestal, making us feel stressed and guilty as we strive to achieve “balance”.
As I began thinking of ways we could work with intention to balance the scale of life, so to say, I started wondering if maybe we’re looking at it wrong. Often, work-life balance is associated with the quantity of time, meaning a 50/50 balance of hours. What if the focus was instead, on quality of time spent?
If we can redefine the way we view the idea of work-life balance to make the most out of every hour and not put so much stress on ourselves about the hour by hour equivalence of work and life (home/family, social, personal), there may be less guilt and stress associated with not achieving a harmonious schedule.
Obviously there are things we can do to help. For example, now, more than ever, employees have the luxury of working remote and/or having flexible hours. However, that also means, employees have the potential to be accessible 24 hours a day so establishing boundaries when at work and home is important.
This doesn’t mean it’s not OK to take a personal call at work or to leave work early for a school pickup and it doesn’t mean that it’s not OK to check work email at home, but in order to help create boundaries:
Be 100% present in whatever it is that doing (work/home) and don’t feel guilty about it.
Prioritize your time in order to do so (i.e. set an hour aside early Saturday morning to respond to emails, or tend to a timely project, then be done for the day).
By focusing on quality instead of quantity of time, it’s all about giving attention to what is being done at the present moment in order to be present at work while at work and preset at home while at home. If you’re working during what should be quality time at home, you’re going to feel guilty or if you’re thinking about home too much while at work, you’re not going to feel like you’re giving 100% at that either. By focusing on the number of hours spent, if we’re at work we’re worried that we should be spending time with our family and if we’re at home enjoying dinner with family, we’re worried we should be checking work email or trying to catch up. Too much time is wasted worrying about balancing the hours spent.
Learn to prioritize time. At the beginning of the day layout a plan for the day and prioritize goals, both professional and personal. It helps to classify them A-B-C, “A- Must get done”, “B- To work on after A is complete”, and “C- Can wait but it’s on the task list”. Then evaluate your time spent at the end of the day. How did you spend your time? Did you stay on track and accomplish all of the “As”? Were you distracted by anyone/anything? How can you remove this distraction?
Do learn to say no and let go of things… It is OK to cut out the things in life that are stressing you out. In fact, it’s healthy. It’s also healthy to delegate work and ask for help when needed.
The brutal truth is, there are never enough hours in the day; so why doom ourselves to feel stressed, guilty, unfulfilled or as if we’re failing at every moment being spread thin and pulled in different directions? I challenge anyone working with intention to balance their scale of life, to not focus on the number of hours doing each thing, but instead, being 100% attentive and present to what it is you’re doing in that moment.
If you’re feeling like your work-life balance scale is out of “whack”, try to focus on improving the quality of the activity that’s lower or dropping on the scale… adding more hours may not be possible, but ensuring that you’re making the time you DO have to give count and doing things mindfully, will naturally balance the scale of life as you feel that your time, no matter the quantity of hours spent, is efficient, quality time.