Let's make the balance of work and love a reality!
I bring good news! You can make work-life balance a reality. You'll see how to do that here with the array of practical, inspiring suggestions to use and adapt. You'll also find ideas for assisting others in their efforts to create meaning and good proportion of activities in their lives.
Now for the disheartening news: work-life balance can be illusive given the realities of love life and professional life. Personal responsibilities and relationships bring natural challenges and opportunities. As you've no doubt seen already, the structure of work itself and expectations of colleagues, clients and bosses affect many situations.
Brigid Schulte's 2015 reporting on Ernst and Young's Global Generations Research in the The Washington Post confirms that; the economic situation during the last five years has brought increased work demands. Nor do many bosses encourage work-life balance.
Sustaining balance is almost unattainable. Life is dynamic with many variables. Even if balance were possible, your experiences might be so predictable they could border on boring. Should you find it for a while, your time would not be expanded anyway.
One hope is to use your influence to promote directions you want as consistently as possible. Your power resides in the choices you make. A viable bet for choosing professional and personal activities is to consider what's likely to be more effective and meaningful.
Start with what's possible and important to you, where your intuition, courage, and other intrinsic capacities can be used. The challenge is to make the time you have count.
Do Less. One way to make good choices is to avoid being sucked into doing more, being more, helping more, getting more. Since these options have no boundaries, how would you know what's enough?
Instead, keep in mind that quiet, modest experiences can be just as meaningful and valuable as the "big bangs." Keys to creativity and productivity are as accessible as taking a short walk.
In fact, along with dozens of related studies, Northwestern University management professor, J. Keith Murnighan, says doing less leads to getting more done—and better. Other research shows the danger of distractions and multi-tasking.
Shift focus to your quality of life: Now, I'm not going to bore you with advice about setting priorities. You know their value and viability already. Instead, experiment with ways to improve the quality of your life by using and adapting what makes sense to you below.
- About what proportion of your time are you reacting, what proportion being proactive or taking effective action related to something you want and need? Suggestion: As possible, move increasingly toward proactive choices.
- What gets your attention: the immediate short-term, longer-term, or some beneficial combinations of the two? Suggestion: Do a practical project at work or home that brings satisfaction and appreciation from others and also relates to your longer-term goals.
- Use one action for promoting two outcomes to save time. Suggestions: Do exercise or learn a skill with a friend or colleague, do healthy activities where you'll meet interesting people, and find the sweet spot where play and work meet by collaborating with someone who's encouraging, dependable, and creative.
- Commit to building trust in worthwhile situations. That will be a catalyst for relieving stress while also encouraging efficiency and enjoyment in relationships and outcomes. Suggestion: Invest in two or three relationships that promise mutually healthy, satisfying, productive experiences.
Move beyond pining for work-life balance to pleasure and productivity: Give yourself these two gifts in whatever ways work well for you.
The gift of effective choice: Before doing anything significant, just answer this: How will this action contribute to what I want for my life and/or to people I cherish?
The information and emotions that emerge will contribute to good decisions related to situations that honor your values. As an example, see A Woman-Led Law Firm That Lets Partners Be Parents
For anything relatively routine, ask yourself if it can be postponed, let go, or delegated. If not, corral such daily demands so they can complement one another or find ways to make them as pleasant as possible to do. Obtain help or find opportunities for mutual collaboration whenever possible.
The gift of good proportion: Accept that unanticipated demands and requirements of others or of your own making will always intrude.
Given that reality, decide in advance approximately how much time and attention each week you can, want to, and will give to particular activities where you have choices. Though not mutually exclusive, categories may include:
- Family and close friends
- Psyche and spirit
- Cultural activities
- Social activities
Schedule activities that attend to one or two of your favorite categories each week. Over a month or so, briefly review how continuing choices relate to categories you currently value.
Use the experiences and insights to continue choosing situations that honor proportions you prefer, avoiding over-scheduling and making long daily to-do lists. If you commit to completing just a few possible actions daily, you're more likely to see concrete outcomes and avoid judging yourself harshly. If time is then left over, use that bonus for pleasure.
Here are three additional, summary suggestions for action to enrich your quality of life that could also use your time well.
- Describe briefly how you will combine two or more categories from the list above into one activity you'd enjoy.
- With whom will you collaborate to shift one or two habits or actions to your and someone else's benefit?
- What specific resources, tangible and intangible, will you need to proceed with the important actions you've chosen? How would you get or develop them?
As you attend to what satisfies you, you'll likely find out what is enough for making work-life balance a reality. You'll limit automatic actions and reactions that distract you from what you truly want.
And you'll become more secure in the continuing choices you make that serve your interests and the people you hold dear—people who also demonstrate their interest and care for you.
© 2015. Ruth M. Schimel, Ph.D., Career & Life Management Consultant