Ask the average employee if they have work-life balance, and the answer will be a resounding “No!”. So, how do you go about fixing it? For most people, a long look in the mirror is required to find the answer. Here’s why: Achieving work-life balance requires you to define what’s important in your life, and then make sacrifices and put boundaries in place in order to achieve it.
The Myth: “But it’s my employer’s fault!”
If you take nothing else away from this article, take this – you are responsible for maintaining your own work-life balance. Yes, you could say that employers’ expectations have increased – research shows that the number of hours your average middle manager is expected to work hasn’t gone up in fifty years, but the pace they are expected to work at has. And, yes, technology makes you “on call” 24/7.
However, most people overlook the role they have played in creating the problem. Did your employer force you to put your work email on your phone? Are they holding a gun to your head to take your computer home at night? Did they back you into a corner to get you to volunteer for that project that is sucking up all of your personal time? Would the sky fall if you responded to that email tomorrow morning, instead of doing so from home at night? The answer to all these questions, of course, is no. Most of the time, when individuals report a lack of balance in their lives, they have played a very active role in creating it.
If you’re going to fix the problem, you have to take personal responsibility for what’s caused it. It’s not too dissimilar to going on a diet and starting a workout program to lose weight – you got yourself into the situation and only you can get yourself out of it. Change requires sacrifice…and insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In most cases, you’ll find that when you do things like stop answering your email at night, people won’t even notice.
Work-life balance is personal. There’s no “correct” balance.
The concept of work-life balance is a very personal thing that there is no one “right” answer for. It’s not about achieving a perfect 50/50. For some it will be that, for some it will be 60/40, for others it will be 30/70. It just depends. In fact, your own definition of it will likely change as you have major life changes. When you’re in your early twenties, just out of college with no family to come home to, working 80 hour weeks to get ahead and going out with your friends on the weekend might be a perfectly acceptable balance. That’s ok. However, ten years later when you have a marriage and kids, your definition of acceptable balance will likely change – you won’t want to work as many hours so you can spend more time at home. That’s ok too.
To achieve work-life balance, you need to have a firm grip on your current priorities. What’s most important to you in life? Getting the promotion at work? Finding a new job? Building a business? Running that marathon? Being able to tuck your kids into bed every night? Going out for regular drinks with your friends? All of these are perfectly acceptable personal priorities. There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, and you shouldn’t let anyone – not your spouse, or your parents, or your friends – dictate your answer.
Try this exercise: Define your priorities…and then make sacrifices.
We’ve established that you need to play an active role in maintaining your own work-life balance, and that balance is going to mean different things to different people. Now, it’s time to define what it means to you, and determine what you need to give up to maintain it. Try this exercise:
- Start by creating a list of things you consider priorities – these areall of the things that, if theywere stripped from your life, they would leave a big, gaping hole. It could have to do with anything – family, career, faith, health, etc. Use the following questions to help you:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What makes you happy?
- What do you think your purpose in life is?
- What gives you pride?
- What do you want to be remembered for?
- Once you have your list,reflect on it, pick out your top three, and write them out as follows:
- My number one priority is:
- My second priority is:
- My third priority is:
- Finally,focus in on that number one priority and think about what you need to do to honor that priority. Write out the following, and complete each sentence:
- The reasons I have placed the greatest importance on my number one priority are:
- I will honor my number one priority by doing my best to:
- The following action(s) would be inconsistent with my commitment to my number one priority:
- To honor my number one priority, I will limit the following:
- To honor my number one priority, I need to make the following changes:
Change requires sacrifice, and the first step is to determine what changes you need to make to achieve the life you want. This can be scary, but it can also be liberating. And remember, it won’t happen overnight. Break it up into small, manageable changes and you’ll achieve a better work-life balance before you know it.
Like this article?