We’ve all heard the proverb “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, according to Wikipedia this proverb was recorded as early as 1659 – that is over 350 years of wisdom telling you that if you work too much and too hard you not only get bored, you become boring! In modern times we have coined the phrase “work-life balance” to indicate the need to have time for work (or other productive, contributing activities), as well as other areas of life, whether those are to do with family or personal interests.
“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance
A couple of decades ago there wasn’t as much of a need to focus on work life balance… the concept didn’t exist until about 1970… you went to work, you did your work and you went home. The office didn’t follow you home. Times have changed though, and technology now allows your work to go everywhere with you – to dinner with your kids, to the birthday party you attended with your spouse, even on your overseas vacation.
The reality is that work-life balance HAS become something to strive for in our modern society. The problem is that sometimes, when you are overwhelmed by life you may feel that the concept of work-life balance is a fallacy, a myth to drive you to distraction while you juggle your busy schedule and watch your children run riot. The good news is that it is possible. It is the degree to which you achieve this balance which is variable and dependent on your situation… take heart though, there’s always room for improvement if the intention is there.
So how do you achieve work-life balance?
Firstly, you need to layout your schedule in order to see where you currently stand. You want to get an idea of where your time goes. When laying out your schedule identify the activities as chores or fun. Colour coding different areas of your schedule helps to see where the majority of your time is spent. For instance make time spent with your spouse blue, time spent at work green, time spent with your children another colour (each child should be a different colour). At a glance you can see where you spend your time.
Next, you are going to identify the ideal situation you would like to find yourself in. What would be the perfect balance between work and everything else? Remember to be realistic – the boring nitty gritty things like cleaning, laundry and running errands have to happen… whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you, is up to you. My blog on Tips for Successful Time Management may be of use to you in maximizing your free time.
Lastly, you need to identify a handful of possible changes which you can implement to move you from where you are now to your ideal, balanced schedule:
If you see that the majority of your non-work time is spent doing chores around the house, maybe consider getting help from other members of the household or see if it feasible to pay a cleaner a couple times a month.
Maybe you want to limit your weekend overtime… implement rules that can aid your goal – like choosing one hour over the weekend which is convenient to you (and your family) to deal with work “stuff”. Ensure that you inform your colleagues and clients that you will no longer be available over weekends, and tell your family – so that they can help hold you accountable.
With some areas you may need to start small and increase as your schedule allows, but make them non-negotiable – like setting aside 15 guilt-free me-time minutes a day, for you to do whatever you feel like doing – NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS!
Remember that it is all a tenuous balancing act that needs to be adjusted regularly to suit the demands of your life. Each day may not be perfectly in balance, but aim for a happy balance over the course of your week. Don’t give up if you get swamped and your balance is temporarily lost… keep reevaluating and rescheduling as necessary so that you have time for what’s important to you.