7 Ways to Rethink Work/Life Balance
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In a perfect world, "work" and "home" would balance out neatly. But for those of us here in the wake of the Great Recession, firmly entrenched in an "always on" society, this notion seems hopelessly out-dated. Most of us are working longer, more stressful hours, and work is spilling over into evenings and weekends. No wonder a recent survey of North American employees found that 87 percent of respondents say their work/life balance (or lack thereof) is negatively affecting their health. Work/life balance, at least in the sense that most of us think about it, is a myth. It does not exist. For many people, it never has. But understanding your rhythms and planning according to the seasons of your life can help you create a life that is more passionate, more productive, and happier in every way. Here's how:
1. Focus on purpose and passion.
It's true that work/life balance is a topic that seems to be on many minds. But in many ways, a perfectly balanced life is a perfectly tepid life. How much balance do you think Bono has when U2 is on tour? Or an Olympic athlete preparing for a competition? Probably not much, but their passion and purpose fuel them to work harder and longer with more joy and satisfaction in both work and life. When your goal is to achieve perfect work/life balance, you'll be constantly disappointed and so will your loved ones but when you approach every day with passion and purpose, whether you're working long hours to prepare an important presentation or staying up late with your daughter to work on her science project, you can find joy and happiness in whatever it is you're pursuing at that moment.
2. Consider a larger time frame.
Rather than thinking of your work and life day to day, think of it as a whole. How many times did you get away with your family last year? Were there particular weeks/months where you worked really, really long hours? Were there times you were less busy? You might find that, when viewed that way, you did have a balanced life. Or you might realize you need to make a change in the way you do things during the upcoming year. It is going to be virtually impossible to achieve complete balance every day of your life. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to achieve a work/life balance every day, look at your life on a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. Schedule times to work hard, recharge, renew, play, and engage with your family and friends.
3. Learn the "seasons" in your company's work flow.
Most companies work like seasons in nature. They have busy seasons and not-so-busy seasons. It might be easy for you to plan your work/home life flow around these times. Not just in terms of when you plan vacations, but also in terms of daily work hours. During the slow time, it's okay to leave a little earlier each day if you know you're going to be working long hours once busy season arrives.
4. Keep in mind your family's "seasons" too.
Of course, you can't base everything on work schedules. There are times your family needs you more than others: birth of a new baby, when a child starts school, or when an older parent is having a crisis and needs you to care for him/her. At times like these, you will want to put in the family time and make it up when you can at work. Just as with your work, you can plan for some of these seasons, but other busy seasons might pop up unexpectedly--such as a sick parent. You have to be ready to adjust to the season. You have to go where you are needed. If you are worried about work at those times, you can take comfort in knowing that there will be a period when you can apply more of yourself to the job.
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