My nightmare begins with me walking on a tightrope. In my hands, I carry a bar – the kind that most typical tight rope circus performers carry. I wobble as I walk along, and the whole time I struggle to walk. I can feel myself falling over to the right… correcting myself and then falling over to the left! Back and forth I walk, pulled in all directions.
That dream is scary but not unrelated to my life. Each day I try, and usually succeed, to be a mom, a sister, a wife, a friend, a boss, an employee and a nice person. I juggle work and kids along with a thousand other commitments and what feels like hundreds of expectations thrown at me from all angles. I meet goals and deadlines; I attend meetings and volunteer time I don’t have; I worry about how I drive; I assess my impact on the planet; I take care of people and places and things and at the same time I try to remember to exercise, take my vitamins and have an “apple a day”. Such chaos is the basis of the lives of most people today. With so much going on around us, there is a need for us to make a commitment to work/life balance.
The idea of working towards work/life balance isn’t new. It is essentially the act of setting your priorities and focusing on achievable goals that make a difference in your life.
How to Get Started
The first step towards a well balanced life is to get your priorities clear. It is essential for you to know what matters most to you in your life. Your goals are your own and may be different from everyone else around you.
Make a list. Ask yourself, “If I could have only one thing in my life what would that be?” When you’ve set your top priority, determine your second and third and fourth most important focuses. If you’ve thought about it and been honest with yourself you will develop a list of your top priorities. Your list might include some of the following:
For me, my current priorities are my family including my sons, my friends and my career. The key to work life balance is not only knowing what your priorities are, but giving each priority your full attention, one priority at a time. When you choose to split your time and your focus you can get distracted.
For example, if you think about work when you’re at work then you’re giving your work your best effort and making that your top priority at the time. If you’re paying attention to your kids and only your kids (not answering your cell phone or juggling emails) when you’re with them then both you and they recognize that you’re making your relationship with them your priority.
Focus is key.
Drop the Unnecessary “Stuff”
By making a list of what really matters to you, you will find out if you are devoting too much time to things in your life that aren’t in line with your priorities. You can adjust your schedule accordingly to spend less time on things that don’t matter as much to you.
You can even stop doing things that are taking your focus away from what’s important in your life.
Time for Yourself
You would probably think twice before skipping out on work, a school conference, or a doctor’s appointment, right? The time you spend on yourself, your private time, deserves the same respect. It is important to take time for yourself and not to let work or other distractions get in the way.
Often in our lives we are connected to technology at all times. If you were to stop checking e-mail and cell phones constantly, you would disconnect and that can often be calming. Ask yourself honestly, “Am I so important that I need to be reachable 24 hours a day?”
If work consistently interferes with your personal time, maybe it’s time to take a look at how satisfied you are with your job. You may be able to perform with the same or better results if you are more satisfied with your life as a whole. A work/life balance can lead to greater satisfaction in both areas of your life creating a more productive employee.
Let yourself rely on your partner, family or friends – rely on anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities.
Try tag-teaming! If one spouse can relax or read before dinner while the other prepares it then the other can go to the gym after dinner, while the other watches the kids. Tag-teaming is a great way to create free time.
Don’t Forget To Relax!
Fun and relaxation are an important part of living a well-balanced life.
In the past I’ve had so many hobbies and things that I do to “relax” that I’ve ended up over scheduling my down-time! You should remember that leisure time is about doing the things you enjoy not trying to wedge in as much stuff as possible.
You can squeeze in playtime anytime. If you think that the one of your priorities is to be happy in life – you can always make time to be happy!
Over the course of your life your priorities will likely shift. While work and career advancement may have been important in your 30’s spending time with your family may be more important in your 40s. Often, priorities can shift even from day to day.
The way I see it, life is a series of choices. You can choose to balance your work and life or you can choose to struggle on that tightrope.
Until you get into the habit of taking time for your priorities and making plans, are you certain you’ll be able to keep your commitments to everyone and everything in your life?
Remember, you make time for what you want to make time for. If something is important to you, don’t brush it aside with “I’m too busy.” You are in charge of your own schedule – it’s up to you to make time for a balance between your work and life priorities.