It’s no secret that life can be a juggling act between the two. We can feel pressured to learn at lightning speed and to make decisions on a daily basis. Working hours can be long and sometimes we yearn for a holiday, to go home on time, or just to be able to stop for lunch or morning tea with our colleagues.
So what is work and life balance and how can we achieve it?
In this blog I explore the essence of work/life balance in part one of this blog series. Later this month I will discuss practical ways to achieve a greater sense of balance in our lives.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm, and harmony” – Thomas Merton.
Part one of this blog will look at assessing if you need to create more balance in your life and part two (published next month) will offer some practical tips that might help you to create or achieve better work and life balance.
We often talk or hear about it but there is no standard definition of work and life balance. Online searches essentially point to “having a harmony of time between working and family, or leisure activities”. Experts equate it to a high level of personal happiness or satisfaction within your work life and your personal life. Work/life balance is not a set-in-stone division of work and personal life but an individual formula for happiness. Searching for the right formula can be a challenge but it is attainable.
It all starts with defining who you are, what you love, and what adjustments you need to make to feel more accomplished and less guilty about taking time to enjoy personal things that make you happy.
Betsy Jacobson summed it up well when she said “balance is not better time management, but boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices”.
Self-awareness is the key
Being self-aware of when things in your life are imbalanced is crucial. However, it is important to realise that every person is different. Each of us has different jobs and different work-related stressors that can cross over, such as having children at home or more active social lives. A good way to start practicing self-awareness is to consider what truly matters to you and then addressing what changes can happen in order to create more balance in your life, such as finishing earlier on a Friday to meet friends for an after work meal or including a lunchtime walk in your daily routine.
Think about your goals and how you’re working to achieve them. For example, if you’re wanting to improve your fitness, do you need to prioritise more time to work out at the gym? Or is it a promotion at work that you are trying to achieve. Remember, everyone is different. Your goals are unique to you and do not have to align with what others around you are doing. First of all, we need to find the definition that works for us and our loved ones. I would advise regularly asking yourself what you need and what you want to get out of life. Not just with your career and relationships but life in general.
Learn to be in the present
Your goals need to be relevant to the present day and steadily progress to the stage where they can be carried out. For example, experts believe healthcare workers can be prone to the psychology of postponement. As healthcare education and working your way to senior positions, after graduation, takes a relatively long time to complete, many healthcare professionals become accustomed to delaying happiness. The date gets postponed continuously and risks changing from, “when I finish my degree” to “when I retire”. The major thing we need to remind ourselves to make the present day the best it can be.
Knowing your limits
Have an honest conversation with yourself and with those around you about what you can and cannot do. It is your critical inner voice that will let you know and send you warning signs to help you minimise the risk of becoming overworked. Learning to say no does not mean that you are a failure or that you are not pulling your weight in your team. It is simply saying you are aware of your personal limit.
Become a guardian of your time and energy and set the limits.
Hilary Clinton summarised it well when she said, “do not confuse having a career with having a life”.
Blog author: Randa Abbasi