Work-life balance…don’t roll your eyes. Everyone is talking about it, but has anyone ever really reached such nirvana? It seems that work-life balance, WLB (yes, I made up my own acronym…it’s what finance people do), is now more important in job satisfaction than having a good benefits package or comfortable work environment. WLB is described by Wikipedia as “having enough time for work and enough to have a life, thus the work life balance.” It’s a pretty broad definition…what exactly is enough time to “have a life?” Enough time to take vacations, spend more time with family, be home for dinner every night, be able to exercise over lunch, etc.? And here in lies the conundrum.
There is no perfect equation for balance – it is crafted by each individual’s ideals and standards. My consideration of balance is not going to be my coworker’s balance, my boss’ balance, or even my spouse’s balance. So, I’m not going to lay out the key to happiness for you, but as I juggle working, parenting two of the most adventurous children around, and managing a household, I have discovered a few tips that help me find less stress and more time for my family, my work, and myself.
Just say no: Due to one of my top five strengths, Achievement, I have a really hard time not being everything to everyone. I want to be involved in every volunteer opportunity for my kids, I feel flattered when I am asked to be on a special committee at work, I hate turning down weekend plans with friends when nothing else is on the calendar. My inability to say no has caused undue stress in my life. Try it sometime. When you have a Friday night dinner with friends, it’s OK to say no to any other plans for the weekend. You don’t need to be soccer coach, room mom and volunteer for every single field trip. Pick one. The most difficult place to say no may be your workplace. I am not instructing you to tell your boss no when you don’t want to do something. However, if you are asked to be involved in groups or projects outside of your regular job, be choosy. Be intentional on spending your time in things that are interesting and important. By saying no, I am less stressed, I have more fun in the things I am involved with, and it allows me the freedom to find my balance.
Alone time is not selfish: I have mom guilt. I feel like any free moment I have should be spent with my children and my spouse. This makes me very tired, and most of the time crabby. It is so vital to take care of yourself and have some time to decompress. It can be as simple as going to a yoga class or as extravagant as going away (sans kids and spouse) for the weekend. Try it – go sit by yourself for an hour at Starbucks while you read a book and have a coffee. It will be enough to recharge your batteries so you can get back to being the best person you can be.
Exercise: I understand that not everyone finds value in exercising, but the time it takes out of your day, it will add back. Exercising gives me so much more energy throughout the day. I am less sluggish and my thoughts are clearer. I used to hate to give up my only free hour in the day for exercising, but then I would find that I could stay up at night later, my sleep was better, and I could keep on task at work better. I didn’t come up with this on my own – it’s science, people!
Think outside the box: Rethink how you function throughout your day/week/month. Are there ways to save time? How about ordering groceries online so you don’t have to drive to the store, take an hour walking through the aisles, and spend money on things you don’t need? Imagine if you got back this time each week? Or, what if you traded babysitting duties with your friends? They watch your kids one night a month, and you, in turn, watch theirs. It is easy and cheap! There are all kind of options here – you just have to be open to changing your ways and processes.
These are my priorities, and I’m sticking to them: Figure out what is important to you and don’t let anyone stray you away from them. Is it important to see your family for dinner every night? If so, when searching for a job, look for something with flexible hours. Maybe you can be home for dinner, but if you need to get something done, you can log on after hours. Do you love to take vacations? Then you probably need to find a workplace with a generous vacation policy. This might mean your wages are lower, but, hey, you said vacation was a priority. Do you want to spend more time with your kids? If you can swing it financially, there may be a job share opportunity. Everything has a trade-off. Just a warning, you probably won’t find a job with top pay, eight weeks of vacation and 30 hours a week of work. But, only you can decide what your priority list is. Figure it out. No one will look out for your priorities for you. Own it.
Hopefully, these tips will start you on the road to an ideal WLB. If these don’t work for you, come up with your own guidelines. You have to start somewhere.