A recent study (by management consultants The Discovery Group) of more than 50,000 employees from a variety of manufacturing and service organizations found that two out of every five employees were dissatisfied with the balance between their work and their personal lives. The lack of balance was due to ‘long work hours, changing demographics, more time in the car, the deterioration of boundaries between work and home, and increased work pressure’. Do you believe your work and non-work life are in a healthy balance?
1. Know the signs.
Are you among the increasing number of workers who admit to a lack of enthusiasm, poor concentration, low productivity, insomnia, stress related illnesses – or a constant nagging from your family that they need some quality time with you? These are sure signs that you need to make a break, that there is a lack of balance between your work life and personal life.
2. Understand work-life balance.
It’s probably time for all of us to create a greater balance in our work and personal lives, and to achieve a sense that we have
• enough time in the day to effectively accomplish work-related tasks
• the ability to get through our daily work and family responsibilities without feeling drained
• the capacity to participate in activities we enjoy on a regular basis.
Jatrine Bentsi-Enchill of InSite Corporate Coaching & Training believes that at the heart of successful work-life balance is – accomplishment (getting the stuff we need to get done) and enjoyment (having the time for loved ones, fun, rest, exercise and hobbies). Although the notion of achieving such balance is simple, actually creating a balanced life isn’t easy – but it is definitely worthwhile. Undertaking the journey toward life balance requires patience and determination, and an acceptance of the following guidelines…
3. Know your values and your priorities.
If you’re a diligent worker, then everything is a priority but, too often, our time and energy are spent on things that we don’t really care about. Which is why we need to be clear about our values
and priorities. Begin by saying ‘no’ to those things that move you further away from your values and priorities and ‘yes’ to those things that are in alignment with your values. As Bentsi-Enchill says: ‘You can begin to structure your life in a way that supports the personal and professional goals you want to accomplish. Determining the goals you want to accomplish, and the quality of life you want to live, will help guide you toward figuring out what balance looks like for you.’
4. Identify your balance blockers.
Balance blockers are those things that we either think or do, which stand in the way of us pursuing and achieving our balance-related goals. Blockers include:
• Living for the expectations of others at work and at home
• Consistently putting the needs of others before our own
• Fearing change
• Getting hung up on appearances
• Embracing perfectionism.
Once you identify your blockers, pay attention to when you use them as excuses to justify why you can’t achieve balance in your life. Explore ways to accomplish your balance goals in spite of your identified blockers.
5. Think balance.
Begin to think differently. Many of us feel guilty about focusing on work-life balance because we believe taking time out for ourselves – away from work – is an unproductive use of time. Bentsi-Enchill again: ‘Get over it! Most times, we treat our cars better than we treat ourselves. What’s the first thing we do when we notice our car is low on gas? We fill our tanks! Well, living a more balanced life is about filling your tank. Those initially cynical people who reluctantly commit to living a more balanced lifestyle report that they are more relaxed, have more time for themselves and haven’t sacrificed their jobs or their level of professionalism in the process!’
6. Set aside ‘non-negotiable’ time in your schedule.
Non-negotiable time is personal time that you set aside – at least twice a week – for yourself, that you absolutely cannot and will not reschedule, cancel, or postpone. Devote at least 30 minutes to these time blocks. Write the non-negotiable appointment in your palm or day planner as you would for any other appointment. Use the time for anything nonwork related. It’s time set aside so you can focus on you – go to the gym, get a massage, walk through the park, read a magazine. Just pick something that you’ll enjoy. ‘It may feel strange at first,’ says Bentsi-Enchill, ‘but commit to do this for at least six weeks… and guess what? You’ll get the hang of it.’
7. Seek professional support.
The problem with trying to achieve a more balanced life, while everyone around you is being rewarded for working round the clock, is that it’s tough to stay focused. Making a change that will affect you personally and professionally can be challenging… even when the change will be positive. This is primarily because familiar patterns are hard to break. ‘We all need someone to talk to,’ says Bentsi-Enchill. ‘Not a significant other, colleague or friend, but someone whose only job is to help you plan your career, manage your life and set goals to keep you.
8. Create a Vision.
Having a vision of what you want to accomplish is a powerful tool to help you achieve any goal. Write down your vision of a more balanced and fulfilling life style. Consider: If your life was more balanced than it is today, what would you have time to do? What would you no longer do? How would your career improve? What impact would a more balanced life have on your relationships at work and at home, and on your quality of life?