Periodically, I am asked to do a presentation on work/life balance. Everyone is so busy juggling work, school, family, friends, household duties, self-care, etc., that they want to know how to fit everything in their schedules. This can be a very tricky thing to accomplish since time is limited and our energy may be required in one area of our lives more than another at times. Motivational speaker and leadership coach Jones Loflin says that we might be better off calling it work/life satisfaction – where we make the right choice about where our time and energy is needed based on our purpose, goals, priorities and values that guide our lives. He says that if we live our lives more aligned to our purpose, we are more satisfied with our outcomes.
So a first step to working toward balance or satisfaction would be to create a list of your priorities/goals in life. What are the most important things in your life right now? Is it spending time with your young children? Maybe it is advancing your career? Whatever you write down, keep that in mind when you choose how you will spend your time. Many times people will say spending time with family is a priority, but their choices don't always indicate that. Research shows that people who are successful at work/life balance or satisfaction know how to set limits. They identify priorities and keep those in mind when they make daily decisions about how to spend their time. If family is most important, they set limits on work – which does not seem to hinder their production, but actually helps them to focus and get more done on work time.
Successful "balancers" know how to focus and concentrate on what they are doing so they can avoid spillover – when things that happen at work spill over into personal life and vice versa. Focus includes fine-tuning time management skills that will help you spend your time in meaningful ways. A few time management tips include:
- Avoid multi-tasking. You may be able to do many things at once – but not very well.
- Create "to do" lists and prioritize those tasks ranging from "absolutely must be done" to "consider it if time allows" to "eliminate the task"
- Break larger jobs into smaller, more manageable jobs
- Let go of control and ask for help – at work and at home
- Set aside time on the calendar for all your tasks – including things like answering e-mail, preparation for tasks, and even self-care. Remember your priorities and schedule those first thing!
- Effectively handle distractions and time wasters.
Other aspects that will help you find balance or satisfaction include being optimistic and having a great sense of humor. Practicing self-care is also helpful since taking care of yourself can help with stress management. And having a strong social support system will help you to accomplish your goals. Remember, those goals and priorities will change over time depending on where you are in life, so continue to review those and modify as needed.
I leave you with a couple quotes that I feel truly relate to work/life balance or satisfaction:
"Decide what your priorities are and how much time you'll spend on them. If you don't, someone else will." Harvey Mackay
"It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is what are you busy about?"
Henry David Thoreau