Work/life balance is one of those elusive mysteries that we seem to constantly be chasing regardless of our particular season of life. And like unicorns, leprechauns and mermaids, there are legends of those who have actually found it, but for most of us, those stories are simply that – stories. Consider this prescription as your guide to finding work/life balance for you.
It would be premature to give any treatment plan without first assessing and diagnosing one’s current condition. To that end, work/life balance can easily been grouped into three assessment categories:
- Your work life
- Your family life / personal relationships
- Your physical health
What you need to ask yourself is very simple: how are you doing in each category? Can you give yourself an “A+” in each domain of your life or is something currently suffering? Balance is essentially trying hard not to fail any “classes” in life. An “F” in any of those big domains above means you might want to get some help and put forth some extra “study time.” If you simply aren’t sure, consider this quiz.
Regardless how your self-assessment turns out, just promise me that you are being honest with yourself and not trying to pretend that things are o.k. when they really aren’t. Gut-level honesty is at the heart of any real change. Consider this post as a tough wakeup call.
There are two treatment plan options for you to choose from in order to restore work/life balance. The first option is less invasive, but may not get to the heart of the problem. The second option guarantees solving the problem, but recovery may be a long road. In the end, it’s your choice which path you prefer.
Option 1: Modifying Your Lifestyle
You may say to yourself, “things aren’t really that bad. And I don’t really want to quit my job or make any major life changes. I just want things to get a little better.” If this is you, this first option is your best strategy. This option is about reprioritizing what is important to you and setting up healthy boundaries to protect those important things in your life. Whether it’s time with your children (or significant other) or simply time to exercise and take of your physical health, setting boundaries is critical. To effectively execute on this treatment plan, you need to do the following:
- Prioritize what is important to you and set boundaries (ex: times of the day you are unavailable for e-mail / work commitments).
- Be prepared to say “No” when asked to break down those boundaries. You have to defend those walls against any attackers. Saying “no” effectively can stave off any advances (for more, read here).
- Continuously manage expectations. In order to avoid the subtle creep of responsibilities and expectations, you’ll have to constantly check in and clarify what your “boss” / others need and want of you. Unspoken expectations and avoiding clarifying conversations are the beginning of the end to work/life balance
Option 2: Surgery
Option 2 is much more invasive and intrusive. This is the right option if this is what you are saying to yourself, “my life is so out of balance that I just don’t see an easy way out AND I don’t think I can take any more of this.” In other words, the price you are paying for your out of balance is so high (lost relationships, failing health, sliding career), that you need to hit the reset button. This option entails reclaiming big chunks of time immediately to reclaim balance. This often entails quitting or significantly reducing one’s work load to get everything else back in order. While a more extreme option, for many it is the right one. And if you choose this path, consider this guideline on how to quit your job the right way.
In the end, work/life balance is simple in concept. It is about prioritizing what is important to you and then allocating time to those priorities that are not being fed accordingly. In other words, if your health is important to you and you see it slipping, watching one more episode of Modern Family isn’t going to help you reclaim much balance. You’ll need to sacrifice some activities in order to get you the time you need to address the areas that are out of balance.
The good news is that I know you can do it. It may be scary, it may feel uneasy, it may even feel safer to stay in a place of pain and unbalance for fear that change will make things worse. What I can tell you is that deep down you know what you need to do. Take that first step, and I promise you won’t regret it. And just in case you need an extra hand, you know where to find me.