We live in a 24/7 world now. Professionals are completely wired in to their work life. Thanks to technology you can work at any time of the day or night and in any place. This is occasionally a blessing because if offers freedom from the office and flexibility that professionals did not have before the digital age. You aren’t tied to the office from 9-5, Monday-Friday and that can be a good. After all, when inspiration strikes and you have a great idea it can be useful to have the freedom that comes with taking out a laptop, smart-phone or tablet and just getting to work.
It isn’t all sunny on the digital side of the street, however; the encroachment of work into non-working hours is a real problem. People are finding that being wired in does real damage to their personal lives. It can be difficult to have family or personal time when that smart phone is always in your pocket, ready to go off like dynamite and distract you. According to the American Institute of Stress numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades. This indicates what a challenge it is today to achieve work/life balance. In this article we will look at 5 critical principals of achieving work/life balance.
- Make Conscious Choices
People who achieve work/life balance make conscious choices in their lives. They know that you have to attempt to create a map if you want to reach a destination. It is certainly true that you can’t predict everything in life but that doesn’t mean you should give up on planning. If you want to have balance in your life you need to ask yourself what you want out of your life. You need to spend time reflecting on both the type of work you want to do and how much time you want to spend working. Likewise, you need to spend time reflecting on what you want to do when you aren’t working. Ask yourself about the quality and quantity of the time you spend with your family and friends. Consider other activities such as spiritual practices, hobbies, volunteer work, political involvement, entertainment, and the ordinary chores that you have to do. You have to begin prioritizing in order to feel like you are achieving a work/life balance.
- Articulate Your Thinking
Communication is critically important to achieving work/life balance. One of the problems that a lot of us face is difficulty with saying no. It can be hard to say no when our boss or a co-worker asks us to do something. It can be hard to say no to our family friends when they ask us to do something for them or asks us to spend time with them. We have plenty of demands on our time. That is why it is so important to effectively communicate with your boss and co-workers at work and with your family and friends at home. Talking with them about your priorities and listening to their priorities will help you focus on what is important and free up the time you need to balance your work and your life.
- Advocate for Better Work/Life Balance at Work
One of the most important factors in achieving work/life balance is the support you receive at work. It is very difficult to achieve work/life balance if your employer expects all of your time and offers you no flexibility. With today’s technology it should be increasingly possible for employers to offer that flexibility. Advocating for policies and training at work that assists you and your co-workers with work/life balance helps you and your co-workers. It is also good for business. Today there are even companies such as WorkLifeBalance.com dedicated to helping your company’s employees with work-life balance.
- Tune Out and Focus In
It can be hard to cut the electric cord but it is important to shut off your devices if you want to achieve work/life balance. You can’t really be present for your family and friends if you are essentially still at work via your smart phone, tablet or other devices. You need to carve out certain blocks of time where you are disconnected from work and able to be with your loved ones. Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of hit TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, sets a good example by refusing to answer emails after 7 pm at night. She typically works from 7 am to 7 pm and sets aside the rest of her evening to focus on family.
- Ramp Up Your Time Management Skills
You want to achieve work/life balance but that means what it says, balance. It means creating a delicate balance between all the competing personal and professional obligations that you have. In order to get as much done as possible while retaining your overall health and sanity you need good time management skills. There are any number of websites, books, articles, and seminars that will help you develop your time management skills. Take advantage of them.
You will never be able to have complete balance in your personal and professional life. There is always going to be something that has your focus so instead of balance go for harmony like a professional orchestra where sometimes you will have more piano or drums but the end result is beautiful sound no matter which instrument or section is more dominating. The Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, in a 2003 study, concluded that workplace stress is important contributing factor in the health of workers. The American Psychological Association has come to a similar conclusion. You owe it to yourself, your loved ones and your employer to work at achieving a work/life balance. It is through achieving that balance that you can feel like you have a life well lived.