I would like you to imagine a scale, not the scale that we stand on in the bathroom, but a balance scale with a load on either side. Now I want you to imagine that on one side of that scale is work (career, job, work-related responsibilities), and on the other side is life (lifestyle, health, pleasure, family, leisure time). I don’t necessarily like the common terminology of ‘work-life’ balance because I feel it separates work from life, where, for many of us, work is a very large part of our ‘life’. However, for our purpose here, let’s keep things simple and use the word ‘life’ to represent all that defines our life outside of work.
Most of us struggle to find work-life balance. We have so much piled on the work side weighing us down that it may consume us and we may even feel that we are buried underneath it all. Now go back to the mental image of the scale and picture the work scale filled with all your papers, notebooks, appointments on your calendar, your phone, your computer, and all your responsibilities – of course it is heavy!! It is perfectly normal for this side to be heavy, but it is when the life side doesn’t meet or exceed this weight, that problems will arise.
So how do we keep the scale balanced? How do we make time for what matters to us in both areas? How do we make sure that we are not neglecting one side at the costly expense of the other?
Here are some simple strategies…
Ask yourself some important questions…
- Do you cancel plans with friends because you are too busy with work?
- Do you feel like you spend as much time doing leisure activities as you do working?
- Do you often work after hours?
- Do you think about work as you are trying to fall asleep or do you worry about work-related problems while you are at home?
- Do you feel that your conversations with friends and family are mostly about work?
- Do you skip some vacation days because there is just too much to get done?
- Does your work and income define you?
- Do you feel that you have to be perfect at work?
- Do your friends or family complain that you work too much?
- Do you feel that you have no ‘me’ time because of work?
- Does your social circle exist only at work?
- Do you feel that you cannot leave any task for the next day?
- Do you feel too tired from work to do anything afterwards?
If you answered YES to any or some of these questions, the work side of your scale may have become too heavy, and may be outweighing the life side, therefore, it is time to take a deeper look into what matters to you most and set goals to maintain balance.
The first step is awareness achieved by noticing when the scale is off balance, and deciding what actions will create the equilibrium that you need.
NOTICE. Identify what is important to you in each area, and then notice where you are at with respect to living a life that balances those values.
Starting with work, write down 3-5 work-related values. (i.e. commitment, team work, etc.)
Now, take a moment to think about how closely you are living out each of those values at work (on a scale from 0-not at all to 10-completely); Write down your score.
Do the same for the life side. Write down 3-5 life(style)-related values (i.e. enjoyment, quality time with family, etc.) and now give yourself a score from 0 to 10 in how well you feel you are living out those values.
If you find that either of your scores are not where you would like them to be, see if you can set goals that will help you increase that score. For example, on a 10 point scale with 10 being excellent, if you scored 5 in the life domain, what actions could you take to move you closer to a 10? Could you dedicate more of your time to family or friends? Could you make a commitment to not answering work emails in the evening when you are at home with your family? Can you schedule more leisure-type activities into your calendar the way you would schedule work meetings? If you scored 10/10 with respect to your work related values, that’s great, as long as having a perfect score in this area is not at the cost of pursuing values in your personal life.
I leave you with a simple, yet very important question. What does work-life balance mean to you? We may not all define it in the same way, and so it is important to identify what it means to YOU personally.
Here are some responses I got when I asked friends, family, and colleagues this same question:
“Work-life balance is not having my work intrude on my personal life and having the freedom to come and go as I need to. It means not being tied to my desk.” -Vicky
“Work-life balance is the ability to prioritize one’s personal time as we do our work time – recognizing that it is as important if not more.” – Anton
“Work-life balance means trying to complete my 40 hour work week as efficiently and effectively as possible so that I can enjoy my time outside of those 40 hours with the ones I love or doing the things I care about. I think there are times we all have to be flexible, as from time to time, work may require something more from us, but to me, as long as this is the exception and not the rule, you can still establish a healthy work-life balance.” – Kathryn
‘’It means having the flexibility to do the things I love. More time not working in the summer so I can garden. Fridays off so that I can have a “me” day. I don’t mind working on a Saturday or Sunday at times because it is uninterrupted work time. I also don’t mind working early in the morning and sometimes in the evening. Being able to flex my schedule to spend time with grandchildren is crucial. Having time to travel and unwind. Work is also very important to me so at times it is the priority.’’ – Janet
“To me, work-life balance means giving my all and being the best person I can be at both work and home. It means making compromises and sometimes choosing one over the other temporarily in certain situations. It means taking care of myself so I can give to both areas, and noticing the signs when I feel like I’m burning out.’’ – Kayleen
“Work life balance means making time for the important things in life outside of work hours. I really love the quote “you cannot pour from an empty cup”. It reminds me that self-care is important and in order to do my best at work, I need to take part in other activities that fill me in other ways. For me, that means taking time for walks, working out, practicing yoga, spending time with family and friends and cooking/baking.” – Stephanie
Whenever you notice that you are struggling to maintain a work-life balance and feel that you are missing out on important parts of your life because work has taken over, try some of these strategies to get you back to the balance you desire. If you are having a hard time using these strategies or if they are simply not working for you, consult a friend, family member, or even a professional because losing balance in your life can lead to psychological, social, and even physical consequences. We at J Marlin and Associates Inc. offer private, on-on-one counselling services for anyone looking for help with creating and maintaining a balance in their lives, and living in accordance with what matters most to them.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 905-317-8890 if you are interested in hearing more about the services we provide.