Many of us dream about having the perfect work/life balance, but is it possible? I cherish being with my husband and children as well as the time I devote to my interests and hobbies. At the same time, it’s important for me to succeed in my professional life. Often, it feels like I have to sacrifice something at home to achieve something at work, or vice versa. Is it possible to find balance amidst the havoc?
One reason we struggle with work/life balance is technology. With 24/7 access, our mobile devices keep us connected to work and cause us to be easily distracted. This cuts down on the peaceful uninterrupted moments we need to relax and unwind. Plus, with the news of the economy, layoffs, and businesses restructuring, we feel compelled to work more hours for fear that we will lose our jobs.
We are a society of driven people. But many of us set standards that aren’t always realistic, and then run ourselves into the ground trying to meet them. Before we realize it 10, 15, or even 20 years have passed without our realizing it.
It’s unrealistic to expect our lives will be in perfect balance for long periods of time. Picture a scale with one side labeled “Work” and the other “Life.” On any given day the scales are rarely even, one side will always be heavier than the other. Our goal is to tip the scales over time in the direction that gives joy and meaning to our lives as often as possible. In the long run, we want to look back and see that we were able to live our life with meaning and purpose—the kind of life that fills our heart.
How can we create a work/life balance that keeps us focused on our goals and priorities? Here’s how I do it without loosing sight of the prize.
1. Check in.
Before I start my day I’ll check in with myself and review what I need to accomplish for the day at work and at home. Being an active mother of two means I have to fit my family-related responsibilities into my day. I prioritize the list and tackle it as the day goes on. Granted, this doesn’t always work smoothly. Stay open and willing to take on the challenges that come up, and just go with it when they do.
2. Set goals.
And don’t go beyond them. If you are going to work from 9am to 5pm don’t bring your work home. At 5.05pm do something other than work, like going to the gym, doing something special with your kids, meeting a friend for dinner, or pampering yourself.
3. Press pause.
Our mobile devices and access to social and other media 24/7 can easily eat into the time we have outside the office unless we’re careful. Set boundaries for yourself and others (especially those who expect an immediate response from you, regardless of the day or time). From time to time, enjoy a technology free weekend.
4. Practice mindfulness.
Research shows that when we are mindful of creating work/life balance the benefits are worth it, from a productivity standpoint. When we create mindfulness at work we “work smarter not harder.” Without mindfulness, when we look back we’re likely to feel as if the years barely existed at all.
What tips do you have for achieving balance in your life? I’d love to hear your suggestions.