What is the work-life balance?
Work-life balance refers to more than just the time spent working and the time spent doing other things, and it really comes down to boundaries. For example, if you have a highly stressed job it may take more from you than a different job in the same number of hours because the stress may be taking a toll on your mental health, as well as taking time from your non-working periods to de-stress. The key here is to use the finite strength and time you have wisely in working so there is enough left for YOU.
Why work-life balance is important
Regardless of your religion or belief, we, in our present form are here for Today. Yesterday has gone, and tomorrow is not guaranteed… for anyone.
Society expects us to work from leaving school, perhaps at 16, or university in our early twenties. The likelihood is that we will spend FIFTY or more years working, even if on our own business, we are still working.
At the end of what time we have, we may reflect and wonder where all that time went. did I really need to do all those hours? Did I really need to do my job as well as carry others? Did I really need to spend so much time and energy making someone else money? Did I really need that new car that, ultimately cost me more than just money… it cost me time doing what I love or being with those I love?
If your work-life balance is overly favoured on your personal life you may find it difficult to provide for yourself or those included in your life, such as children.
If your work-life balance is favoured too heavily towards your work life you will jeopardise relationships and, as is well proven, lead to stress that can lead to reduced testosterone levels (see here about naturally boosting your testosterone levels to remain healthy).
Whether a bachelor, family man, or retiree our lives will always be conflicted to some degree. Conflicted between what we have to spend time doing, and what we want to spend time doing.
Isolation is key
The fundamental element in achieving a positive work-life balance is to deliberately separate the two. This means one must not encroach upon the other. If you are at work, work! Take no personal calls, except emergency calls, and do no personal tasks, at all.
When away from work, be away from work. Don’t look at email, don’t take work-related calls.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? the reality, though, is that it is difficult for many. the solution is to communicate. Tell your family that you can only be contacted during work hours for an emergency. Tell your employer that you are maintaining a personal life, free of work, so that you are fully refreshed to give work your full focus when you are there.
BTW: In Germany, it is illegal for an employer to call or email an employee out of hours.
Five steps to design your work-life balance?
- Stop and think.
Until we have children or involve a partner in our lives, we live for ourselves and no one else. Once we include others we must make concessions to accommodate their work-life balance. When we leave school we are asked what job/career we want. No one asks about how we want to live our lives.
- Learn to manage the expectations of others.
If they don’t know their place in your life, and that includes your employer, they cannot be expected to respect your own time vs their share of your time.
- Learn to say ‘No’.
This is not as difficult as it may, at first, seem.
Some years ago, I attended a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) course and a fellow participant said that everyone in her family took advantage of her as they assumed that she would say ‘yes’ to their demands. The demands added to her workload and, in some cases, cost her money. I asked why she didn’t just say ‘no’ and she explained that it was too difficult. I suggested that she begin by saying “Let me see what I’m doing and I’ll call you back“. This took the sting out of just saying ‘no’. The following week she reported that she had done this and it worked!
The problem was related to number two, above, she had not set the expectations of others, but now she had a way to do this.
- Utilise technology
Technology is a mixed blessing. As an international sales manager, I used to be able to travel, do my work, report-in to the UK office and the rest of the day was mine; however, mobile technology makes that impossible without proper discipline. On the plus side, though, utilising technology to give you an edge can be a great way to balance your life. Use your ‘out of office’ tools; use your Team tools to delegate and involve others; publish your calendar showing when you are NOT available; use an email autoresponder where practical.
- Assess and reassess
Make a plan to look at how your work-life balance changes, and reassess on a regular basis to see if you are moving in the right direction FOR YOU.
Final Thoughts on your work-life balance
Plan ahead so that the regrets on your deathbed do not include “I wish I’d spent more time with my family, friends, dogs, etc.”. We are mortal… at twenty-something we may not feel this, but at fifty-plus, I can assure you that this becomes very evident. You will start to see people around you reaching the end of their lives, many dying with things left unsaid or unfinished. You can have the opportunity to reflect on your life as one well-lived, rather than one well-employed.
What does work-life balance mean?
A ‘good’ work-life balance is one where you have deliberately planned to set aside time, energy, and resources to focus on what YOU want to achieve in your life, coupled with the ability to provide for your needs and those involved in your life.
Does a good work-life balance mean50/50?
A common misconception is that the only meaningful work-life balance is 50/50. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Firstly, your balance is not the same as anyone else’s. You are unique. Secondly, this can change depending on where you are in your finite life. If you have involved others in your life you may need to increase the bias towards working for a few years, but always keep sight of what YOU want from YOUR life. Not what others want from you.
Finding a healthy outlet to process emotions and foster mental well-being is crucial. One powerful tool that has gained recognition for its positive effects on mental health is journaling.
Talking about suicide is hard… very hard, but simply opening up and talking about his feelings and struggles can make all the difference between dying and having a tomorrow.