work life balanceThe topic of work-life balance is one of growing intensity as more and more Americans are feeling the strain of longer work hours and an always-on connection to our jobs, due to a proliferation in mobile devices and apps. According to the OECD Better Life Index, the U.S. ranks 28th among advanced nations for work-life balance. As the seventh richest country in the world and one of the best countries for family wealth and access to housing, why is that the U.S. really struggles when it comes to quality of life? It’s an obvious problem and it’s up to each individual to be self-aware of the issue and to make personal strides toward living a healthy, happy and successful life.

This topic is one that is discussed often by my employer, SAP, in effort to invest in its employees to improve their work satisfaction and productivity. In fact, just recently, I attended a Work-Life Balance session as part of SAP’s Leadership Excellence Acceleration Program (LEAP). Rae Kyriazis, an Account Excutive at SAP, and Christine Mertz, who works in Global Marketing at SAP, presented on how to maintain a healthy balance between work life and home life. Both were inspiring individuals with great experiences and advice to impart.

Rae previously owned her own company where she did consulting with various companies on how to cultivate an environment of fulfillment and productivity and was a motivational speaker on work-life blending. Christine has had a successful career and has two children. She shared a moving story of her triumph over her personal work-life balance struggle.

The session began by asking us to identify a peak moment in our lives – a moment where time a stood still and everything was pure bliss. A moment that really stood out and that we would never forget. Then we were asked to identify a peak moment at work and then one earlier in our lives, like our childhood or 20s. For some, like me, it was difficult to pick out these peak moments, although it shouldn’t be. Many of us get so busy that we don’t even notice those peak moments or we forget about them in the craziness of our daily lives. The point of this exercise, which I encourage all of you to try, was not only to remind us to stay positive and remember the happy times in our lives, but to help us identify our core values.

How does thinking about your peak moments help you understand your core values? Well during these peak moments are core values are most present. Our core values are deeply engrained in our cellular being and are things that we will not, or should not, comprise. They make us thrive and fuel our happiness. Some examples of core values are family, intimacy, freedom, love, connection, adventure and so on. No one person’s core values are the same.

Clarifying our core value is tough – it requires a lot of self-reflection. But knowing your core values and using them as a foundation for your life choices is what helps you live a happy, fulfilling life. When you hold true to your core values and make decisions based on them, you are better able to handle difficult situations and the stress of work. When work seems overwhelming, Rae suggests going back to your foundation of core values, thinking about what’s really important to you, and aligning your life with your values. This is where the heart of work-life balance lies.

In addition to helping us identify our core values and understand their importance in our lives and the choices we make, the two women also shared some sustainable practices and tips for maintaining a healthy work-life balance:

  • Learn to say no. You have the power of choice. You can pick and choose what you want to invest your time in every day and make decisions based on your core values. However, saying no too often may make you look like you’re not a team player and hurt your personal brand, so keep a good balance.
  • Don’t feel guilty for being a working parent. As hard as it may be.
  • Take vacations and actually unplug on those vacations.
  • Name the point of conflict; it’s easier to address it.
  • Have people in your life who are supportive and non-competitive. Let go of relationships that that drain you more than lift you up and people who make you feel guilty or compete with you.
  • Stay positive, always. A positive, happy brain is more productive, effective and energetic one. A great way to stay positive is to think of three things that you are grateful for every day.
  • Keep a journal and write down the good, bad and ugly. It helps prevent you from bottling things up.
  • Exercise mentally and physically. Mediation, for example, is a mental exercise that helps you clear your mind. Yoga is great too because it combines both mental and physical exercise.
  • Make time for you. Get a massage!
  • Remove the clutter in your life. Whether it’s by organizing your inbox or cleaning your desk or home, removing clutter helps you have a clear mind and cuts down stress.
  • Drink lots of water. Drinking water not only keeps your body healthy by removing toxins, maintaining regularity and promoting weight loss, but it also gives you energy and puts you in a good mood.
  • Turn off your phone and unplug as much as you can.
  • Stop multitasking and be present. You’ll be more effective and efficient.
  • Sleep. Enough said.
  • Allow yourself to relax. Your mind needs a break once in a while!
  • Earth yourself. Walk barefoot and embrace the earth.
  • Do headstands. It brings the circulation to your head, which has great health benefits, like the ten mentioned here.
  • Eat healthy
  • Read

Developing and maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a serious time investment, but it will help your feel better, live healthier and happier, and be more productive and successful. If don’t want to make the commitment for yourself, make it for your family. When you’re stressed and unhappy you bring it home and your family can feel it. Think about what the flight attendants say on the plane when they’re going over safety procedures – “Put the life vest on you before assisting your loved ones.” If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family.

Do you have any other great tips to for a healthy work-life balance? Please share in the comment section below or chat with me on Twitter @LindseyLaManna, on LinkedIn or Google+.