According to a recent study published by the American Sociological Review, 70 percent of American workers struggle with finding a work-life system that works for them. For many in the workforce, achieving any type of work-life balance, can seem like a myth that is unachievable. Not only are we working more hours than we have in the past, but technology results in us being accessible around the clock. Time free from workplace obligations seems to becoming ever more elusive. Despite these realities, there are those that have managed to have carved out satisfying and meaningful lives outside of their work. Here are some of the tools they practice:
Making deliberate choices about what they want in life
Instead of just letting life happen, people who achieve work-life balance make deliberate choices about what they want from life and how they want to spend their time. They talk to their partners, spouses and others who are important in their lives and come up with a road map of what is important to them, how they want to spend their time and commit to following their path.
Regularly communicate about what is working and what is not
Work-life balance going off the rails is usually a result of letting things slide as opposed to any kind of intentional choice. People who are good at staying on track make a conscious choice to continually talk to the important people in their lives about what is working or not and make decisions to change direction if needed. While life happens and situations change, they avoid ending up in a place they didn’t want to be due to drifting along.
Set aside time for family, friends and important interests
People who have managed to carve out a work-life balance that works for them don’t just wait to see what time is left over after work. They make a point of preplanning and booking time off to spend outside of work and powerfully guard this time. While emergencies happen and situations come up that need their attention at work on occasion, they strongly resist any intrusion on this time.
Set their own parameters around success
People who manage work-life balance have developed a strong sense of who they are, their values and what is important to them. Using this as a guideline for everything they do helps them determine what success means to them. They know what makes them happy and strive to get more of that in their lives. While their time may be seen by others as being skewed towards either work or life, it is what they consider balanced that works for them.
Turn off distractions
People who maintain balance are able to turn off their electronic devices to enjoy quality uninterrupted time doing matters they enjoy. They realize that multi-tasking is a myth and focus on the task at hand. Having developed the ability to compartmentalize their time, they seek out moments to simply enjoy the experience and savor life. Often they have discovered meditation, music, physical activity or some other interest that allows them to get away from the pressures of everyday life, relax, rejuvenate and regenerate themselves.
Have a life plan and goals aligned with pursuing their passion
Many people go through life and get caught up in situations and circumstances that end up controlling them. Those that achieve balance have a defined plan around time frames and are willing to make some sacrifices to get what they want in the end. For example, many entrepreneurs typically plan to spend a substantial amount of time in the early part of their businesses. Those that achieve balance down the road see this as a sacrifice that will allow them to spend extra time and energy in other areas they are passionate about once the business is established.
Develop a strong support network
People who have achieved good balance have a strong support network they can depend upon to help them get through difficult times. They are givers who typically extend themselves to help out in their family circles and communities. They tend to have a variety of interests and are always open to new learning and possibilities. They are curious, open and want to experience life to the fullest.
In my opinion “Set aside time for family, friends and important interests” is the hardest step. The opportunity cost of spending too much time at work could be losing connections with loved ones. However, spending your time with loved ones could cause you to slack at work.
Thanks for weighing in on the discussion Arjun.
One way I look at that dilemma is to imagine myself at the end of my life, looking back at my life. What will I regret more, not spending enough time with my family, or not spending enough time at work.