The holy grail of being a professional is finding a work-life balance. This is not only relevant to TSLMS members, but to the entire working world. There is a reason that when you Google the topic there are almost 2 billion hits. The question everyone asks is whether it is really possible to accomplish this. Our answer is, it depends.
What Is Work-Life Balance
According to WikiPedia (which we admit is not the best source for verifiable information, but is pretty spot-on in this case):
Work–life balance is the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal. Work-life balance consists but it is not limited to flexible work arrangements that allow employees to carry out other life programs and practices. The term ‘Work-Life Balance’ is recent in origin, as it was first used in the UK and US in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, respectively. Work-life balance is a term commonly used to describe the balance that a working individual needs between time allocated for work and other aspects of life. Areas of life other than work–life can include, but it is not limited to personal interests, family and social or leisure activities. Technological advances have made it possible for work tasks to be accomplished faster due to the use of smartphones, email, video-chat, and other technological software.These technology advances facilitate individuals to work without having a typical ‘9 to 5 work day.
Mental Health America defines this as what it is not:
With so many of us torn between juggling heavy workloads, managing relationships and family responsibilities, and squeezing in outside interests, it’s no surprise that more than one in four Americans describe themselves as “super stressed.” And that’s not balanced—or healthy. In our rush to “get it all done” at the office and at home, it’s easy to forget that as our stress levels spike, our productivity plummets. Stress can zap our concentration, make us irritable or depressed, and harm our personal and professional relationships.
Why Work-Life Balance Matters
As noted by that same article written by Mental Health America:
Over time, stress also weakens our immune systems, and makes us susceptible to a variety of ailments from colds to backaches to heart disease. The newest research shows that chronic stress can actually double our risk of having a heart attack. That statistic alone is enough to raise your blood pressure! While we all need a certain amount of stress to spur us on and help us perform at our best, the key to managing stress lies in that one magic word: balance. Not only is achieving a healthy work/life balance an attainable goal but workers and businesses alike see the rewards. When workers are balanced and happy, they are more productive, take fewer sick days, and are more likely to stay in their jobs.
We are going to go out on a limb on this one and say that each and every person reading this dreams of having a better work-life balance. And that is exactly why we went here. Because without that balance, we end up feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and regretful, which ultimately affect our health.
How To Achieve A Work Life Balance
Even Forbes has weighed in on this topic. They actually wrote a guide, “8 Ways To Achieve Better Work-Life Balance,” which we might as well have written. It is a good enough piece to lay out in large part here:
First, prioritize. “If you want balance–and not everybody does–you have to force yourself to edit yourself personally and professionally,” says Jody Greenstone Miller, an author and chief executive of Business Talent Group, a supplier of high-end business talent for consulting and project-based roles… Consider all the things that compete for your time, and decide what to keep and what to discard. If you volunteer with three nonprofit organizations, select the most meaningful one, focus on it, and stop scattering your attention among all three… “Focus on the things that are important to you, and don’t do the extraneous stuff,” says Miller. “It’s a discipline that doesn’t come too naturally to most of us…”
- Communicate. If you won’t be available for certain hours during the day or weekend because you’re dealing with family issues, let your manager and colleagues know, and get their full support.
- Use Technology to Your Advantage. Technology should help make your life easier, not control it. Ban technology at certain times so that you can focus on your family or friends.
- Telecommute [when you can]. Telecommuting a few times a week could help free up valuable hours. You’ll be able to focus on work for long stretches at a time and use the extra hours to meet personal responsibilities.
- Learn to Say “No.” Remember that you can respectfully decline offers to run the PTA or serve on an extra committee at work. When you stop doing things out of guilt, you’ll find more time to focus on the activities that truly bring you joy.
- Fight the Guilt. Superwoman–and Superman–are fictional characters. Real people can’t devote 100% to everything they do. Stop feeling guilty if you miss an occasional soccer game or bail on a colleague’s going-away party.
- Rethink Your Idea of “Clean.” Unmade beds or dusty mouldings are not signs of failure. Try to get used to a little messiness and spend more time enjoying your life. If you can afford to outsource help, pay someone else to clean your house.
- Protect Your Private Time. Allow yourself to daydream in the subway or appreciate good weather on your walk to work. If you don’t allow yourself pockets of personal time, you’ll become too burned out to fully appreciate any part of your life.
These tips and tricks were put together for Wall-Street types; but they hold true for all of us. There is nothing in our lives that is more important than our emotional, mental and physical well being, so we all owe it to ourselves to achieve work-life balance.