…when it comes down to applying it?
Work life balance is a concept that is getting more and more attention lately, everywhere – from media, governments and companies to every individual – all tend to grasp its importance and in some cases, do something around it. We can Google it and find thousands of articles debating the subject and giving advice, or we can go to a library and find tens of books around the concept.
Nevertheless, work life balance is without any doubt each individual’s job and achieving it means different things for each one of us.
To me (and to more and more people) achieving work life balance means to be in a positive state of mind and body more than in a struggling one throughout each day, week (not just weekends), month etc. And by positive state I mean to feel good mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In peace with yourself and healthy. It’s simple to define, but not easy to achieve really.
I honestly don’t believe splitting your time equally between job, free time and sleep (8 hours/day each) means to achieve work life balance. Like you’ve checked a box and all is suddenly happening! If you feel miserable at your job doing things you dislike for 8 hours, then come home to feel lonely and with no hobbies, and on top of that mortified with thoughts and unable to sleep – I would call that anything but a balanced life. On the contrary, if you really love your job and decide to spend 9 or 10 hours a day for a period to make something important to you happen, then go home to a loving partner or to a hobby that really charges you, that’s 16+ hours of good, quality time spent – I can bet the sleep is also really relaxing. That’s what I call a good life, balanced on both professional and personal sides.
Achieving work life balance is really (really!) only up to you
Yes. Don’t think that at any point in time the government will enforce a law that will suddenly make your life balanced. Or that the company you work in, even if it’s an excellent one, will want you to dedicate too much of your time to be happy and do the activities you choose. In a commercial firm, you’re there with the only purpose of making money for the company, period.
So what you need to do if you want to change anything, is to take your life into your own hands and do something with it that is meaningful to you.
Feel like you waste your time in a company you hate, doing work that makes you feel really bad and demotivated? Change the job role, change the company or change both – but do something about it. If you feel you don’t accomplish anything that gives your life a meaning, go search for that meaning in some other way or place. Don’t let yourself wake up during a mid-life crisis wondering what on Earth did you do with your life till then!
Feel really bad because you are fat? Change your diet, go exercise, change your habits for healthier ones and get rid of the bad feeling.
Same with the emotional or relationships feelings. If you don’t like your friends, if you feel they have a bad influence on you or they charge you with negative feelings or pessimism, drop them. Replace them with friends that lift your mood, and help you grow.
Feel lonely and unloved? Go out there and meet the world. Join some dancing classes, courses you have been postponing, enroll in learning a new language or a new skill. Start a new sport. Anything you feel attracted to that makes you go outside! The magic happens out there, not in the comfort of your home.
Take a few minutes to watch Mel Robbins’s TED Talk on “How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over”. Watch it every time you need it – it’s a very good motivational boost on how to START doing the things that you WANT to achieve. And how to close the gap between wanting something and actually getting there.
Balance in all aspects of our life
Besides feeling good more than feeling bad throughout the days, achieving work life balance means to be able to have the time and the energy to play the roles in your life that are important to you. What does this mean?
For example, in our personal life we play multiple roles: wife/husband, mother/father, best friend, daughter/son, sister/brother, biker, dancer, neighbor, girlfriend/boyfriend etc. To split your time to play all these roles each and every day is impossible – so you need to choose. How? Well, between doing something that makes you happy (a hobby) and something that only takes your energy (a friend), choosing the first is always the advisable. Between seeing a dear friend or making sure you don’t miss your dance class – well, that’s where priority comes in hand. What is more important to you in that moment? Choose that!
It all comes down to what are the things that are important to you, that give your life meaning, energy and make you happy. Find time for those. Ever done something you really really loved for a few good hours, working very hard – to realize that the time just flew by, that you’re extremely tired but so full of life in the same time? That’s what I’m talking about – find it. And do that thing more.
At work, besides doing the things we like, we sometimes need to deal with unpleasant or must do tasks. The important thing is to love what we’re doing generally, to find how it contributes to our professional growth and how it leads us closer to the goals we want to achieve. If you feel this, all good, if not, you need to change so that you become what you want to become.
Some jobs or an entrepreneurship path are simply not meant to be balanced, nor to be suitable for a full-time parent. They require 9, 10 or more hours a day dedication and you want to do that because it’s what you always wanted to do and the source of your energy and daily joy. Thinking about it long term, it can be a temporary thing you’re willing to do, for a few years or so, till you can balance things. That’s all good, as long as this makes you happy.
In the end, I’d like to leave you with some words from a person I’ve admired for what he accomplished, for his discipline in life and vision. But also for the learning that achieving work life balance is a way to avoid regrets during late days:
“I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to.” – Steve Jobs, that later also said:
“At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death….” – Steve Jobs
In the course of time since I wrote this article I got closer and closer to the psychology field and developed a course on overcoming anxiety and depression. After publishing it, I’ve come to the realization that this course is actually the perfect recipe to achieve balance in your daily life. Therefore, I want to encourage you to enroll and take this course if you want to have a real work life balance.