Work-Life Balance is as hard to define as it is to achieve. For each person, it depends on individual circumstances and what you define as important. Often times when people talk about work-life balance they are referring to not letting their career take over their personal life, but it can be the other way around. Sometimes you may find that it is time to really focus on your career. It is a highly personal, individual question, and there is not a single way to achieve that balance. In my life, I find I benefit from certain steps to ensure my goals and priorities are clear:
The first step I use is to define for myself what things mean the most. We are often so busy with the whirlwind of life that it takes a conscious effort to self-reflect on what is most important. Years ago, I attended a training seminar where they had us imagine our own funeral and the things that people would say about us. The point of the exercise was to recognize what was most important to you. For me, I wanted to be thought of as a world traveler. From that point on I made travel one of my priorities. Instead of wishing it would happen, I made it happen. Now things have changed and travel may not be as high on my priority list, but I still think of that exercise when I make decisions on what to prioritize and how I want to be remembered.
The second step is to be transparent about what you need. Recently I was working at a job that was fairly demanding with long hours. Despite my passion for my work role, I knew I needed to make a change. Just like any big decision, I talked to my key stakeholders (my husband and my boss) to decide what my options were. I found out my husband would be supportive of me making a change. I next had a frank and open discussion with my boss about what a workable solution looked like. Ideally, my boss would have accepted the things that I needed and I would have been able to stay in a job I loved, but in the end that didn’t happen. I didn’t try to use leaving as a negotiation tactic or to manipulate her in any way, but I was open, and in the end, I let her know that what she could offer wouldn’t fit my needs. I kindly let her know that I would be looking for another job. I don’t think to quit your job is the way to go in most situations, but in that moment I knew it was the right thing for me to do to find work-life balance.
On the other hand, I also have used transparency with people I know to help me be able to work more. For instance, I am part of a neighborhood carpool. It isn’t practical for me to deliver and pick up my kids at school every day, so I rely on other moms to help shoulder the burden. I like to think of it as outsourcing. If there is a task that isn’t critical to my roles, then I look to see if there is a way to outsource it. I have friends that outsource cleaning their houses. If you can afford it there is nothing that says you have to be the one to clean the bathroom.
My last step for finding work-life balance is to try and leave the stress where it belongs. I try to leave work-stress in the office and life-stress at home. It isn’t always possible, but it helps to have a way to decompress. My husband likes to listen to music or an audiobook on the commute home. I enjoying working in the yard, and spending 10-15 minutes checking on all of my flowers and herbs helps me focus back on home life and let go of work stress. Taking a few minutes to meditate or do something you enjoy as you transition is a great way to keep your life compartmentalized.
To summarize, for me finding a healthy work-life balance means identifying what matters most and prioritizing, practicing transparency with the people around me to make sure my needs are being met, outsourcing when needed, and leaving stress where it belongs. Good luck in finding your own balance.