The Elusive Work and Life Balance
While brainstorming recently, I was considering potential blog topics. I wanted something relevant for our readership without rehashing the same old information over and over.
Some of the topics were tossed aside, some evolved into already-written blogs, and THIS blog seemed to touch a bit of a nerve.
Specifically, I wanted to cover the topic of work and life balance. My intention was to address practical strategies that would be helpful for those currently building a career, raising a family, and/or sustaining a meaningful relationship with their significant other.
I floated the idea to a friend, and this was their text response:
Sounds good!….as if a work life balance exists.
It was at that moment that I knew this was a topic worthy of attention. Few would argue against maintaining a healthy work and life balance, however achieving this seems something more like searching for the Holy Grail.
In order to achieve balance, let’s first deconstruct some of the common barriers. Then, we’ll address several strategies to assist us in obtaining a proper work-life balance.
A quick glance across the 21st century business landscape reveals an impressive look at where we’ve come over the past 100 years. The Western world has evolved from a workplace that was largely industrial to one that is now completely reliant on technology.
In the past decade alone, the advent of Smartphones have made “working on the go” easier than ever. Our tiny device possess a seemingly unlimited Rolodex: the ability to communicate with anyone in the world from anywhere at anytime.
That convenience has also crept into our personal lives. The “always-on economy” has stripped away family meals, bedtimes, and other typical rights of passage.
As lines of business and relationships have become increasingly blurred, the toll taken on family life has been significant.
The global economy continues its trend toward specialization. As time marches forward, a transformation has occurred: dot-com bubbles,real estate bubbles,and the growth of a newly emerging economy that looks very different than it did just a few decades ago.
In light of these unpredictable cycles, one of the most glaring changes can be found in how we work. Social media coordinators weren’t exactly in high demand at the dawn of the 1990s. Nor were software engineers, brand managers,or online marketers.
“The Times, They Are A-Changin”.
But this isn’t an earth-shattering observation.
Take, for instance, the direction of our nation’s workforce. Estimates suggest 40% of American workers (over 60 million people) will be self-employed (e.g. freelancers, contract workers, etc.) by the year 2020. Some predict that number to be closer to 50% with an expectation of continued momentum.
While exerting greater control over your schedule is more simple than it would be working your way up the corporate ladder, there are trade-offs.
The most obvious, perhaps, is the absence of a 9 to 5. Yes, that life came with its downsides – potentially grueling commutes, endless and sometimes unnecessary meetings, and water cooler gossip – but leaving your work AT work remains a covetted benefit.
Life as a freelancer leaves you at the mercy of each job. Working out of a home office can only further complicate matters.
Do I change out of my pajamas?
Can’t they mow the lawn when I’m NOT home?
A deeper dive uncovers even greater issues, but you get the point. There is no perfect world, just manageable steps to be taken. These steps can impact your quality of life in a positive way.
Cutting the Cord
Americans LOVE technology. These devices serve a variety of roles – business, entertainment, family communication tool – living without them seems unimaginable.
On the other hand, getting rid of our phones is neither practical nor desirable. But, we can set them down at dinner or charge them overnight somewhere other than the bedroom.
We can turn on Airplane Mode at regularly scheduled intervals and consciously uncouple ourselves from them during quality time. If you have strong habits, they won’t be broken without a plan and accountability. However, the payoff will be significant.
Scheduling Unscheduled Time
In order to change course from the breakneck pace we’ve come to embrace, it often requires scheduling time to, well, do nothing.
Our minds and bodies have to refresh and recharge if we’re going to be at our best in business and in our relationships with loved ones.
Burning the wick at both ends makes this difficult to achieve. We have to set aside time to take a walk, go for coffee with no agenda, and binge watch our favorite shows.
Managing Our Working Hours
Effective time management isn’t just about what we do when we’re not working; How we choose to work is just as important. Claire Diaz-Ortiz is one of Twitter’s earliest employees.
In her most recent book, Design Your Day, she reveals many of the strategies she lives by now as a stay-at-home working mom. Recently, she discussed how she manages her email inbox. Given her track record, I cannot recommend her advice enough.
Striving for a healthy work and life balance is a noble objective. Getting there doesn’t happen by accident, but it is attainable. Put away the nonstop pace and don’t believe the myth that busier is better. It isn’t – and you’ll be better when you’re balanced!
For more great articles about work, life and finding balance, check out DrDaveCampbell.com today!