Although I tried it for many years, I no longer believe in work/life balance, and here’s why –
The term work/life balance implies that there is work and then there are other things in life. According to this way of thinking, finding the balance means that there has to be a trade-off. In the end, one or the other suffers.
As someone who enjoys working hard, I do cherish time spent with my family and people I love, as well as volunteering and having my ‘down time.’ For many years, I tried unsuccessfully to find a balance between my work and all the other things I wanted to do in life. Trying to fit in one hour of long distance running, preparing supper, spending quality time with my husband and family, working on communications plans for the two social activities I was involved in, working on my latest art project and then factoring in two hours commuting to an 8-hour day job… all left me tired, frazzled, overweight and unfulfilled. Then I tried to cut down some of my social activities in pursuit of the ideal balance between work and the other things in my life. I got the same result – not enough sleep, weight gain and frustration instead of fulfillment.
Then, one Saturday morning a few years ago, I woke up feeling tired. I was overwhelmed when I read the uncompleted items on the previous week’s “to do” list that was running and ruining my life. The reality check came when I tried to add another set of commitments for the coming week to the list of “to do’s.”
Realizing the impossibility of accomplishing all of the tasks, I had an honest dialogue with myself about what mattered most to me in my life at the time. Instead of identifying specific actions, I considered what my priorities ought to be. Here’s what I came up with –
- My spiritual well-being,
- My family and the people I love,
- Developing my talents and career and
- Serving other people.
Overarching all of these priorities was my health and well-being and the need for a holistic, balanced way of life.
What I realized was that if I stayed true to my priorities, I wasn’t making a choice between work and life. My priorities covered every aspect of my life, of which work is only one component.
Since then, I have reframed my thinking about how I manage my time and energy. Treating my priorities as assets and the hours in a day as a portfolio, I invest my time and efforts in activities that matter most while ensuring that my health and well-being are not compromised. Since I’m most alert and productive in the early morning, I spend my first waking hours in meditation and getting ready to start my work day early, allowing for more time in the evening to spend time with my family and with people while being involved in social activities. Then there are boundaries I set on the commitment and number of volunteering opportunities that I’m involved in.
It’s simple, but then again it’s not that simple. Having it all is eventually possible. It’s all about setting priorities and making choices that are appropriate at a given time in life. As King Solomon stated, “For everything in life there is a time and a season.” These are wise words to live by.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.
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