It’s Friday. Are you thinking about your plans for the weekend or the work you’ll be doing over the weekend? Work-life balance is tough to navigate. The demands that beckon us to work more (like the expectation that emails will be responded to before, during, and after working hours and that we will be responsive to teammates and customers who live in a variety of time zones) are many times inconsistent with the demands felt on the home-front.
Below are a few tips to help you set reasonable boundaries at work and at home:
- You Do You – Only you know what balance will ultimately be right for you. Considering your long and short-term goals related to work, happiness, income, and relationships will help you to construct a framework that will almost certainly have a different look at various times over the span of your life. The priorities of single person with a cat and an apartment to care for may be vastly different from the priorities of a married person with a house and triplets. There is no magic formula for either of these people but looking to someone else’s metrics for happiness will only guarantee failure. Look to the inside of you and what makes you feel happy and proud today and discover the outcomes that give you long-term joy.
- Health – Your body has physiological and psychological needs. Proper nourishment, rest (including sleep), activity, and social interaction are all elements that play a role in your overall health. Ideally, your job can play an active and positive role in your health by giving you meaningful activity and social interaction. Unfortunately, the opposite can also be the case. Relationships that are unnecessarily stressful, working conditions that are emotionally or physically straining, and demands that prevent you from getting the right amount of rest should be evaluated. Your body can be fairly vocal if you decide to stop listening to its subtle messages: illness and accidents are most likely to occur when you ignore the signs of an unhealthy environment.
- Be Engaged at Work and at Home – Being fully present and tapping into your unique talents whether you’re at work or at home is good for your colleagues, your family, and you. “Engagement at work” is today’s buzz word for the human resources department. But both work and home benefit when you are engaged. The ‘old school” way to think about work was that working used us up, drained our energies, and exhausted us physically and mentally. We needed our weekends to recharge and relax because our work week had tapped us out. The opposite is actually true. If you are using the best parts of yourself at work, you should not be depleted at the end of the week. Instead, if you are engaged at work you’re empowered and proud. For example, let’s say you are a fantastic planner and enjoy arranging complex projects. Your boss finally allows you to take the reins and organize a three-day event involving your business and three high profile clients. You knock the project out of the park. Your boss and the clients are all thrilled. You feel happy and energized by the work and the results. At home, this could translate into planning that big surprise birthday trip your spouse has always hinted at wanting. Instead of needing to rest-up after your big project, keep the momentum going and build on this already-established skill set.
- Technology Hiatus – Our lives are more dependent than ever on technology. But our well-being and happiness should not be. Exercise the power to take a technology hiatus on a semi-regular basis. For some people that means no phones at meetings or meals, for others that means taking breaks from social media for specific periods (say Lent or the month of December), for others that means having no-phone and no-email vacations. It is only by disconnecting from our technology that we can re-connect with the people who are sitting across from us. Checking your phone during a meeting or at the dinner table says loud and clear “you’re not as important as what might be on my phone.”
Work-life balance is not easy but it is also not impossible. Good luck.