I have good days and I have bad days. The questions for me were simple. How can I make every day, a good day? What decides the difference?
Why do we end some days feeling balanced and accomplished while other days conclude with stress, anxiety and dissatisfaction (imbalance)? How can we end every day with a balanced sense of accomplishment? It is my belief that at the root of these questions lies the increasingly popular- yet ever elusive- concept of “work-life balance”.
When I look at each component of work-life balance, it is much easier to feel a sense of accomplishment in the “work” component as this is defined and prioritized by the employer through job responsibilities, tasks and performance goals. The “life” component is where things get tricky as this unique sense of accomplishment is defined on an individual basis and must be prioritized by the individual. Through my experience, I believe that the “life” component of work-life balance creates the imbalance and subsequent feelings of stress, anxiety and dissatisfaction. This component cannot be defined or provided by an employer but must be identified and pursued on an individual basis. This blog will focus on tips to define and prioritize the “life” component of work-life balance based on my personal experience.
When I prioritize the “work” component of the work-life balance, this imbalance diminishes my sense of “life” or personal accomplishment which negatively impacts my work. Through trial and error I have recognized there are certain personal tasks/activities I must complete each day to strike the appropriate balance and end each day with a sense of accomplishment. I discovered this balance through defining what the “life” component meant to me and prioritizing “life” in my schedule. By prioritizing “life”, I have found my work productivity to be more sustainable in the long run while creating/maintaining a sense of personal accomplishment. When I strike the appropriate balance I can perform more consistently in work and life.
I have identified two steps that served as a framework for me in my quest to achieve an appropriate work-life balance which I believe anyone can apply.
1). Define “Life”: What are the activities/tasks I need to complete daily to achieve a personal sense of accomplishment.
2). Prioritize “Life”: Where do I fit each activity/task in my daily schedule.
First, each individual must define the minimum tasks/activities to complete each day to feel a personal sense of accomplishment. This is where the trial and error comes into play. To identify the minimum tasks/activities you must experiment with different combinations and gauge your sense of accomplishment. In other words, define the minimum requirements. Personally, I have identified these tasks/activities through the lens of the personal goals most important to me. For example, in 2019 I want to live a healthier lifestyle and learn more about financial planning. Based on these goals, I have identified three daily tasks/activities that will best help me to reach these goals- go to the gym, complete meal prep and read a financial planning book for 30 minutes. When I complete these three tasks, I end each day with a sense of accomplishment. What are the personal goals most important to you? Next, identify tasks you can complete each day that will help you to reach these goals. If completing these tasks creates a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, you have defined what the “life” component of work-life balance means for you.
Second, now that you have defined the tasks/activities that bring you a sense of accomplishment, you will need to find time in your daily schedule to complete each task. Personally, I have found the best time to complete these tasks is in the morning before work begins. When I complete my three tasks in the morning, I start my day with a sense of accomplishment. Then, any extra physical activity or reading I am able to complete throughout the day feels like “extra” progress towards my goals and only increases my sense of accomplishment. Also, if my workday runs late, I am at ease knowing I have already satisfied my “life” component and struck a balance. We cannot always control how late we will stay at work. However, we can control how early we get up. Perhaps, in some cases, finding the appropriate work-life balance requires sacrificing sleep. Though this can be a touchy subject, from my experience, the sense of accomplishment and balance leads to more productive and sustainable work than an extra two hours of sleep ever could! Our employer schedules the time we must spend prioritizing the “work” component but it is our responsibility to schedule and therefore prioritize “life”.
To create/sustain an appropriate work-life balance, each individual must define and prioritize the “life” component. If you feel guilty, just remember- there will always be more work. Instead, by prioritizing “life”, we are able to produce better work for a more sustainable period of time. Though I will not claim to have struck the perfect work-life balance I will say that I have increased the number of days I feel accomplished both personally and professionally which has led to a more balanced existence.
Work-life balance is not a perk to be provided by an employer, rather, it is the responsibility of the individual to define and prioritize “life”. If we sit back and wait for a work-life balance to be provided to us, we will be met with stress, anxiety, dissatisfaction and ultimately, imbalance. But, if we take accountability for our work-life balance by prioritizing “life”, we can end each day with a sense of accomplishment that will lead to a more sustainable, productive and balanced existence.
A special thank you to my friend and colleague Bill Moody who reiterated the importance of gathering the minimum data elements for the requirement before preparing a solution. This logic has many applications and is much appreciated.