There are a lot of conversations about achieving work-life balance and what that really means in practice. The ideal balance between your work life and your personal life is supposed to bring success and contentment in all aspects of your life. So, here you are with a full-time job and a hustle on the side (because multiple streams of income are a necessity). You are taking online classes for certain certifications, trying to take care of your health/wellbeing and you also need to spend time with your friends and family because social life is very important.
Meanwhile, life is not sitting still while you do all this: unexpected circumstances keep cropping up here and there, and you realize that some days you don’t even have enough time to sleep. All of this because you want to achieve a work-life balance where you believe you have to divide equal portions of your time to all areas of your life. This is a myth: stop while you’re still ahead.
People spend years chasing the perfect balance between work and life that they end up living unfulfilled lives. This is because the idea of work-life balance based on consistent equity in all areas is very unrealistic. Most especially because your life is constantly evolving and won’t stand still for you to find this ‘balance’. You’re a bound to fail if you take this to heart and try to live it. Your balance is what you make of it. How?
· Understand that life is in seasons – There will be periods where work takes the front burner (for example when you start a new job and have to ‘prove’ yourself), other times its family first (when circumstances change due to marriage, birth/death, illness, etc.), other times its personal wellbeing (when you’re recovering from an illness for instance) or personal development (getting a new professional certification). You need to focus on what’s important for that season.
· Plan your time well – Give adequate attention to what’s important, not necessarily what’s urgent. What have you set out to achieve that day? That’s what is important. Things will come up during the day, but you have to weigh them against what you’ve pre-determined are the ‘must-dos’ for the day. Doing this helps you keep your priorities in check. There are exceptions though: a work deadline that comes up during the day is important and urgent, likewise a personal emergency. So that’s not the time to focus on what is less important in comparison.
· Don’t live for work – There will eventually be a separation between you and work. At some point, you will either leave the work or the work will leave you. Make no mistake about it – the work WILL continue without you, it may not be the same, but it will continue. What type of life have you created for yourself outside of work? If your answer to that question isn’t what you like, start making the necessary adjustments.
· Build Relationships at Work – On average we spend the greatest percentage of our time either going to/returning from work or at work itself. As humans, we are social beings. Having friends at work helps us to connect more to that job, and helps us greatly against workplace stress. Make it a point to create and build meaningful relationships at work. Your colleagues don’t have to be your best friends, but you can work towards having a decent social life in the workplace.
· Be Honest with yourself – If the work aspect is consuming all your life, sapping your energy without sufficient returns, then it’s probably time to change jobs – it may be the specific role or your place of employment. Be honest about what needs to change and make the necessary changes. Life is too short. If you find you’re doing something you don’t like, or that your personal values clash with where you work, you should leave.
To live a meaningful and successful life, find ways for your work and personal life to be aligned instead of balanced. Aim for work-life co-existence, and don’t feel guilty about it either. So what if you need to travel during the week and still have work to do? Take the work with you on the trip! What if you have something planned on Monday evening? Work during the weekend to free up that time. Don’t strive for an equation that will leave you depressed, exhausted and unfulfilled: aim for a work-life alignment that works for you, and live a healthy, successful, and fulfilled life.