Eight Ways to Create Work-Life Balance
Newspapers and magazines typically use work-life balance to refer to company benefits, such as flextime, shortened work weeks, maternity and paternity leave, and onsite childcare. Based on your own personal situation, the flexibility of these benefits may in fact be useful; however, this is not my definition of work-life balance.
Personally, I think your choices for achieving work-life balance are more infinite.
Choice, you say? I don’t have a choice about having to work, take care of my kids, do yardwork, clean the garage, and pay the bills. Maybe not. But you do have choices about how much mental and emotional energy you spend on which areas of your life, and whether you approach those areas from a positive or negative point of view.
Where are areas right now in which you’re not experiencing enough happiness and energy across all parts of your life? What’s draining you? What can you do about it? What steps can you commit to taking, in order to make your life better?
Here are some specific options for work/life balance:
1) Look for a job that has a remote office headquarters, and work from home. Several of my clients do this, and it enables them to take care of elderly parents, spend time that had been used for commuting with their kids, etc. You can do a job search for your specialty on any job board but just enter “home office” and see what comes up. The downside is the occasional travel to the home office, and not having coworkers nearby, but the upside is tremendous.
2) Negotiate flexibility, either for a certain amount of time working from home, or flexibility when needed for appointments, or a reduced work schedule.
3) Start (or buy, or find partners for) your own company. Be your own boss. Turn a hobby into an income stream; consult; investigate franchises; find someone in your network who needs your skills to make their business dream come true. This comes with the possibility that you may work LONGER hours, but if you’re the boss, you can say when those hours will be.
4) See if your employer will grant you one unpaid week per year, so that you can take care of household things/visit elderly parents, etc. without using up your vacation time.
5) Find help for the things that conflict with your work schedule. Hire it, if you can afford it, but if you can’t, see if you can find a local Time Trade circle, where you swap services with like-minded people. You can babysit their kids on Saturday morning, and they’ll check in on your elderly mom on weekday mornings. (The possibilities are endless.)
6) Keep looking for employers who care. They’re out there; if you’re in a situation where you are constantly feeling like your important needs aren’t met, look for other companies.
7) See if there are systems or structures you can implement so that your home life is more organized and you’re not constantly feeling like you’re playing “catch up”. Personally, I made a chart of house-cleaning chores that could get the whole house clean each week, if I just spent 15 minutes per day. That feels so much better than a huge chunk of time on Saturday mornings when I want to be with my kids.
8) Don’t do things that don’t matter in the big picture. Spend less time on social media; get rid of possessions that require a lot of maintenance; choose carefully how you spend the time you have. That goes for work too; are you spending time at work wisely?
If you identify specific areas of frustration, you then get the choice to address it. I’m not saying there are always easy answers to creating happiness in your life. I am saying it’s up to you, and not some universal definition of work-life balance.
Start with finding a career you love, built around your own personal and family needs. Add in hobbies, friends, learning, health and laughter. Ask for, or build, what you need to support the things that matter.
Enjoy your work. Enjoy your life.