Work-life balance… that’s a debilitating phrase because it implies there’s a strict trade-off. It’s actually a circle. It’s not a balance. If I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy. And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy.
If you’re someone who works, and also someone who has some sort of life outside of work, then you’ve probably spent at least some time trying to solve the puzzle of work-life balance.
We should all be trying to achieve this balance (…shouldn’t we?)
After all, balance is a really good thing (…isn’t it?)
And it isn’t too much to expect that I be really good at absolutely everything I do (…is it?)
Start asking around, and you’ll quickly discover:
The conventional wisdom may be that work-life balance is best, but none of us actually seems to be pulling it off.
Striving for work-life balance may sound like a good idea in theory, but in practice it can set you up for:
- disappointment (in yourself, as well as from others)
Because there’s no such thing as a perfect “balance” between our work selves and our life selves.
They’re both part of us.
And if we stop viewing these two parts of our selves as opposing forces, they can even fuel and promote one another!
So, if you’ve been struggling to achieve the elusive work-life balance, don’t judge yourself too harshly.
Try to remember: That balance is an illusion.
A more realistic approach?
When asked for his advice on striking work-life balance in a Summit interview last year, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos noted that he prefers the term “work-life harmony”.
And as it turns out, this approach isn’t just more realistic.
It’s also good news for your emotional wellness.
Ready to learn more?
Read on for 3 ways you can ditch the balancing act, and begin cultivating work-life harmony today:
1. Set (and honor) your boundaries.
- Decide when you’re “on” and when you’re “off”. Through our behavior, we train others how to treat us, and what to expect of us. Ask yourself:
- What conclusions might someone draw about my work availability, based on my habits (e.g., responsiveness to email, hours I answer the phone, etc.)? What changes might I need to make?
- Manage expectations. Do you feel as if you’re falling short of others’ (or your own) expectations? Part of the problem could be that you’re setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. Ask yourself:
- In my work roles and responsibilities, how am I setting myself up to “fail”? How can I reasonably adjust my own and others’ expectations of me?
- In my life outside of work, what are some examples of my promising more than I’m capable of? How can I help myself out by making clear decisions about what to promise, what others can reasonably expect of me, and when to say “No”?
2. Find your sweet spots.
No doubt about it:
There are limits to how much you can control your schedule and the demands on your time.
Yet, when it comes to work-life stress, so much of our suffering is self-inflicted.
It’s a myth that you can be everything to everyone.
In reality, you’re probably much better at some aspects of your work and life than you are at others.
And that’s good news.
Because those areas of overlap between what’s needed and where your strengths lie?
Those are your sweet spots.
- Work with your energy. Most of us have natural rhythms that leave us feeling energized at certain times of day. Unfortunately, our routines don’t always map onto these rhythms. Ask yourself:
- Am I a morning person, an afternoon person, or an evening person?
- When am I most creative or productive? When do I tend to focus best?
- How can I structure my time so that I’m able to work/play/think/connect when I’m feeling most energized?
- Set yourself up for success. Often, we get set in our ways, performing the same duties day in and day out, simply because it’s what we’ve always done. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should go on maintaining the status quo. Take a few minutes to:
- Pause and reflect on the things you do best– the times when you truly shine at work and outside of work. Notice any themes? Anything that surprises you?
- What responsibilities and roles (at home and at work) can you outsource, swap with someone else, or let go of entirely?
- Which responsibilities and roles (e.g., driving carpool, training coworkers, preparing dinner, brainstorming project ideas, reading bedtime stories) are working well right now? How can you build on these and do more of the same?
3. Make savoring a habit.
Once you’ve put in the effort of boundary-setting and sweet-spot identification, the final key is to actually pause to appreciate what’s going well.
Because what good is the work-life harmony you’re creating if you don’t ever stop to savor it?
- Take time to be grateful. Whether you write it, speak it, or simply think it as you’re drifting off to sleep, even 5 minutes of focused gratitude can make a significant impact on the harmony you feel in your day.
- Plan a mindful moment. It’s hard to be thankful for what you don’t even notice. So, wherever you can (e.g., in the kitchen, on your commute, at the DMV, on a hike), pause to check in with yourself and notice what you’re doing, how you’re feeling, and what’s going well in your life.
- Celebrate life at work, and celebrate work at home. One easy way to start bringing your work and life into harmony with one another? Quit pretending they’re unrelated. For example:
- Make a point to celebrate with your coworkers when something goes well (for you or for them) outside of work.
- When you’re sitting down to dinner at home, share with your roommate/partner/kids one part of your work day that excited, intrigued, or inspired you. Invite them to share the same.
Need help working towards work-life harmony?