Work life balance has become the Holy Grail for a happy life. But the truth is that this is really just a “buzz word.” Work life balance means different things to different people so it is impossible to define and track. What looks balanced to you might not seem balanced to someone else. The key is to figure out what work life balance looks like to you. Here are some questions to ask:
Are You Overwhelmed?
Constantly feeling that you are doing a poor job in every aspect of your life is a recipe for disaster. Watch out for the warning signs. Many workers feel overwhelmed at work or home or both. Having too many tasks on your plate at work on a regular basis means that you might need to talk to your supervisor about reassigning some of your work, or delegating certain matters. Coming home to a constant treadmill of dishes, laundry and undone homework can feel similarly overwhelming. See if there are ways that you can have others in the household pitch in more regularly, or if you can do more cooking or laundry on the weekends to free up your afterwork hours to relax. Could your child do homework in after-care or with the sitter? See what sorts of creative compromises can work out to ease the “overwhelm.”
Are You Struggling to Meet Others’ Expectations?
Keep in mind that this can be a tricky one because other people’s expectations might not be appropriate for you. Maybe your boss really does think you should be available all hours of the day or night, even if this isn’t feasible or healthy. Or maybe your child does think that you should drop what you’re doing to bring in a lunch or assignment that was inadvertently left at home. In those more extreme cases it might be time to reassess what is expected of you and what’s realistic and necessary, and take the time to have the appropriate conversations with your boss, colleagues or family. But in general if you feel like you are missing your kids’ soccer games that you really want to see, continually rescheduling date night with your husband or bailing on book group, it might be a sign that you are spending too much time at work and need to reassess expectations.
Are You Accomplishing What You Need to?
This is another indication of whether your life is in balance — if you end each day both at work and at home feeling reasonably effective. That is to say, that you can get your tasks done at work most of the time to your satisfaction, that you are able to take time to network even if it’s just a few activities per week. On the home front, assess whether you are able to be present for your family and kids’ activities most of the time; whether you have adequate down time to refresh and recharge; whether you are able to take time to mind your own health with appropriate exercise and sleep.
Are You Happy?
This is the bottom line. Some people feel more energized at work than at home. Maybe it’s a period of your life where you don’t have a family yet and you are focused on building your career. Putting in extra time and amassing those successes might be what makes you feel happiest at this time. To a colleague with two kids, your work schedule might look anything but balanced. But if it feels right to you, that is the key to knowing you have achieved success in this realm.
In many ways, the term work life balance makes us believe there is some standard of evenness at all times that is essentially unattainable. There are always times that work is busier than others, and insisting on leaving work every day at 5, no matter what is going on in the office, means you won’t be looked upon as a team player. Sometimes you’ll have to adjust your home schedule when there are extra busy times at work, to ensure that you are showing the team that you understand things ebb and flow. Likewise, it’s hopefully possible to duck out for an extra-long lunch one day to attend your child’s play, or leave a little early for a parent/teacher conference, depending on the norms at your place of business.
A better way to assess work life balance than looking at it on a day-by-day basis is to see how it looks on a weekly, or even monthly scan. There are always times that one element may feel out of balance — the goal is to achieve a good overall view of keeping the two in sync.
Articles on work life balance:
- Working Night Shifts: Survival Tips
- Building the Life You’ve Always Dreamed Of
- Tips for Commuting to and from Work
- Four Ways to Keep Your Balance
- Ten Ways to Rebuild Your Energy
- Don’t Expect Too Much from Work
- Work Life Balance: Navigating Your Personal Life and Your Professional Life as a Key to Productivity
- Why and How the Extrovert Renews from Work
- Why and How the Introvert Renews from Work
- 3 Steps to Better Boundaries at Work
- Tips on How to Simplify Your Life
- The New Movement Towards an American Gap Year
- Can You Create Your Own Reality?
- It is Not About the Job You Want, It is About the Lifestyle You Want
- How to Cope When Your Job Is Driving You Crazy
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