Work/life balance became a buzzword a couple of decades ago. Everywhere you turned there were presentations, articles and self proclaimed “experts” all promising to help the overworked find better balance.
The thing is, I’m not so sure work and life are really separate concepts anymore. Isn’t work just another part of your life, just like family, hobbies, pets and whatever else is important to you? “Life balance” is probably a much more accurate term today, and people work every day to try to achieve this concept. It is a balancing act that involves harmonizing family with career, hobbies with the job, and health with work.
Sure, there are still the no-holds-barred leaders out there whose commitment to work eclipses everything else and there are those who think that’s the way it has to be if you want to be successful. Some of these people might even be happy with their life this way, who are we to judge? Many experts today still proclaim it is possible to have it all. However, what exactly does “all” mean? Well, as difficult as it is to say this: I don’t think work/life balance is completely possible. If you want balance, you will need to sacrifice something.
What we should be talking about isn’t work-life or life balance, but becoming aware of what’s important to an individual and helping them create the right situation and strategy for THEM. Work/life balance isn’t about being home at 5 everyday, it is about being able to accomplish what one wants out of life. In my opinion, it’s about setting the right boundaries. If you clarify what you want, create a plan, set boundaries, and manage it well, fulfillment in one’s personal and professional lives can be yours.
It’s all about boundaries.
To achieve life balance, you have to set these boundaries both in your personal life and your work life. An article in Harvard Business Review referred to this as making “deliberate decisions.”
It has to go both ways to work out. Global leaders often have to respond instantly to crises and sudden situations. Then again, sometimes your personal life is more important—your preschooler is in a theater production, a parent is diagnosed with an illness, or your eldest is graduating from law school. The fact is, when a situation with enough importance emerges (in business or personal life), we make time. And you know what? The world doesn’t end. This just shows that having boundaries and stepping away is possible. Planning is key and with proper boundaries in place, it becomes easier to give attention to all areas of your life.
- Define “balance.” First, you have to know what balance means to you. Is it being home for dinner three nights a week? Only traveling a certain number of days a month? Climbing Mt. Everest someday? When you know what you want out of life, you can create a clear plan to achieve these goals.
- Set boundaries at work. Once you know what you want, you have to set expectations in the workplace to achieve these goals. Maybe you’re home early three afternoons a week, but you’re available during certain hours after the kids go to bed. Decide what types of situations you really need to respond to, learn how to say “no” and delegate more to your team, or job-share with coworkers.
- Be proactive at home. In some ways, this goes hand-in-hand with the above point. Talk to your family and significant other about what’s important to you but also address what types of work situations may require your attention no matter what. This can help avoid children or partner resentment when those events arise.
- Walk the talk. Don’t preach life balance and then send emails in the middle of the night, regularly stay late at the office, and text your team members at off hours. Managers are often unaware how their own behavior unintentionally sets the standard for the team. People may feel they have to respond in the middle of the night, stay late until the boss leaves, etc.
- Introduce your personal life into your work life. Back in the day, talking about your personal life at work was a big no-no, but now those walls are coming down. You see more and more amusing family anecdotes or personal stop-and-think moments being integrated into presentations and speeches. The more you make your workplace feel like home (as much as your company will allow), the more balanced you’ll feel at work.
As the late Zig Ziglar once said, “I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” The idea of work-life balance isn’t just corporate lip service anymore, but it isn’t really about having perfect balance either. It’s about creating an ideal situation for yourself as an individual – accepted at home and at work – so that you can thrive both personally and professionally.
For a workshop, webinar, or speaking engagement on How to Set Boundaries and Achieve More Life Balance, contact Melissa: *protected email*