Work-life balance is one of those terms that is bandied around frequently. The concept itself is relatively new in the scheme of human evolution - really only making its first appearance in the 1980's.
You can do anything. You just can't do everything. - Unknown
What exactly does Work-Life Balance (WLB) mean?
Let's take balance as the starting point. Typically balance is to be in a state of equilibrium. When we imagine a visual of something that is balanced we may think of weights on a scale being the same. Alternatively we may visualise a stack of stones literally balancing seemingly impossibly on top of each other.
When we look to understand what work-life balance means - we look at how well the various aspects of our lives are working together and how well our needs are being met both professionally and personally. How well do you feel that your professional and personal lives blend? Do they enrich and strengthen the other? Are they clearly separated or do they merge? There is no right or wrong answer for this. It's important to focus on what works best for you and your situation and circumstances.
One of the traps we can fall into, is to rely on mental health days or annual leave as a way of restoring and recharging ourselves and seeking 'balance'. This approach is problematic on many levels. Perhaps the answer lies in incorporating aspects of work and life throughout our day, rather than keeping them completely separate.
It can also be helpful to look at life (and even aspects of each year) as seasons. We often talk about how our lives are characterised like seasons.
Our life in seasons
Putting our life into perspective of seasons can be helpful in looking at work-life balance. Our lives follow the same seasons as nature - spring, summer, autumn or fall and finally winter.
Spring is the time in our lives from birth through to our 20s. It is when we are learning and growing.
Summer is from our mid 20s through to our 50s, for the majority of us. This is a time of taking purposeful action, being a warrior in the world and developing relationships.
Autumn (or fall) is when we reap the benefits of all our efforts. This is where we can see the legacy we may be leaving behind.
Winter is the slowing down and closing of the chapter of our earth bound life.
Within each season are seasons of each year and also seasons of that time in our life. We can imagine summer and spring as times for growth and renewal and conversely winter and autumn as times of quiet reflection. Within each year (independent of the actual season of nature) we are experiencing a season. For example, if we are in the season of our life with young children and financial and relationship dependence vs retiring from the workforce - the work-life balance will be different for each scenario. Looking at the seasons of our lives can be helpful for evaluating our lives and whether we are living in a state of harmony or imbalance.
The Benefits of Work-Life Balance
We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own "to do" list. - Michelle Obama
Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. - Stephen Covey
There are a few key benefits worth mentioning in relation to achieving a sense of work-life balance. They include a sense of:
- being a well-being
- less stress
- more energy
- control of your time
- better decision making ability
- minimizing the likelihood of burnout
How do we achieve balance?
Achieving balance can also be approached as practising to experience harmony or a harmonistic approach to life. From where you are right now this may seem unrealistic and near impossible. Thankfully, there are a number of strategies you can implement which may assist you in living a more harmonious life. Consider the following:
Know Your Values
What is important to you? How much time are you spending on those things that are important to you? Nurturing your highest potential will contribute to feeling as though you are living with intention and passion.
Track, plan or streamline your time through creating order and implementing a minimalist approach. Where can you make changes which will improve your life and well-being? How much time are you spending binge watching Netflix or mindlessly scrolling your social media platform of choice? When do you feel these activities help you to live purposefully?
If you are actively choosing to completely separate life and work - then ensure you have clear boundaries around when and where you work. For example, you may choose to not take your laptop to bed with you or work on anything after 8pm. Or you may choose to have technology free days. Perhaps you might choose to look at how you work and make changes which enable more efficient and effective completion of tasks - only checking emails at designated times as an example. There are endless options, and conducting experiments to find what works and feels best for you and in your situation is great for this!
Intentional and Purposeful Action
Closely related to knowing your values. Is the work you do in your day job, leading you closer to or further away from your higher purpose? Is your job making you unwell? Are you able to look at a job or career change?
Consider your Finances
This is an often overlooked aspect of our lives, yet has the ability to make a significant impact on our well-being. There is a tendency to think that we need more and more money. Current research which demonstrates that having bigger homes, new cars or all the material possessions we want does not measurably improve our well-being whereas owning a home might.
What if we flip that paradigm on its head? What if we look at our lifestyle and critically evaluate how we are living? Do we need to have 10 designer handbags or 25 pairs of shoes or the latest whizz bang gadgets for the kitchen? Do these purchases bring you long-lasting happiness? Do you have the option of living elsewhere, perhaps in a smaller house or in a regional area? If you need and use less money, how would that affect your work-life balance? Would it offer an opportunity to experience harmonious living? Are you working to live or living to work?
These are all options that you may like to consider. Often we do things without truly thinking about them, they have become ingrained ways of being. We may have observed our friends or family living in certain ways and simply copied their way, without considering whether it meets our needs or desires in life.
Meaningful relationships are sought after in our society. It is part of the human condition to crave connection. Take a moment to look at your relationships and consider how you feel about them. Do you feel supported and nurtured? Do you have a sense of wanting to spend more time cultivating and deepening those relationships? Our relationships with others ultimately shape our lives, with regrets later in life tending to be about relationships, rather than about wishing to have spent more time in the "office". Then there's the old adage of...
“You're the average of the five people spend the most time with” a quote attributed most often to motivational speaker Jim Rohn.
Changes in our relationships often have the greatest impact on our well-being.
Whilst this item is listed last on this list, it is by no means the least important. Using the lens of self-care to consider our work-life balance means to reflect as a more holistic aspect like whether you are being physically active, nourishing your body with food, drinking enough water, taking time for yourself, enjoying a hobby or creative pursuit, even limiting your caffeine and alcohol beverage intake or getting enough sleep.
Rest is vital to our well-being. There is a significant amount of research on sleep which demonstrates that the vast majority of us are not getting enough sleep each day and that lack of sleep translates into a myriad of health and well-being problems and issues.
Take a moment to reflect on your own self-care - how well are you looking after yourself? If you are not looking after you, work-life balance or living harmoniously and all the perks that come with it will be more challenging to experience.
How does this all relate to WE-Being?
At WE-Being, each team member actively and intentionally lives life in a sense of self-harmony with each aspect of their own lives. For example, one day, as Ops Manager at WE-Being I was having a day where all the technology things were going wrong and deadlines were looming. I could feel my own frustration and stress levels rising at the challenges. Instead of soldiering on, I chose to go to the gym and have a boxing session. Returning to work less than an hour later, I felt better on many levels and the technology issue had magically resolved itself (perhaps it was me who needed unplugging rather than anything else)!
The Modules our Creators have developed for Upskill integrate professional and personal development learnings within a single module. By fully and richly combing and integrating new knowledge for professional purposes with reflective exercises which enhance our personal development, deep experiential learning and transformation occurs. Through merging our work and life mindfully in the way we learn and grow professionally and personally, we optimise our likelihood of becoming and being a well-being living a harmonious life.
Take a few moments now to actively consider what the optimum work-life balance looks like for you. How could you experiment to approach harmonious living? Consider some of the questions noted above when reflecting on the topic.
In achieving a work-life balance which is satisfying to you, it is important to note, that there is no one size fits all approach. Your personal work-life balance will look quite different to someone else's. Avoid falling into the trap of comparing your work-life balance to another person's! Ideally, what you are striving towards is the optimum sense of harmony for you at this point in your life.