“I’M COMPLETELY STRESSED OUT.”
“THERE GOES ANOTHER DAY WHEN I DIDN’T GET TO THE GYM.”
“WHAT SOCIAL LIFE?”
“I NEVER HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GET EVERYTHING DONE!”
If you feel this kind of exasperation, your life is out of balance. The definition of a balanced life is different for all of us, but the basics are the same. Work/life balance is having an overall feeling of being in control and knowing that we have a manageable workload, which allows for meaningful relationships as well as self-care.
Why does time disappear like sand through our hands? You wake up with great expectations for your day and then hit the pillow wondering what happened to your plans. Lack of balance causes feelings of stress, resentment, anger and eventually hopelessness. What is the point of working so hard every day? We become impatient with others and our work performance suffers when we are too tired to focus. Living with any of these feelings on a daily basis isn’t good for our health, well-being or relationships.
Your boss wants you to unjam the printer again, your kids want to play with you at the pool, you can’t remember the last time you went out on a date and you’ve put on 10 pounds in the last year. Juggling all of our roles as spouse, parent, employee, caretaker, homeowner, neighbor, friend or volunteer makes it nearly impossible to find time to slow down and enjoy life, let alone have time to take care of ourselves. No wonder we feel over-worked, over-whelmed and under-appreciated.
What is the state of your work/life balance? Take this quiz to find out.
Yes, I agree with this = 2
True, half of the time = 1
No, this rarely or never happens = 0
- I get enough sleep.
- I eat healthy food, except for special occasions.
- I spend quality time with my family or friends every day.
- I have time to relax and play.
- I take regular vacations.
- I find time to do something I enjoy on the weekends.
- I exercise more than twice a week.
- When I have stress, I deal with it in a healthy way, such as meditation or exercise. (Drinking wine doesn’t count!)
- I have time to take care of my health.
- I have three or fewer caffeinated drinks each day.
- My work doesn’t interfere with my personal life.
- I am not a stressed out person.
- I have time to get everything done.
- My family doesn’t complain about my work hours.
Your life is out of balance. It’s time to take a hard look at your obligations and make some major changes. Your pace is unsustainable and will result in a negative impact on one or more areas of your life.
You are on the verge of imbalance. It might be time to make some decisions to keep things manageable. What would make the biggest impact on your work/life balance?
Congratulations, you have things under control and your life is in balance. You have excellent boundaries and are able to say “no” in order to protect what is meaningful to you. Keep up the good work!
If you scored a 20 or less, it’s time to shift your priorities. If you can eliminate something large that is impeding your balance, do it! Volunteer for only one organization instead of five, arrange to leave work 30 minutes early so that you can get to the gym every day or seek new employment if your job is too stressful with no end in sight.
If starting big is too daunting, begin with one small, easy goal. Promise yourself a reward when you reach it, such as going to the movies, sleeping in or buying your favorite magazine.
Read the following strategies to help you figure out your next step.
What would it feel like to get in bed an hour before you fall asleep and have time to relax, read or discuss the day with your partner? To get more sleep, start by declaring an earlier bedtime for yourself. Set an alarm reminder to turn off your screens and get ready for bed. If you have insomnia from stress, that illusive sleep will return as you restore your life balance.
If you don’t exercise, it can be difficult to begin. Ask a friend to be your walking or accountability partner. Start with a daily 10-minute lunchtime or post-dinner walk. Make it fun by taking a dance class, playing tennis, learning to do yoga or signing up for a 5K.
What change would best alleviate your stress at work? Can you delegate your workload, eliminate tasks, streamline your email, skip meetings that aren’t relevant to you or arrange to work from home one day a week? If your workload is unmanageable, set a limit on your hours and stick to it. We are paid to do a job, not to give up our lives.
If the people in your life complain that you work too much, this is a message of love and a sign that they miss you. Respond to their love by setting aside time to be with them. Make a lunch date with your partner, give your children your focused attention or have a designated family mealtime as often as you can. If your work just won’t allow this, let your family know you are thinking of them by sending a text, leaving a note when you have to get to work early or calling during your commute or lunch break.
DREAM BIG, SMALL STEPS
Now it’s time to return to the quiz. On a piece of paper create a “Dream Big” column for each question. Let go of what’s practical, think about what you really want and write down what would be a home run. Get excited about what is possible for your life!
Next, create a “Small Steps” column, with an action that would get you part way to the “Dream Big” goal. Even if you scored a “2” for a statement, there might be other things that you want to achieve in that category, like “add 10 minutes of stretching to my workout.”
Another fun exercise is to save this sheet and take the quiz again in six months to see how the numbers have shifted. Recalibrating your work/life balance can be hard, but it’s extremely rewarding.
Our overall goal is to aim for an abundance of quality time, sleep and energy. Life is supposed to be beautiful, not bearable. When you envision a beautiful life, what does it look like? If you can’t envision how to rebalance, try talking to an empathetic friend. Your boss, partner, kids or parents may not be the best options because they have their own biased goals for your life. If you need help with work/life balance, life coaches are an excellent resource.
Small steps lead to BIG DREAMS