This is the third in a series of posts all about work-life balance. We’ve previously looked what why it’s unhelpful to compare yourself to others when striving for the ‘perfect’ work-life balance and why it’s important to look beyond simple time management.
If you have given some thought to your own situation and want to improve things, it’s important to get into the detail. If you want to make change, then you need to be specific.
It’s not enough to say you want a better work-life balance, any more than it is to say you want to be healthier. Identify the pain points, the times and activities where you feel the pinch. Try to identify the root causes and formulate an end-state that you can be happy with.
Clarify your values
When it comes to clarifying what’s important in life, you can’t start anywhere better than understanding your values and then putting them into practice. Values aren’t goals. They can’t be achieved. We strive towards living our values in a more meaningful way. If you have clarity on what’s important, then you can put everything else into context. Being clear on your values can help you sort through the many demands on your time and attention each day.
Clarify your roles and responsibilities
What roles do you occupy in life? We’ve not met, but if you’re in employment, I can bet that you have more than one or two roles in life. You have a job, but possibly various roles within that job (manager? direct report? project lead? social secretary? mentor?) and also outside of work (parent, son or daughter? friend? member of a club? sports enthusiast?).
When we identify the roles we occupy in life, we can get more specific about the responsibilities that come with these roles and start asking some helpful questions about them.
How much time, attention and energy do they require? How much of each of these limited resources would you like to invest in each? What is their relative importance to your happiness and your success?
Clarify your focus
There are only twenty four hours in a day and seven of those days in a week. We might wish we can ‘do it all’, but let’s be honest – that’s just impossible. If you’ve made sense of your values and life roles, you can use that clarity to decide where you want to invest your finite time, attention and energy. What could you do less of? What could you pause? What could you delegate? What can you drop completely?
Clarify what’s in your control and what you can accept
When you’ve got clarity over all of these aspects of your work-life balance, you can then examine the challenges or areas of dissatisfaction and see which are amenable to change.
Are they even within your control to begin with? Or rather, something you can only influence? We often assume we have more control over our situation than we do. You can’t, for example, control someone else’s happiness. You can merely influence it. You can’t control the workload that comes your way, merely prioritise it and do your best.
For the things that don’t appear amenable to change, it’s worth considering whether they might be aspects of life that we are better accepting ‘as is’ and moving on. If we know why we’re doing what we’re doing, we can better accept the difficulties and the discomfort that come with being under the control of outside factors. And so we come full circle to the relevance of values once again.
So as you consider your own work-life balance, remember:
- It’s not about ‘work’ and ‘life’, as you have many roles to consider
- Each role and set of responsibilities will demand things of you: time, attention and energy
- How you decide to invest your limited resources will play a big part in how you experience the interface between your professional and personal lives
- Don’t just wish it better – write it out and make a plan!