For many of us, work is a necessity. We need to work to pay the bills, feed and clothe our family, put gas in our car, and purchase the many other essentials to keep our lives running smoothly. And because we associate work with obligation, it has earned a rather negative connotation in our minds. We end up working the majority of our days, weeks, and years on earth in order to afford a little time here and there to enjoy ourselves. This is a cyclical recipe for burnout. On the upside, there a few simple steps you can take to obtain and sustain greater work-life balance.
1. Embrace Work with Gratitude. We see work as an obligation and an end to justify the means. What if we change our mind set. You don’t have to go to work; you get to go to work. You get to engage with people, build relationships, be creative, affect others in a positive way, and challenge yourself to be the best you can be. And you get paid for doing it! Granted, not every day and every job is the rosiest, but that is your first challenge. Write down five things you appreciate about your job. Put the list on your nightstand and remind yourself every day before work what these things are. This will send you off to work in a more positive state of mind.
2. Share and Transition. Work can be stressful. So, too, can home life. Together, they can be combustible. But they are not mutually exclusive and you can’t be expected to turn either one completely off. Neither can your partner. When we are exhausted or stressed, it is often hard to sympathize or empathize with others. And this is precisely why we need to make a point of sharing and transitioning when emotions are frayed. When you get home, take a few minutes to change your clothes and collect your thoughts. If you are alone, take 10–15 minutes to reflect on your day and then move on to your hone-life routine. If you are part of a family unit, time is often not a luxury, but communication is key. Ask your partner about their day. Let them share and vent. You, in turn, do the same. This is cathartic, bonding, and allows you both to decompress. Then you can both transition together. This is all about releasing tension and setting your intention and can have a profound and amazing positive impact.
3. Prioritize Your Time. We schedule doctor’s appointments, meeting with clients, and even haircuts. But we often fail to schedule the things that keep us healthy and happy. People don’t exercise because they say they don’t have time. Schedule the time. You don’t eat healthy because you don’t have time to cook? Schedule the time. You want to teach your kid to throw a baseball? Schedule the time. If there is something that you need to do for others, you make the time. As importantly, you should take the same approach to the things that are important to you as well. If something is a priority, schedule the time. Once it’s on your calendar it has a much greater chance of actually getting done.
4. List and Take Action. We are good at complaining. So good that we spend most of our time identifying what we don’t like and very little time doing anything about it. If you think about it, the idea that we give so much added attention to issues that irritate us without actually doing anything to address the problem is completely vexing. So it’s time to list and take action. Make a list of three things that frustrate you about work. On that same list, write down a solution or way to address each issue. If you can’t think of one, move on to the next. Now, do the same thing for your home life. Do you feel like you are burdened with too much at work? Make a list of all or your responsibilities and schedule a meeting with your boss. Run the list by your boss and offer suggestions to streamline. Worst case scenario, you have made them aware of all that you are doing. Want to exercise every day? Look at your schedule and identify 20–30 minutes when you can exercise when you are home. Right after work? After the kids go to bed? Before everyone wakes up? Then identify the type of exercise you can easily accomplish during that time period. Spend one week implementing your strategy for addressing a work issue and a home life issue for the next three weeks. You may not be able to fix everything that quickly, but you will be taking conscious meaningful action.
5. Pursue Your Dreams. As previously mentioned, most of us work by necessity. And our job that pays the bills is not always a reflection of our dreams. But that is not an excuse to give up on your dreams. It just may mean that you need to take the proper steps to continue to pursue your dreams. How? First, share your dreams with someone close to you. Declare it. Saying it out loud makes it far more real and holds you more accountable. Second, list the steps you need to take to put your dreams into action and start doing them. Third, prioritize your time. Schedule specific, consistent time to pursue this endeavor.
Work-life balance is an ever-evolving process with changing variables. And it may never be perfect. But if you choose to become more proactively involved in the process, you will see significant improvement. At the end of the day, remember that you are the steward of your own happiness and success. When you embrace work with gratitude, share and transition, prioritize your time, list and take action, and pursue your dreams — you will be well on your way to increasing your level of joy, enthusiasm and heart-felt engagement in ALL areas your life.