There is no topic that is as near and dear to people as “work life balance,” but I rarely meet someone who feels they have it figured out. Together we are going to define work life balance and how to achieve it.
When I define balance, I think about two opposite things evening out. This is what happens when I balance a scale. But that definition doesn’t work well when we talk about work life balance. By this definition, all of us are “failing” in that we don’t usually have such a tidy distribution between work and fun activities. This is especially true for those with a full-time job and demanding family obligations such as small children or caring for elderly family members. Add in household chores, church, school, and charitable activities and it is easy to feel very overwhelmed. It is unlikely that you will ever have an even number of hours to split between “working” and “living.”
Consider that work life balance is really balancing between things that give you energy and things that use up your energy. While this isn’t the traditional definition of this concept, I’ve found it is a better one for most of my clients. All of us want to have enough energy for the things that we enjoy and the things we feel are important. All of us have things that must be done that are draining. When we have good balance, we have enough energy to do the draining things that have to be done, and we have enough energy left to do the things we enjoy.
All of us have the ability to monitor our own energy and to notice which things are energizing and which are draining. When we get better at Saying No to the things that are draining and choosing when to say yes, we feel more balanced. When we evaluate our daily activities, it is easier to notice a section of our job is incredibly draining and to intentionally decide if we want to keep doing the job or if we want to make a change.
We all already do this with our cell phones. If my phone is running out of battery life, I change what I ask my phone to do. I may even put it on airplane mode to preserve as much battery as possible until I can plug it in. I understand that recharging is important and that it isn’t immediate. I can’t drain my battery for 8 hours and expect that in 5 minutes it will be restored or skip plugging it in and expect it to work.
This is true for human recharging too. Some activities do more to help us recharge than others (and not everyone uses the same activities to get the same benefit). Recharging takes time and needs to be done frequently.
Pay attention to your current activities. Which ones recharge you? I have a client who recharges by mowing her grass. I have another who recharges by organizing closets in her home. Neither of these are activities that most would see as “fun,” but they work for these clients. Cooking is like that for me; I like puttering around in the kitchen.
I also like to dance. I like to talk about it. Dancing is a good recharge activity for me. People tell me all the time that when I talk about dancing, I light up. Then those people wistfully say, “I wish I had a hobby like that…”
One of the hardest assignments I give many of my clients is making a list of ten things they love to do or want to try. This assignment is most often given to people who have asked me to help them with “work life balance” because they feel that they aren’t doing a good job at home because of how much they do at work or because they want more leisure time. I have clients who are still working on coming up with ten things more than a year later.
Where you live, there are literally thousands of things to do or experience. Some are easy. Some require more planning. There are groups of people who come together to do things with each other. The secret is finding those activities that recharge your batteries. If you don’t know what recharges your batteries, the only way to find out is to go try new things.
I know that trying new things can be hard. I desperately wanted to try dancing but I was afraid. I didn’t know if I’d fit in, have the right clothes, or be able to do it. I pulled up the website for The Dance Studio every day for TWO YEARS before talking someone I knew into going with me to a party on New Year’s Eve. I’ve been dancing ever since.
Since my success with dancing, I’ve tried other things. It was easier after experiencing the success that came from going to a dance party. But it took a long time and a lot of courage to go that first time.
If you can’t find anything you already do that recharges you, your only option is to try something new. One good way to get ideas is to ask other people what they like to do. If they mention something you think might be interesting, see if you can go with them. Going with someone else will make it easier to try it out. There ARE things out there that will top off your batteries and become things that light you up. It is your job to be the detective that figures out which ones are right for you.
Here are some to dos for you, if you want better work life balance:
- Spend the next week paying attention to your energy. What drains it? What recharges it?
- Schedule time in your calendar for things that recharge you.
- Ask yourself if you personally have to do the things that drain you. If even one could be moved to someone else, would that help?
- Start your own list of ten things you love to do or would like to try.
- Ask everyone you meet for a week what they do for fun. Notice what appeals to you and see if you can tag along.
- Choose to try something new.
Charlise Latour a business coach and owner of Accelerate Your Success. She works with each client to determine what their goals are and create a plan so they can achieve them. She is actively involved in Dancing & Singing With The King which raises money to promote dance education including working with local schools to offer dance classes during the school day. This is a natural fit as she is an avid ballroom dancer.