When you first started working did you imagine spending 50% of your time working, and 50% of your time with loved ones? Did the HR person at your job ensure that your company valued “work-life balance?” In my years of working, I’ve realized that work-life balance doesn’t exist. The definition of balance is “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” There’s virtually no way to spend equal time working, doing hobbies, hanging out with family and friends, and practicing self-care. There’s always a trade off or an opportunity cost. Can you do all those things? Yes. Will you spend equal amount of time doing each thing? No, it’s just not realistic.
When you give your everything to work, you feel guilty about neglecting your personal and social time, and vice versa. Most 9 to 5’s aren’t really 9am to 5pm to begin with. The average American will spend more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work. Even worse, 87% percent of people have no passion for their jobs. Work-life balance depicts work and personal time as two interdependent things. In this day and age, this simply isn’t true. I’m not providing these facts to depress you but rather enlighten you. I don’t want my readers to look back at their life when they are 80 years old and feel overwhelmed with regret. Instead I want you to realize that you should STOP seeking work-life balance and START seeking work-life harmony. The definition of harmony is the “quality of forming a pleasing or consistent whole.”
My definition of work-life harmony is finding the perfect combination of work and personal life integration based on your standards. Effective time management is vital to acquire work-life harmony. Here are three ways to achieve work-life harmony:
1. Allocate your time based on your values
Align your daily activities with what you value the most. If you don’t know what you value the most, I suggest you spend some time self reflecting and writing a list of what you value. For example, I value learning, relationships, growth, optimism and creativity. To create alignment with your values, prioritize tasks that need to get done at work and in your personal life. I plan my to do list for work before I leave the office and I spend 10 minutes before bed planning my personal to do list.
I always give myself three top priorities then I write out the rest of the things I’d like to get done. My top three are mandatories, while everything else is optional. Since I usually work until 6/7pm every night, I’m strategic with planning my after-work activities. I typically set aside one night for socializing, two to three nights to the gym, and I work on either my blog or business for at least an hour every day. A successfully planned daily routine is key to finding work-life harmony.
2. Set time limits and abide by them
How often do you press snooze or set a time limit to switch tasks and then don’t stick to your word? Too often, we attempt to set time limits and don’t follow through unless we have a meeting or an appointment. I have been challenging myself to get better at setting a timer and sticking to it. Studies suggest taking a break every 90 minutes. Next time you’re working on a task try setting an alarm and focusing on that one task. After the time is up, take a 5 minute break and then switch to the next task. I’ve found this to be easier with personal tasks rather than at work, strictly because my profession requires a lot of multitasking. Implement this into your life as best you can.
3. Be present in the moment
This tip has helped me deal with my anxious feelings greatly!! Many people suffer from insomnia because they can’t stop thinking about work. I aim to focus on what and where I am in the moment. If I’m working on a passion project or hanging out with loved ones, I make myself fully present to that moment. I do my best to let go of the past and not stress about the future, since it’s out of my control. Find moments throughout your day to find fulfillment in whatever you are doing. Whether that’s joking with your co-workers or finishing up a meaningful assignment. For instance, there are many assignments at work that push me out my comfort zone and help me grow. Since I value growth, the task may be challenging but it also makes me feel fulfilled.
Remember to hold fast to your own beliefs and values. If the only moral compass you follow is your own and you stay true to your beliefs, then the only expectations you will live up to are your own, now that’s harmony.