Making Work-Life Balance Work

By: Katie Austin

“If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance” – Nigel Marsh.

I love this quote because it gets to the heart of why I chose this topic! I struggle with balancing work and my personal life and I believe many others do, too.

I watched a TED Talk by Nigel Marsh called, “How to make work-life balance work.” Marsh stated, “With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, it can transform society.” He believes that we need to change society’s definition of success, moving away from the “person with the most money wins to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.” I agree!

 

What does work-life balance mean? It is the concept of properly prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

What happens to us when work and life are out of balance? A Mayo Clinic article, “Work-life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control,” describes the following consequences of a poor balance:

  • Fatigue – when you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffers.
  • Poor health – stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can put you at risk of substance abuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones – if you’re working too much, you will miss important family events and milestones. This will leave you feeling left out and can harm relationships.
  • Increased expectations – If you regularly work extra hours, you may be given more responsibility. This can lead to additional concerns and challenges.

Now let’s talk about how you can achieve balance in your life.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance you should strive for. Take small steps like these for long-term changes:

1. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing things differently.

Put simply – there is no room in your life to do anything more than you are already doing. Rather than making room for your new actions, make choices.

2. Free time doesn’t have to be available time. Make sure to schedule down time.

An example that I can easily relate to is when a friend asks you to attend an event. You check your calendar, see that the date is open and you say “yes,” marking it in your calendar. It isn’t until later that you realize that was the only block of time during the week that wasn’t filled. The only time you would have been able to take time to yourself, run errands, or simply watch your favorite TV show. If you’re like me and you need time to recharge, it’s important to remember that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself. Your free time can be just that – free.

3. Focus on thriving, not surviving.

This is key – you won’t thrive if your focus is on simply surviving the day or trying to make it to the end of the week.

4. Treat yourself like a dog.

I have to admit that I have never heard this before, but it is so true! Think of it this way – remember the last time you played with your dog (or maybe a friend’s dog)? What would you do if that dog did something for you like fetched a ball? You would praise them (good girl/boy), pat them on the head or maybe give them a treat. Why don’t you do that for yourself? We treat our dogs better than we treat ourselves. Anytime you do something that creates better work-life balance, reward yourself with a treat.

Not sure where you are in the work life balance? Take a look at these questions. For me, the greatest impact of this exercise was not just answering the questions, but the fact that I took the time to slow down long enough to go through the exercise, to focus on real questions about how I was spending my time. I do believe that if we make small changes over time, we can find balance.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson

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