Recently I was asked to do a seminar on work/life balance for an organization. I happily accepted since the idea of balance had eluded me in my own life. I had certainly noticed a pattern of my work infringing on the things I loved the most, clearly I was out of balance!
Once I did the research I discovered I was not alone. Many people put undue pressure on themselves to achieve balance in their lives. This pressure is only reinforced by the natural tendency to compare ourselves to others. Social media does not help, instead it creates a platform for comparison. In fact, a survey done by Today Parents found 42% of moms reported Pinterest stress, or what I will now call ‘pinstress,’ because they believed they were not creative enough.
Fortunately, the literature suggests shifting your attitude when it come to work/life balance. If we replace the word ‘balance’ with the word ‘happiness’ it shifts expectations; you have more attainable goals and flexibility based on your current situation. In other words, where balance is unattainable happiness is possible. Here are three tips to help maximize work/life happiness:
Do a time budget. Choose two different days of the week and, similar to a financial budget, keep track of how you are spending your time. You might be surprised how your perceptions differ from reality. Ask yourself if the activities that consume time in your day really bring you happiness. Would you rather be distracted by technology or be able to focus uninterrupted on reading?
Avoid the ‘as soon as…’ trap. You may catch yourself saying, “as soon as I get through this day, this project, my children’s teenage years I will…” Breathe and find precious moments of happiness throughout your day. Engage in conversations, stop and actually eat lunch, give someone a compliment. In a TED talk Nigel Marsh says it is the small things that truly matter in improving the quality of our lives.
Learn to say no. If you are a people pleaser you may find a lot of your time eaten up doing things for others. You get the behaviour you tolerate, so if you allow others to download responsibilities to you it will become a pattern. In the wise words of author William Ury, saying no to someone else means saying yes to yourself. Say yes to yourself more often.
Work /life happiness means spending time in the areas of your life that bring you joy, satisfaction and a sense of personal accomplishment.