Work-Life Balance (before you go off edge)


ImageOne of the first things I do with my clients at the beginning of a “Coaching” contract is to examine their wheel of life (see picture up there). I consider it an “eye opener” to start the process of progress. It gives a bird’s eye view of the levels of satisfaction (from 0 to 10; with 10 being most satisfied) on their: Career, finances, health, friends and family, romance, personal growth, fun and recreation, and their physical environment. These identify life areas that are not working well and needing change to live life more fully. Great deficits in fulfillment in any one area can spill over to the rest; hence, negatively affecting general well-being. We cannot neglect any one area. Just as a house cannot be built on one pillar, so is life satisfaction. It’s a whole; and cannot be reliant on only one source.

The concept of work-life balance is common and implicitly warns people not to get too consumed in having a career at the expense of nourishing the rest of their life support systems. It is a known fact that most of the working force spends their entire day on the job. They become so busy making a living that they forget to live their lives.  Even non-working house-wives assume the career of a “full time mom” or a “full time house-wife” that they sometimes drift in the mundane neglecting vital life ingredients until they feel a huge void. If you give it some thought, each of us has multiple roles (especially the sandwiched generation): the true self, career role, son/daughter, parent, spouse, friend, community volunteer, etc…. The true self, sometimes, suffers the most. Every so often, competing and conflicting roles and priorities can be very difficult to handle. We become defocused and find ourselves thrown off balance suffering health problems, depression, poor performance, stress, strain, or complete burn-out.

It’s not so simple to balance it all, but at least we can be more aware of maximizing the use of our time. Time being the most valuable, yet limited, asset we have which once used cannot be retrieved. Life can easily slip us by; and if we’re not alert to how we’re investing our time, by the end of our path, we may find ourselves filled with regrets. Just imagine you’re at your “death bed” contemplating your life. What would you be saying? Scary thought to many, huh? So, how can you best balance before everything hits the fan?

Here are some few guidelines to face the challenge:

  1. Fill in the wheel of life: Find out which life areas you’re very dissatisfied with and need your attention most. What can you improve? What are you willing to improve? (see? there’s a difference between “can” and “willing”). The first step to any change is awareness. It has been said that 50% of solving any problem lies in knowing what it is, so get clear on what’s not working for you. Then, start getting focused on taking serious gradual steps to implement changes. Things will never get resolved on their own.
  2. Set SMART Goals: Once you nail down the opportunities for improvement, set the baby steps to rectify. The acronym SMART for goals refers to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timed. These ensure rectifying the dissatisfied areas and having a map for a clearer journey ahead. For instance, if you found that you are not so content on the area of family and friends perhaps for being over-worked on the job, specify that you need to “spend more quality time on the weekend with family or friends”. The way about it may be to arrange for gatherings, or more outings. Always get specific: “how”, “when”, “with whom”, “number of times”,…  and make sure it doesn’t conflict with others’ plans. Gather your SMART goals with the specifics on a sheet of paper and read it every morning.
  3. Manage your time: Make the best use of those 86,400 seconds each day. Managing how you spend your time can be the key to your productivity on all levels. Many claim they don’t have the time, for instance, to read (i.e. feed their personal growth), or generate more income (i.e. feed their finances). Well… that’s not very accurate. You can always make the time for important things. It’s just that you may not have taken a deep decision to actually commit to doing things of importance. Why would most people adopt a certain regimen as per their doctor’s advice when their life is threatened? Suddenly, you find them having extra time, right? Think hard of that wheel of life. What should you do to become happier? Incorporate it into your schedule. This is when the SMART goals’ sheet needs updating to specify “when” to get things done.
  4. Establish healthy rituals: It can be difficult sometimes to kick off new habits when you find out that these are needed to feed into better balance. Take exercise for example. To kick it off as a habit requires a lot of planning and self-discipline in the beginning. Most research suggests a period of at least 21 days to establish habits. This is when the neural pathways in the brain become strong enough to make the behavior automatic. The habit, then, becomes an addiction that you cannot easily do without. The constellation of healthy routines (e.g. sleeping patterns, eating right, social media use, responding to emails,..…) eventually provide structure and make a big difference in your life. Rituals and habits are automatic acts you don’t spend much mental effort on; thus, allow you to have more energy to spend on other worthy and effortful tasks. So, what healthy routines can you plan among your goals now?
  5. Use a journal: Be it for your personal, or professional life, having a journal to plan your days in line with your goals will provide the necessary structure, clarity, and commitment. It facilitates organizing your time and taking the necessary steps to balance your life. Journaling your “to do list” will enable you to become more realistic in what you can achieve in one day, throughout the week, or for the whole month. Avoid writing one “to do list”. The sight of it may be overwhelmingly scary that many end up procrastinating about it. A dated journal has the advantage of allocating your targets over a period of time while ensuring you take care of urgent matters first. Remember to remain flexible as you proceed throughout the days and shift what you couldn’t do on a specific day to a later time. Your journal will eventually reflect your productivity and help you keep things on track.
  6. Manage your stress: Keep an eye on your life stressors and take measures to reduce their effects. After all, too many stressors can throw you off edge all of a sudden. When faced with stressful situations, focus on changing either the situation, or your reaction. Changing the situation means you either alter it (e.g. change your job) or avoid it (e.g. take a different route while commuting to escape traffic). When changing the situation is not possible, you can only change the way you feel about it. You need to stop fretting about what’s bothering you and accept that it just is (e.g. a negative colleague working in the same office), or adapt to it (i.e. looking at the big picture of what truly matters). It’s important that you avoid bottling up any tension by using quick stress-busting techniques frequently; like: deep breathing, positive self-talk, music, seeking social support, etc…

These are only the basic steps when your aim is to have a more balanced life. To really work it out, you have to have a whole hearted intention to have a new mission. Writing things down and organizing your path is a pre-requisite to succeed in doing that. Research after research documents that those who thrive have clear well written goals. You can assess and revise these as you proceed. Finally, and to add new things into your routines, entails giving up some other things in place. Why don’t you start off by making a “don’t do list” to identify your life “time-wasters”? Then, continue to MAKE the time to do things of greater value to balance it all….

  1. November 25, 2012 at 1:42 am

    I hope that readers will use the great tips you gave them and suggestions for things to be aware of and to work on. This article spells out some very important areas and how crucial balance is in our lives.

    Like

    • dddania
      November 25, 2012 at 7:59 am

      Many thanks for the feedback Iris 🙂 I always appreciate your taking the time to read my posts 🙂

      Love 🙂

      Like

  2. Nazek A. El Hout
    November 30, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Totally “invaluable” mind enlightening tips! Acts as a REMINDER of the solution to our endless internal battle each faces to maintain balance of all! (soul,heart,mind & body) 😉 Thank you! 🙂
    Mastering it sure is a matter of time I guess…

    Like

    • dddania
      December 1, 2012 at 6:35 am

      I’d like to thank YOU Nazek for being a reader 🙂 I’m glad it was inspiring 🙂 and yes, you’re right: it’s not that easy to assume many roles at the same time, but with enough awareness, determination, and time, we can surely balance them all 🙂

      Like

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