Work-life balance is a struggle for many people. Yet, this concept is very new.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known instance of the phrase only dates back to 1977. The dictionary defines the term broadly:
“Of or relating to both work and personal life; designating the relationship between the two.”
Today work-life-balance is a common notion and a concept many people pursuit. Find out if you have achieved a work-life-balance here.
1. You have clear priorities for your life
Coming up with clear priorities for your life means that decisions are easier. You know who is most important to you. If you’re struggling with your priorities and values, there are several resources available to help you. I recommend Michael Hyatt’s Creating Your Life Plan ebook.
Your priorities will tend to shift and evolve over time. A newly minted lawyer in his mid 20s may accept working sixty hours per week to build experience while a senior professional often has the confidence, experience and perspective to say no.
2. You say no to others in order to protect your priorities
Saying no at work is an art. If you constantly say no to the management, your reputation will gradually erode (and your chances for better opportunities and promotions will do the same). On the other hand, a thoughtful no demonstrates that you are thinking through your priorities.
Tip: Do you struggle saying no? There is an excellent list of ideas and suggestions on how to say no in “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less” by Greg Mckeown and in “The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness” by James Altucher and Claudia Azula Altucher.
3. You accept that work-life-balance is not achieved every day
When you think of work-life balance, you may imagine an ideal world where you arrive at home each and every weekday at 6pm (or leave early to pick up your children from school). Unfortunately, you may not be able to achieve this every week.
For example, corporate accounting professionals often experience long hours during the month-end process. If you know that you will face greater than usual work demands at certain times of the year, plan in advance to meet those commitments. Of course, if you have just completed ten straight weeks of sixty hour work then you probably need to reassess your work habits.
4. You know that value is not measured in ‘face time’
Unless your workplace operates based on a billable hour model, simply logging more hours does not create more value. In fact, Parkinson’s Law suggests that adding time to your work day causes you to lose focus. After all, you may think that you can log in “just a few minutes” on Facebook because you can always make up the time later.
Tip: Work experience, education and specialization are critical factors in attaining a high income. Simply logging more hours at the office, regardless of value, does not matter.
5. You proactively manage energy
Let me ask you two simple questions about your energy and productivity.
On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your energy and effectiveness at 10am? How does that compare to 4pm? Many people find that their energy and ability to focus gradually declines through the day. There are two work-life implications from that finding.
First, you sleep well and take use of other stress management techniques to keep your energy at a high level. Second, you keep a reserve of energy when you go home. Few spouses and children enjoy spending time with zombies.
6. You work at an organization that values work-life-balance
Some organizations have a better track record in the area of work-life balance than others. Instead of attempting to change the dysfunctional culture of a large organization by yourself, do yourself a favor and work for an organization that values work-life balance. Fortunately, more and more companies are recognizing the importance of work-life balance so you can find good options in many different industries.
Consult these resources for ideas:
- Fortune’s 100 Best Companies To Work For.
- Glassdor’s Best Places To Work
- Canada’s Top Family Friendly Employers
7. You exercise several times per week
Some people consider exercise a luxury to be enjoyed and pursued “some time in the future.” If you are living a balanced life, you have understood the importance of getting exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s physical activity guidelines, an effective exercise week includes both aerobic activity (e.g. walking, running, cycling, swimming) and muscle-strengthening activities (e.g. lifting weights and/or body weight exercises).
Without an effective exercise habit, your energy levels will decline and that will impact your ability to work and enjoy life.
8. You plan one enjoyable activity each and every day
Anticipation makes life sweeter and more enjoyable. Growing up, you may have looked forward to your birthday or Christmas for weeks. Happily, you can harness that same power each and every day. It could be something like reading your current book for half an hour, attending a concert, going out with friends, opening the occasional bottle of wine, or watching Star Trek on Netflix (I enjoy all of those activities!).
Without something enjoyable to look forward to, the daily grind becomes much more challenging.
9. You use your vacation days to relax, explore hobbies and work on your Bucket List
According to CBS News: “The average American worker is entitled to 16 days of paid leave. But the length of the average vacation lasts just over four days!”
That means 75% of paid vacation time is going to waste. Your paid vacation time is part of your compensation – failing to use it is like setting cash on fire.
Here are five ideas on how to use vacation time to achieve better work-life-balance:
- Save up money and finally go for that trip to Europe
- Use the time to take care of a long neglected household project: painting a room is a simple and effective way to enhance it
- Take an extended Christmas vacation: Few companies achieve much in the slow days between Christmas and New Year’s Day making it a perfect time for a vacation
- Go to a play or sports event in the afternoon
- Take a class or seminar (e.g. wine appreciation) to deepen your appreciation of your interests
10. You use systems to stay focused and productive
Do you have systems and habits to stay productive? That’s one of the best ways to save time so that you leave the office on time each and every day. You can start by creating some professional assets to increase your effectiveness. You can also experiement with different ways (and different times) to commute to the office. In some organizations, you can achieve a great deal before 9am because the office tends to be quiet early in the morning.
Here are two additional resources to enhance your productivity today so you can get your work done and leave the office with a smile on your face.