Keys To Work-Life Balance

Maybe there was a time when the boundaries between work and home life were clear, but I don’t think anyone can remember when it was. Now, with portable technology keeping us permanently tethered to the workplace, those lines are becoming increasingly blurred. And the cost to our mental and physical health can be enormous. (As highlighted in my April newsletter). At least once a week I will hear some version of the following statement: “My work situation is untenable. I just can’t go on like this.”

I often refer people to Julie Cohen‘s book, Your Work, Your Life…Your Way: 7 Keys to Work-Life Balance. Like me, Julie is a professional certified coach. In her book, she reminds us that trying to achieve “balance” is a continual journey that we all struggle with, not some magic state of nirvana to be arrived at once we have our ducks all in a row. Says Julie: “It’s a constant process of working, tweaking, adjusting, maybe falling down, climbing up again, and then reengaging.” I have found Julie’s tips useful to keep in mind as I struggle try to find my own balance sometimes. With Julie’s permission, I’ll share some of these here in shortened form.

Know what you need to do first, then make a plan and stick to it. The process of developing priorities requires you to make decisions about what you can realistically achieve in a day, in a week, even a year – and then accepting the fact that you simply cannot do it all. The opposite is what Julie calls “firefighting” – responding to fires as they happen at the expense of what really needs your attention. Set aside time for the important things that you know will take time. Then do the hardest thing first.

Learn to Say No
“No” is one of the most powerful words in the English language. It’s also one of the hardest to say in a work environment. Whether it’s someone asking you to take on an extra project, work on the weekend, oversee another employee, it is okay to respectfully say no. Yes, it can be difficult at first, but when you set clear boundaries about what you reasonably can and cannot do, it sends a very strong message of confidence. People with integrity will respect you more, not less, for standing firm on your beliefs.

Leave Work at Work
When you finish work, try to leave it there. Don’t go gnawing over old bones when you’re trying to relax with family or friends. Turn off the blackberry if you have to, but make a conscious effort to keep sacred the time you spend away from work. This is where you find the rejuvenation that you need to do good work in the first place. If it’s that urgent, you’ll know about it. If not, trust yourself to get to it when you get to it.

Get Help
Most employees have employer-provided wellness programs that are available to them. If you need help, this can often be a good place to start. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed over a long period of time, watch out! You may be headed for burnout. And your overall health is more important than any work you will ever do. Join forces with others at work who can cover for you, or share the load. Enlist the help of family and friends who can help you with household responsibilities. If you can hire someone who will make your life easier, do it.

Nurture Yourself
Sad to say, but most people take better care of their cars than they do themselves. With a car, you have to take it for regular oil-changes, weatherproofing, tune-up – if you want it to run efficiently. You are infinitely more valuable than your car, so spend a little time on self-maintenance. Good self-care begins with eating a healthful diet, regular exercise that gets your heart rate up and getting enough rest. Beyond the basic self-care, it also means doing something for yourself that brings you joy. That can be yoga, journaling, cooking, hiking. Doesn’t matter what it is, so long as you value yourself in the process.

If you feel your work is killing you, Julie’s 7 Keys Workbook and Journal is a great place to start to reclaim your life. Once you identify where your points of pain reside, you can begin to learn new skills that will help prevent burnout and increase your overall level of satisfaction.