Work/life balance: myth or reality?
Possibly a bit of both; everyone has their own idea of what it looks like but, unsurprisingly, somehow not in sync with what the other side of the table has in mind.
So where do we take it from there?
Forgo the whole concept and go back into the hamster wheel, business as usual?
The myth of work/life balance
How many Corporate websites or job descriptions contain the promise of work/life balance?
Yep, one of the greatest marketing buzzword in corporate communication.
Come here, we offer a great work/life balance? What do we want to hear?: You will be able to check out at 6pm, not work on weekends, not work on your holidays, no phone calls and emails and the likes.
In your experience, how much of that is actually true?
When was the last time you left the office and had the luxury of not checking your messages before bed and a soon as you woke up?
Or not spending part of Sunday (if not part of the weekend) going through Monday’s to-do list?
Many Companies will give you some leeway and flexibility in your working schedule, but do you give yourself permission to go for it?
The reality is that it’s difficult not to feel guilty when we feel responsible and accountable to the job, the team, the boss; relaxing comes second. Weekends or holidays, we will continue preempting deadlines and deliverables.
Nothing of a balance here.
Not one size fits all
Do you remember the last time you were having a really good time? Time flew by; you felt focused and energized by the freedom of choice that it was allowing you.
Unless in exceptional cases, you wouldn’t consciously stop in the middle of it to keep that moment balanced with other stuff, right?
You, as an individual, made the choice to prioritize one activity over another, because it fits with your schedule, your personal and professional duties and obligations.
Quite often, we have a mental idea of what our ideal life can be; forgetting that reality can be quite different. When we are working on a transaction or a project with short milestones, we know we are not going to go home cutting short a client conference call. And when we have to, we get plagued with all sorts of guilty feelings.
What if we could find a balance that can make us feel both satisfied and productive?
Here is how!
How to find your own version of balance
I personally believe that a career and workplace relationships are part of our life growth and purpose.
When you go to the office and put on your professional hat, you are the same person with the same values as the one who left their home an hour earlier. What changes is that you may self-regulate your emotions differently.
And the best way to actually come close to a balance is to build what you want from the ground up and tailor it to your immediate needs.
- Step 1: start by defining what an ideal day would look like for you. Focus on the tasks, responsibilities and duties – and on how you would like to feel about yourself.
- From there, observe your energy and motivation throughout several days; choose a sample of the fast-paced days and a sample of the slower ones. How does your body feel? Where do you see yourself low on energy?
- Continue the observation and identify your energizers and your depletors.
- Next stop: now that you know what gets to you and what gets you going, time to examine those boundaries: what can you tolerate? and what is not negotiable?
- Finally, decide how you want to manage your resources, time and energy, in a way that is congruent with your goals and your body’s needs.
From there, you have created a pretty good and concrete roadmap – with clear signposts- as to how you want to live your life, the job included.
And as you develop more awareness over how you react in certain situations, you will be able to stay flexible and adapting, without compromising your professional sense of duty.
Isn’t that what balance is about?