Five Ways to Create Your Own Balance in Work & Life

Defining Balance,WorkLife January 26, 2012 9:00 AM

Whenever I mention the phrase “work-life balance” I receive moans and groans from people. Rarely do I come across someone who has “it” all together. And by “it,” I mean “life.”

via lululemon athletica for flickr

Balance is a difficult word to use in this situation. Life is not a juggling game, where you dedicate the same percentage of time and energy to every aspect of your life. While that may be a nice thought, and certainly doable for some, it is not realistic. At this point, having a balance in your life means being able to live your life without the scale tipping so much to one side. And for many, that is the work side.

It’s like the days on the playground when someone much larger than you would invite you to play on the see-saw and you would inevitably get stuck in the air, hoping that your playmate would slowly get off his side so you wouldn’t come crashing down.

And isn’t that what happens to us when we put 100% of our time and effort into one thing? Eventually, we come crashing down.

In my corporate advertising days, work-life balance was non-existent. I longed to make it out of the office by 7pm to attend a gym class or to meet friends. I was usually there much later, giving myself enough time to eat a late dinner and go to sleep at the end of the day, only to repeat the same 12-14 hour day again and again.

Even after I completed my graduate degree specializing in the way organizations operate (thinking I could create a change), I realized that work-life balance had to come from within. 

Here are five ways to create your own balance, based on what I’ve learned over the years:

1) Prioritize

It’s less about balance, and more about prioritizing. There are many instances when we don’t have control over our work schedules, but that doesn’t mean we cannot fit in our priorities in other ways. If your priority is going to the gym, figure out a way to ask for flexible time at work, go before work, or during lunch. If it is a priority to you, you will make it happen.

2) Communicate

No one can read your mind. You have to tell your boss what you want. Prepare for an honest conversation about how you would like to work from now on. If you don’t talk about it, no one will know. And then it festers inside of you until you blow.

3) Say NO

Say no to work projects you don’t need to be on, weddings you don’t need to go to, and favors that are completely out of your realm. It’s hard to say no, but when you do, you will feel alive.

4) Be honest

Work-life balance is an issue everywhere. Changing companies doesn’t always provide the proper solution. Even companies that promote work-life balance don’t always act on it. Be very upfront with an organization before you enter it about what your priorities are and how to build in a flexible schedule. (But don’t be unrealistic.)

5) Explain the change

While this is an obvious statement, it is especially important concerning work-life balance. If your boss has been coming into the office at 9am and leaving at 8pm for five years, chances are high that he doesn’t want to disrupt this schedule. Or worse, he doesn’t think he can disrupt this schedule. You need to show proof and assure your boss that your output will not change once you introduce some more balance into your life.

What have you done to create a balance in your life?

(This was originally my guest post at the Habit-Forming Success blog by Angela Charles, M.S. – a highly recommended, powerful blog on working through what’s keeping you stuck and recapturing your purpose. Angela’s articles are perfectly crafted to help you understand psychology and communication.)