If you are like 89% of workers surveyed in an online study, work-life balance is an enigma at best.
Knowing how to make work-life balance work can be the difference between having happiness and always chasing happiness. After all, happiness is what you’re really after, right?
The process of achieving balance in your work and personal lives has both conceptual and practical components. Let’s start with the concept of happiness. Your reasons for learning how to make work-life balance work may sound something like this: “I want to be successful at work so I can be happy at home.”
The happiness you seek actually has a science of its own. While it is more common than not to think of success as a conduit to happiness, the truth is quite the opposite. Ninety percent of happiness is actually not predicted by the external world, but by our internal processing of it.
So what does that say about success, and how to make work-life balance work for you? Consider that 75% of success is predicted by optimism, social support, and perceiving stress as a challenge, not a threat. Why is that important to our discussion here?
It’s important because it challenges the impossible-to-achieve formula of “working harder = success = happiness.” If all you cared about were scaling that ladder and dragging home big slabs of bacon, this might not matter. You might not even mind selling your soul to the company store for the right price. But you have a life outside of work — your motivation for working in the first place.
By raising the level of positivity in the present, your brain functions better. This phenomenon, called the “happy advantage,” means that your brain “in the positive” performs better than when it is in negative, neutral, or under stress.
By changing the lens through which you see the world, you can purposefully and strategically improve your work-life balance.
Start by being honest about the congruity — or lack thereof — between your work life and personal life. Recognize and acknowledge that certain career choices are more compatible with time-demanding commitments than others. Being a new partner at the firm while raising a handful of kids under five may not be realistic. At least not if you expect “healthy” and “happy” to register both at home and at work.
Being clear about what “success” looks like in both of the major arenas of your life is essential to achieving it. You then need to start taking control by enforcing the boundaries you want in your life. If you don’t decide what matters, your job will happily do so for you. Create your list of non-negotiables and devote non-negotiable time to them. You are the one who is responsible for designing your life, even if you rank low on the corporate ladder.
Approach balance with balance. As you spend more time addressing how you want your life to look, you will recognize areas formerly clumped together. Give attention to each of them individually — marital, parental, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical. Small, manageable changes can have big impact.
Learning how to make work-life balance work for you is a process, not a quick fix. Exercise can help keep your mind clear and working efficiently during the balancing act. Research has shown that people who exercise report decreased stress and increased confidence in their abilities to handle conflict. Exercise proved to be both a detachment from work and a source of empowerment. Be mindful, however, to keep exercise in balance, too.
Clean out the waste — the time-waste, that is. When a full work day leaves only a precious few hours at the end for those you love, every minute counts. If you are distracting from your workload by answering personal emails and indulging in social media, you are chiseling away at your family time that awaits. Tidy up your time waste and reward your effort by spending time in a life area that has missed you.
Did you know that people in Denmark have the best work-life balance in the world? 96% say they have friends and/or family they can count on in tough times. Cliché as it sounds, it really does take a village to make life work. And it’s up to you to help build the one you want to live in. Learn to delegate, and trade favors with friends, neighbors and coworkers to create a win-win for everyone.
No matter what you do for a living or how big your home and family are, happiness starts with you. It starts with a decision…and a shift in perspective. Making work-life balance work comes down to priorities and productivity with time invested. And the goal is not about having the most money, but about a life well lived.
If you are wondering how to make work-life balance work for you, please reach out. We can help you map out your ideal balanced day, week, year and life, then give you the steps you need to work toward it.