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Walking the Tightrope: The Fine Art of Balancing Work and Life

When it comes to the work-life balance, the work part comes easily to most people. It’s the life side that’s tricky, as work seems to creep into life around every corner. Smartphones make it all too easy to check work email from home, especially as employers open up BYOD (bring your own device) policies that encourage employees to make their work and personal phones one and the same. If struggling to balance the two, it’s time to take a deep breath and consider some options.

In This Case One is Not a Lonely Number

If the work-life balancing difficulty has seemed to creep up, that’s because it’s been happening to a lot of people. Particularly as the recession hit, employers started demanding more of people. Furthermore, money stress drove people to work more in an effort to protect their jobs and position themselves for promotions that are hard to come by.

Statistics support the trend as well. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “in 2006, 53% of employees felt they had a good work-life balance; that number fell to 30% in the first quarter of 2009.” This means that two out of every three co-workers in the office probably feel the same way. Realize that this is happening to many people and start doing something to bring one’s life back into balance.

Work Better, Not Longer

When work is seeming to take over life, find ways to make the work happen more efficiently rather than having to work late.

Here are some strategies that may help getting out of the office on time become a reality:

1. Minimize time spent in non-working conversations with co-workers, particularly those who love spreading office gossip that isn’t really interesting.

2. Batch work as much as possible. Instead of jumping from writing to researching to e-mail to telephone calls, focus and complete one activity before moving ahead.

3. Complete 2 important tasks first every day. Then move on to those administrative details that aren’t important.

4. Save personal activities, like checking Facebook or managing online banking, for time at home. Enjoy them much more there, in one’s own space.

5. Switch gears on projects if it feels like a brick wall has presented itself and come back to it later with fresh perspective.

6. Take 5-minute breaks to get up, stretch, and clear your mind in the middle of the work day if feeling less productive.

As one manages time at work more efficiently, there will be more time for oneself and one’s family in the evenings. Being intentional about how home time is spent will also will help one make the most of it. Decide what’s really enjoyed, what makes life feel balanced and prioritize those activities and pursuits. It can be easy to slip into routines and habits of doing things that aren’t actually improving one’s quality of life.

Give Permission to Take a Day Off

Rather than going to the office and slogging through yet another day of work when it’s going to be seriously detrimental to one’s mood and well-being, don’t be afraid to go ahead and take a day off. Regardless of how integral one thinks their role is to the company, work will manage to get by without for one day.

Commit to not thinking about work at all during the day, even going as far as turning off phones and computers. Then spend the day doing enjoyable things. Take inspiration from these ideas:

1. Sleep in, then take a nap later in the day too.

2. Go to a yoga class.

3. Meditate while listening to a favorite instrumental musical piece.

4. Bake cookies or bread or some other delicious treat.

5. Get coffee with a friend, or if nobody’s available, take a book as a coffee shop date.

6. Make an appointment at the spa or salon for an afternoon of being pampered

A Wise Perspective

In 2005, Steve Jobs gave a speech at Stanford University that had some sage advice about a work-life balance. Although the audience was primarily college grads, his wisdom applies to everyone:

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, some days you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”


Bloomberg Businessweek: The Increasing Call for Work-Life Balance http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/mar2009/ca20090327_734197.htm

Forbes: Billionaires’ Advice for New College Grads http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eimh45ehjl/steve-jobs-live-each-day-as-if-it-was-your-last/

Ferriss, Timothy (2007). The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Crown Publishing Group.

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