Do you get a little snarky when someone mentions work/life balance? No surprise if you do.
Many of us have trouble walking the fine line between fulfilling, sustaining work and a fulfilling, sustaining home. It often seems that demands of one or both are out of our control, that we’re only able to respond to needs rather than call the shots.
The end of the year can be a particular pell-mell race with the added (often self-inflicted) holiday pressures. So the easier-said-than-done suggestion today is to find time to take stock of just that — your time.
A recent Accounting Principals survey found that 63 percent of responding workers said they had missed a family birthday party, kids’ events or holiday celebrations because of work. For most of us, those aren’t choices because we didn’t want to attend. They’re because we kept work commitments.
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On one hand, that’s highly commendable. Conscientious work commitment is why we’re employed. On the other hand, it ignores what I’ve heard many times: “Nobody says on their deathbeds, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.’” And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve interviewed retiring executives who say their proudest accomplishments are their families, not what they did at work.
So how do you achieve your preferred work/life balance — before you retire or die? Most workers have to show up when they’re told; the “work from anywhere” subculture has permeated only part of the white-collar, Internet-enabled workforce. Millions of workers have little to no scheduling flexibility.
One de-stresser involves keeping a really good planning calendar. If you know of a personal activity far enough ahead of time, you have a better chance of asking for and getting that time off. Most bosses have personal lives too and can understand. They’re likely to try to accommodate your wishes, provided you consistently get your expected work done.
Another balancing tip is to be conscious of the particular times that cause the greatest stress. Is it the morning rush out the door? Lay out clothes and make lunches the night before. Is it the freeway traffic snarl? Try side-street route options or public transportation. Is it that you’re tied to your desk while your colleagues go out for lunch? Don’t be a martyr. Look out for yourself. Make time to get up and move around every day. And schedule a meeting with your boss for a serious conversation about workload allocation.
A third balancing goal involves close assessment of your spending habits. Most people find that working has transportation, food and clothing costs that bite into their household budgets more than if they stayed home. Financial pinches are a huge cause of stress that can make your life seem unbalanced. Be sure you’re spending wisely day to day to improve your odds of having money left for vacations, gifts and special events that put respite and joy in your personal life.