We all know that in order to live our best lives, we need to find a sweet spot between the demands of our jobs and the demands of…everything else. These days, we have a name for this sweet spot: Work-life balance. But coining a phrase hasn’t helped most of us reach this sought-after place of contentment. And we don’t all agree on what the term means, or what perfect work-life balance actually looks like. Most of us just assume we’ll recognize it when we get there.
Here are a few ways to stop pining for balance and move closer to actually achieving it.
Decide what balance looks like to YOU.
What do you want your day to look like? Realistically? (Many of us would like to lie on the beach all afternoon, but that doesn’t pay the bills). What do you need most that you don’t currently have? An additional hour to yourself each day? Three more hours? Higher pay? More sleep? More time for your children or parents? More bandwidth for side projects? More status at work? List what you want in order of most urgent to least. Work-life balance does not look the same for everyone.
It’s okay to stand your ground. When you find an unmet need on the list above, you don’t have to internalize the problem or decide that you should just be a better worker, a better parent, etc, etc. It’s okay to look outward as you seek the source of the problem, so you can solve it. For example, maybe you leave work each day at a time that pleases nobody; your boss resents you for leaving at 5:01 (too early!) and the daycare center resents you for picking up your child at 4:59 (too late!). Get mad. Turn your problem-solving energy outward and claim the time that’s rightfully yours, not theirs. Leave at 5:00. Don’t apologize.
Shift responsibility to your spouse.
Make sure your husband or wife does their share at home, and be fair but consistent. The other spouse is an adult who should know how—and when—to brush a child’s teeth, fix a meal, service the car, mow the lawn, wash a pot, schedule an appointment or plan a birthday. These are small tasks, and they should not fall disproportionately to you. Communicate your definition of “balance” so the other person knows what you’re seeking. Listen when they share their definition as well. You may be surprised to find that your visions align perfectly, harmonize, or don’t align at all.
Put your plan in action.
Move toward your version of balance, and don’t be derailed by early stumbles. Just keep going. Change what doesn’t work. Stay in motion. Otherwise, your poorly balanced status quo will simply be your life.
Enjoy your success.
Perfect balance on Tuesday can fall to pieces on Wednesday and fall back into order by Friday. Celebrate Tuesday and Friday. You had a perfect work-life balance! For two days! That’s a big deal. And the more healthy, happy days you have, the more you’re likely to have as time goes by. Each balanced day is a victory, and they only happen one at a time. Respect and appreciate them—and yourself—as they pass. For more on how to advance your career AND your life, turn to the workplace pros at PSU.