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Finding your work-life balance
If you're anything like me, you're having trouble with work-life balance. Technology makes us accessible around the clock, and a pandemic leading to many of us working from home means we never go home from work. The desk, the phone, the email, are always there - watching us, beckoning us. If I do it now, I won't have to do it tomorrow. What if someone needs me? There's no question that all of this time, stress and pressure can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness. I once heard that work-life balance can be described as meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of four life quadrants: work, family, friends and self. So how do we achieve these without burning out?
One of the most important things we can do in our lives is to draw firm boundaries, giving us some time to devote quality time to the high-priority people and activities in our lives. I will admit I am terrible at this, and my laptop is a blessing and a curse.Janice Berliner, 2021
In my life, I have a busy full time job that has lots of unexpected situations pulling me away from what I thought my day would look like. There is my house, which always seems to need something. And then there are my kids, who in all fairness are no longer kids. All three were home for a good part of the pandemic, and now one by one are leaving. The empty nest we had before the pandemic was put on hold for quite a while, to my utter joy. Hate the pandemic, but love the fact that I had more time with my adult children than I ever could have hoped for. But it all takes time.
Then, consider the fact that I have recently become an author. I've always liked to write, and I fancy myself a talented editor. But a while back I took the plunge to write a novel, and now just finished the second one. It's not a job, it's a hobby. I'm not on a time table, and don't have to write a certain number of words or pages in a day. So why do I feel pressured to get it done once I start? The book could remain unwritten forever, what difference would it make? But once I start writing, I feel like I've got to make consistent progress with it, as if I took a break and went off course, I'd somehow not find my way back. My family asks why I'm working on a weekend. It's not work, I tell them, I love to write. I look forward to having the time to do it. I feel put upon if we have weekend plans and I won't have time to write.
So that's good, right? It means I love what I'm doing. I really do! But it becomes a second job, almost. And who did that to me? I did! Classic overachiever, that's me. When I was a teenager, my father occasionally took my sister and me to Yankee games. I would bring homework in case I had time during seventh inning stretch!
What do we do about all of this overachieving? It turns out that lots of us developed our perfectionist tendencies at a young age, when demands on our time were more limited. But of course as we get older and life gets more complicated, perfectionism becomes far more difficult, and can become destructive. It would seem that the healthier option would be to strive for excellence, not perfection.
But, oh, the technology
Technology has helped our lives in many ways, but it also makes us accessible at all times of day or night. I know my kids get annoyed with me, and tell me I'm more like a millennial than they are, when I look at my phone right away every time it beeps. Why do I do that? No reason other than that I can. When your boss can reach you during dinner, at your child's basketball game or choir concert, what's to stop him or her from expecting you to do the work during the game or the concert as well?
Self-care and setting boundaries
Exercise is an effective stress reducer, helping lift our moods by pumping endorphins through our bodies. So even if we don't have time for mega work-out routines, we should at least dedicate a little self-care time, whether it's exercise, yoga or meditation. My exercise of choice is Jazzercise on Demand, which has many different types of work-outs in varying lengths. I can do a 10 minute strength video if that's all I have time for, but at least I feel like I'm doing something for me.
One of the most important things we can do in our lives is to draw firm boundaries, giving us some time to devote quality time to the high-priority people and activities in our lives. I will admit I am terrible at this, and my laptop is a blessing and a curse. I am typing this at 11:10 pm while watching TV. I'm the queen of multi-tasking, to my family's dismay. I hear many choruses of "why can't you just relax?" each week. But when you like what you're doing, really like it, it does make it easier. One thing I think we should all do, no matter what, is focus on the people and activities that reward us the most. When it comes to being a good friend, spouse, parent or worker, this isn't selfish, it's survival. If you protect yourself, you are better equipped to be good to others.
Ask yourself what could make things easier
Sometimes we fall into a rut and assume things have to stay the way they are. It can really help to take stock of your life, and ask what changes would make life easier. Instead of trying to do it all, focus on activities you're best at and that mean the most to you. Delegate or outsource everything else, if at all possible. Figure out what you can let go of, and give others a chance to learn something new, freeing you up to devote attention to your higher priorities. In my life, this would mean teaching my husband to cook, but that's likely never going to happen. Thankfully he excels at ordering take-out!
If you're trying to change a certain aspect of your life, start small and experience some success. Then build from there. If you're trying to make drastic changes too quickly, it likely won't work, and the frustration of that can lead to a lack of motivation to keep trying. Take a small bite, chew and swallow, then take another bite. Otherwise you might choke. And if all else fails, toss it all and move to Tahiti.