The very mention of the term ‘work-life balance’ evokes several reactions as well as interpretations from people. Does it mean that you don’t work too much or you prioritize your personal life over work? It actually means neither. And there is not one size fits all. The definition can vary. Work-life balance does not mean dividing time equally between your work and personal life. It can be defined as a meaningful and purposeful balance between work, family and most importantly, one’s own self.
There are concerted efforts across the globe to ensure adequate work-life balance, with initiatives by governments, organizations and groups. According to research published by OECD, Americans work approximately 34.4 hours per week on an average while its 32.2 hours a week in the UK. Countries such as Finland, Norway and Germany are much lower at less than 30 hours in the week. Sweden has reduced working hours to 6 hours in the day. This has been done with an aim to improve the work life balance.
We lead busy lives but enjoy our work and of course, find solace at home and personal things that give us simple pleasures. Here are five key elements to achieving work life balance:
1. Prioritize your tasks
Our lives are routinely dictated by tasks we have to achieve, either at the work place or at home. One can write down tasks for the day and then prioritize them. Once you do that, you will realize that there are so many tasks we set out to do which are not important – either for that day or at all. And this goes for tasks at work and home. Now you know the ones that need your personal involvement and the ones that can be very well be delegated to a reliable resource, who in fact, could be an expert at doing it than yourself.
2. Unplug and give technology some rest
This is easier said and done in today’s hyper connected world. So much of our lives depend on telephones, mobile phones, emails and chats. There is constant pressure to be accessible all the time. Think about 30 or 40 years ago, when there were no mobile phones or emails and how people communicated and kept abreast of all the happenings around. We don’t need to go that far back but it’s good to get away from it all for a few hours. Let your assistant take care of your email and phone call, there is a lot to do once one unplugs – read a book, do some gardening, play with your kids, savor a coffee at a coffee shop and so on. Just an hour or two in the day and your stress levels will also come down.
3. Manage your time effectively
Another important element we find mythical is time management. In today’s world, where we are juggling between several activities and tasks, we try to maximize the 24 hours available to us in the day. Sometimes it feels like these hours are just not enough to achieve the goals of the day. While there is a lot of expert advice, training sessions and mentors that advice you on time management, the important aspect to realize is that we don’t need to achieve everything ourselves. Time management also means effective delegation – getting someone else to do your routine and essential but non-key tasks. This will ensure that your time is spent on the most critical activities and yet, other tasks are not missed out.
4. Indulge in some personal “me” time
In today’s fast paced lives, we play different roles as members of a family, organization, or a social group. But as an individual, we also need time to re-group in our minds and ‘take care’ of ourselves. A person who stretches thin is neither productive nor engaging with his environment. Having an external resource take care of your routine chores can help free up some time for a guilt-free relaxing ‘me’ time.
5. Get over the fear of delegation
A lot of times, we find it difficult to let go. Whether it’s at work or at home, we let our insecurities and uncertainties take over and hesitate to delegate. There are so many tasks we can hand over to someone else. Once we decide that there could be other people or entities that can take over your tasks and do them for you, we also begin to relieve the stress from our lives. Considering personal outsourcing can be one of the easiest ways to achieve the work-life balance. You can hire a virtual assistant to competently complete tasks that you would do yourself. You can get the efficiency and the accuracy, without having to worry about completing the tasks yourself. Imagine a personal assistant paying your bills online, filing your taxes, organizing your mailbox, sending a gift to a friend whose birthday is round the corner and so many other things. Personal outsourcing allows you to off-load tasks that can easily be done by someone else when you don’t have the time to do them.
Work-life balance may seem like an illusion to some while to others; it may be a dream to achieve. Whatever the reasons, in our fast-paced, hectic and super-connected world, we cannot afford to take on the stress of daily living and yet achieve a balance in our lives.