What does the number 3.184 billion tell you?
Most of you will have a close connection to this number even if you’ve never heard it before. 3.184 billion is the number of working people in the world (according to CIA stats.) While this number is really enormous, there is another one that will surprise you even more. About 80% of these people experience on-the-job stress and about half of them need help managing this stress (Gallup study). Considering that stress is the #1 health problem in the US today (and one of the main factors contributing to heart attacks), work/life balance and job satisfaction are not topics that can be taken lightly.
What is your relationship with your job? Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you just tolerate it? Are you crazy about it (in a good sense)? No matter what your answer is I am sure that all of us can have a little bit more work/life balance to help us stay happy and stress-free most of the time.
Approach to work/life balance should be very personal because we all have different lives, different priorities in life and different types of jobs but there are 6 rules that can help anybody feel more “in-balance” no matter what life throws at you.
- Get clear on your priorities. The problem with work – life balance starts when we try to focus on too many things at the same time. You might be trying to be a good parent, to cook only home-made meals for the family, to have the hottest body around, spend a lot of time with your friends and at the same time have high-flying career goals. I personally haven’t met a person yet who can do it all at the same time. The art of work/life balance starts with prioritizing activities in your life and compromising.
The easiest way to set priorities in life is to ask yourself “What can’t I live without even one day?” If it’s your job then you will focus your entire life around your work (you can say good bye for the most part to free time and fun activities with your loved ones.) If you put your family first then you will be able to turn down a promotion if you realize that the extra money is probably not worth it.
There are always choices that each of us has to make. There is no right or wrong way of living, but when you set priorities you should prepare yourself for the consequences of your choices.
- One thing at a time. If you look at any A-type personality you will notice that single-tasking is the most difficult thing in the world for them. I know it for sure because I am this exact type of person. The result of doing a million things at the same time is stress, low productivity, over-exhaustion and burnout.
There are situations when you can combine a few tasks without any problems (you can usually combine tasks of different natures like walking and talking on the phone, thinking about a new project and working out etc.) but most of the time you have to stick to one thing.
In practice it would mean working with a single task at a time at work (at least if it’s possible.) If you work from home then you need to be working and not thinking about taking care of the kids or house chores. After work you need to stop thinking about projects or deadlines and focus on one thing: your free time or your family. There are always ways to do less, get more done and feel comfortable with your work load.
- Cut back on unnecessary activities. Unnecessary activities tend to clutter our schedule stealing precious time from the activities that we truly enjoy. Some of these examples can be watching TV, social media and Facebook, meeting people you don’t truly like etc.
Once you get your priorities clear then it should be easy for you to spot those unnecessary tasks. If you can say that you can live without this activity for a month (or forever!) then you can spend your time doing more important and meaningful things in life.
- Protect your “non-work” time. Your free time is an asset that you should protect at all costs. When we think about work we usually have certain hours that we have to spend working. We do not even think about other activities at that time.
For some reason when it comes to free time we forget how important it is. Yes, it won’t bring you any extra income and won’t get you a promotion at work but it will make you a happy and balanced person.
It’s a good idea to turn off your cell phone when you are away from work. If you work from home then it is vitally important to have a designated office area that you should not enter during your “off” hours. You should control your work load and not let it sabotage your rest. I’ll probably sound like an elementary school teacher, but still remember “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull (and unhappy!) boy.”
- Keep yourself clutter free. I don’t know about you but clutter drives me crazy (especially when I am working.) The more things you have on your desk, in your house or on your schedule the more projects you immediately envision ahead of you. The thought of having a ton of tasks ahead of you is enough to make you stressed out 24/7. It is easy to balance a few areas in life but when instead of 5-6 areas you see a zillion little things then balancing becomes a very difficult task.
Keep only your most essential things on your desk and in your house (you can find a few useful tips on decluttering your work space here). Declutter your schedule by getting read of unnecessary activities. It’s a good idea to have a decluttering day every month when you get rid of everything you do not need (I absolutely love those days. I feel so energized after I finish cleaning my desk, house and schedule.)
- Be great at your job. One of the secrets to finding work/life balance is being satisfied with your job. If you absolutely hate what you are doing then you won’t be able to find any balance in life (I am sorry if it sounds too negative.) I believe that we all choose jobs based on our needs, skills and desires.
If there is at least something that you love about your job then you should remind yourself about it as often as possible. When you are happy with what you are doing you are able to produce results, generate ideas and be great at whatever you are doing.
Focus on being productive, having indispensable knowledge in your field and being responsible with your tasks. Don’t confuse it with working over-time (when the only reward you can get is “Oh, that’s so nice of you to do this”), taking work home (remember about guarding your free time) or taking on projects that you are not responsible for.
These are just 6 basic principles of work/life balance though the topic is really enormous. Work is a huge part of our lives but it is not our whole life that is why balancing it with other activities is the basis of any life balance.
I am planning to write more about work/life balance and I would love to hear your questions on this topic. Do you feel that you have mastered the art of work/life balance or are you in the constant pursuit of it? What is the toughest part of this balance for you? Please share your comments below.
Keep it balanced!