Work-Life Balance is a topic that has been shredded to its core. I have an uncanny feeling that the whole thing started to be discussed after women started joining the workforce. I am not saying that the concept of work-life balance does not exist for the man or that men do not need to bring about some such equilibrium into their lives. However, the level of juggling that most men need to do is limited to basically three aspects -work, time spent with family and friends, personal time for hobbies. There are obviously specific ways in which different men decide to spend this time and bring about the balance (if they do!). Women, on the other hand, need to juggle much more.
I did not intend this article to be a feminist one and therefore I am going to take a detour from this flow of thought to focus on what one can do to bring about a better work-life balance in life.
It’s Easier Than You Think
After I quit my corporate job of 15 years, I took a couple of years to get used to not going to work every morning. Not knowing how busy I would be, or the amount of money I would make in the month was not something I was used to. In the initial years after I quit my job, I fretted every month about whether I would achieve my revenue target or not. While I am not quite proud of it, there was one thing that made me realize that I had it better than the others still slogging in the corporate world.
Each time we went out for drinks or a social gathering, the topic of discussion ended up being the horrors of a corporate job. I’ll admit that when I heard people complain about the time it took in transit, the traffic, an idiosyncratic boss, late work hours, lack of time for family and self, deadline pressures, work stress, and office politics I felt I got saved just in time before it consumed me.
So, is work-life balance an impossible situation to achieve? Can you obtain a more holistic life only after you quit this corporate rut? Is there a way to stop the corporate world from taking over your life and consuming you completely?
The answer to this is yes, there is a way to a work-life balance even when you are working in the big bad world of corporate biggies.
Barriers to Getting the Work-Life Balance You So Want
Often, the one thing that is standing in the way of a better equilibrium in your life is you! Get brutal with yourself and ask these questions:
- Do you really want to achieve this balance or are you happy being a workaholic and just complaining about not finding time for family?
- There is nothing wrong in loving your job and wanting to word hard to get better at it each day. There is also nothing wrong in having the passion to make it big. It may, however, be difficult for you to explain this to others because it is almost sacrilegious to say that you want to spend more time at office or work than you do at home or with friends. On top of that society has started giving a lot of attention to me-time. It is important that you shut off the peripheral noise and look deep inside you to discover what you want. If you really feel that there is a part of your life that you are missing out on due to the work pressure, then there is something you can do about it.
- What changes are you willing to make to your current lifestyle in order to achieve this balance?
- If you are sure that you do want to achieve a certain balance, the next thing to understand is that you only have 24 hours in a day, some of which need to be reserved for sleep, nutrition, and ablutions each day. The rest is what you can juggle with. But it is a constant sum game. So, are you willing to take some time from work and put it into another pile? This does not mean that you will become less efficient at work. There are ways in which you can pack in a lot during the hours that you put into your work and those that you spend otherwise.
- Are you worried you will lose your position in your office if you spend less time in office?
- Often enough we are made to believe that the amount of time that you spend in office indicates your level of commitment towards the job. And yet, we know many who spend late evenings at work, ordering dinner, having coffee, gossiping and trying to make an impression by punching out later in the evening.
- Do you worry about your growth in the organization?
- Results always speak for themselves. Yes, there is always the client dinner that you will have to attend and the conferences that you may have to attend to make yourself visible in the networking world, but your growth in the organization is not linked to the number of hours you spend there, it is linked to the key result areas that you are working on in your company. If you can get yourself to understand and believe that, you will get over the nagging feeling that your colleague will get that promotion because he/she is spending more time in office.
After you have answered these questions and feel you still want to try and live a more holistic life, read on and find out how you can achieve this balance.
6 Key Steps Towards a Holistic Life
Priorities – The first thing to do is to make a list of all priorities that you have. Rank them in order so you know what comes first. Remember to be true to yourself and don’t let peripheral thoughts cloud your own mind. It is possible too that you may realize that you need a change in your job or work scenario to make things completely whole for you.
Ideal Work and Home Scenario – Creating the ideal work and home scenarios in your mind helps in understanding how you would like to spend your time. If you are working with a coach, these aspects will come out in discussions. However, if you are doing this on your own, make sure to write things down so you yourself gain the clarity that you need. Often enough, we think of these things in casual manner and do not pay heed to the specifics when thinking of these things casually.
Time Management – Make a broad chart of the priorities that you have and the amount of time that you spend on each of those. This is will give you how much of your life’s chart of dominated by one or the other. Create the ideal chart for yourself too so you will know where to pend lesser time and the area where you need to spend more time. This exercise can be done at a broad level or a drilled down level of specific activities too.
Asking for Help – Remember managing a lot of things in your life is not easy and trying to do everything on your own may not be the smartest thing to do. Don’t shy away from asking for help if you realize that you need someone to pitch in. This could be your mother, father, aunt or spouse. Asking for help does not mean you cannot manage your life on your own. It means that you are aware of the situation and know when to reach out to those who love you and want to help anyways.
Learning to Say No – It is very easy for others to lean on someone who finds it difficult to say no. Not everyone asks you to do things out of malicious intent, but it is far easier to just ask someone who will take on a task without saying no. Be a master of your own time and priorities and set boundaries to ensure that people do not walk all over you. If you lay yourself down as an easy target, you should take responsibility of your actions.
Handling Guilt – Guilt is not an emotion that is natural. People in different cultures feel guilty about different things. The things that an Indian might feel guilty about may be completely different from those that an American will. This establishes that guilt is associated with deep values and beliefs that are created and set inside our minds at the early stages of life. It also establishes that guilt is an emotion that is triggered by external forces. Be confident about what you are doing and know that you are the only person who can know the best way to handle your affairs, irrespective of what anyone else says or has said in the past.