Finding the work life balance is a tough one. Where does work end and play start, particularly if work is your life for example? Starting a new job after nearly a year and a half of unemployment, suddenly made it hard for me to find a healthy balance between the two. I was catapulted from 100% “manage your own time ” into a very demanding job.
When I was unemployed, I wrote several posts on how this could be a positive experience if approached in the right way, and I still believe that. Having your own time to do what you want is a luxury that we are very quick to forget, and we complain too soon that we have too much time on our hands and are bored. But trust me, once you are back in the game you long for those days.
Some people are addicted to their work: they love what they do, they are so passionate that working is more fun that it is a chore, and being permanently connected is a natural part of their lives. Others are addicted because they feel they have to be, because they feel that it’s required of them to be constantly available. And then there are those who manage to leave at 6pm every day like clockwork.
So how do you strike the balance? I am all for keeping an active social life. Having passions and activities outside of work is healthy, it gives you a reason to leave the office, or perhaps a reason to wake up early in the morning to get your exercise in before you go to work. It’s also a form of release, allowing you to free your mind of any clutter and simply enjoy the present moment.
But sometimes you have so much to do you don’t know where to start. Sometimes you’re so drained when you come home that you don’t have the energy to go back out to yoga, or to cook yourself a meal… And before you know it, work has slowly crept up on you and taken over your social life.
Where is the work life balance and how to find it? In the end, there are several answers to this.
1. Know yourself – Maybe you really enjoy work and are passionate about what you do. Maybe it’s not a chore at all for you to work long days and be thinking of ideas for work on the weekend. That’s fine, everyone’s balance is different, just make sure you know what yours is and where your limits are.
2. Know what you want – What is it that you’re looking for? Do you want to majorly progress in your career in the next 5 years? Are you thinking of a career change? Are you thinking of starting a family? Depending on the phase you’re in, or where career ranks on your level of priorities, perhaps putting in extra hours is the right thing for you at this time. Or maybe not. Just make sure that you’re clear on what you’re hoping to gain from it.
3. Know your limits – know how far you can push yourself and how much is too much. I’ve been through some tough times and come out the other side. I know how much I can take. Make sure you are aware of your own limits or you will risk pushing yourself too far.
4. Learn to say no – you’ll have heard this one many times before, but it’s true. Don’t feel obliged to take on every single piece of work that comes your way. Don’t feel obliged to do something at the very last hour on a Friday, don’t feel obliged… to do anything. Of course it’s important to do your job enthusiastically and be supportive. But that doesn’t mean you have to take on everyone else’s job too. Just make sure you remember to say no when you think you are becoming overburdened.
5. Remember what you enjoy doing – It’s easy to get sucked into work and be really stressed about everything there is to do. It can take over and become the sole focus, and before you know it you’re staying late, working weekends and worrying about work all the time. Don’t forget what you enjoy to do, be it reading, running, cooking… Remind yourself to do it every now and then, and when you feel happy to be doing it, try to do it more often. Don’t lose sight of those small things that keep you going.