Live to work, or work to live?
Busy, busy, busy …
A better balance between work and private life?
Do you live for the sake of your work, or do you work for the sake of your life? It is a frequently asked question regarding the balance between work and private life.
It’s a bit of an odd notion, actually: a balance between work and private life. How are you supposed to achieve this, in a world in which work and life are becoming increasingly mixed up? Finding and maintaining a balance between work and private life is a constant effort.
The trick is to realise that you only have one life, and that you are responsible for the quality of that life. So a good balance between work and private life is not really about work and private life, but about strain and relaxation.
An annual survey by the Hay Group reveals that 39% of the global workforce and 29% of the workforce in the Netherlands feels that work and life are out of balance. And as you know, you can’t keep a bow stretched all the time – for at a certain point the string will snap.
So it’s time for some improvement and a few rules of thumb!
Go for quality
You are the one shaping your work and life. So go for quality, and keep your eye focused on what you find important. This requires looking beyond the everyday humdrum and to find inspiration for your career and personal growth in various ways. Cultivate activities that you find gratifying, both as part of work and outside of work. If you know what matters most to you, then it becomes easier for you to determine what to spend time on and what to stop doing.
Formulate your goals
Once you have clear and motivating goals in your line of sight, then it becomes easier to make choices and plans. What are you good at, what can you mean for other people, what do you wish to achieve, and where do you want to be in, say, 5 years from now?
Determine your goals, but make sure that the goals are realistic and therefore attainable.
In the end it’s all about making choices. It’s fine to say that your work will have priority in the coming two weeks, or that you will devote your full time and attention to your family while on vacation. In other words, you need to learn to say NO, so that you can stop getting in your own way. It’s good to choose for yourself, once in a while. It will open things up and give you freedom. And then you can use that space and freedom to do the things that really make YOU happy.
It is neither effective nor efficient to want to be available to everyone all the time. Trying to be a super parent, super colleague and super partner all at once, is simply exhausting, and basically impossible to do. Make realistic schedules and feasible plans. This will increase your awareness of what is important to you.
In this way you can avoid being distracted by the whims of the day but can focus on what really matters to you.
Maintain your focus
Try to stick to your schedule and to focus on the things you do. Choose your activity carefully and then concentrate only on that activity. In other words, impose limits, both at work and in your private life. After all, nowadays you can be reached everywhere all the time.
Because we live in a culture of permanent availability we tend to respond immediately to each other’s messages, even if they are not urgent. If you live and work in that way, then soon there will be no more balance to speak of.
It will moreover reduce your effectiveness and undermine the quality of your time expenditure. So be very clear as to when you are available for work, and when not. Be sure to arrange some regular ‘offline’ time as well.
Look after your health
Your physical condition contributes significantly to your work-private life balance. Research has shown that half an hour of uninterrupted exercise a day produces a fitter feeling, more concentration, and less stress. A good night’s rest is important as well: six hours of sleep is the minimum, but most people need seven or eight hours. Make sure to take your rest and relaxation so that you feel fitter and can cope more easily with the stress and strain of daily work and life.