Balancing Work and Life

Cheats, hacks, and good ol’ common sense to help you make it all somehow work.

Remember when you used to tell your parents that you felt sick in hopes they would let you miss school and then they would respond with the dreaded “go get some fresh air”? Well, whether you would like to admit it or not, they were onto something.

All things considered, I’ve had but a few regrets in life. One of them was not discovering the music of folk troubadour Jim Croce until I was in my late 20’s.

Take the lyrics of “Time in a Bottle.” Croce simply states that “there never seems to be enough time to do the things you want to do, once you find them.” The stars that shine the brightest burn twice as fast- Jim was a prophet of truth.

Time is the one thing that no matter how rich you are, you’ll never be able to get enough of. In fact, one might even argue that the tradeoff for acquiring more wealth is exchanging your precious time straight up. Unless you were born truly independently wealthy and have a team of trusted professionals managing your fortune, most of us simply have to work.

So the million dollar question really is: how do we balance work and life perfectly? How do we juggle the things we want to do with the things we have to do and still feel alright about it all at the end of the day? There’s no true concrete answer to this conundrum, but there are things we can do to try to stabilize it all.

In other words… “prioritize.” That’s a nice little clutch word that very few of us truly know the meaning of. Author Stephen Covey once had a popular analogy with rocks, pebbles and sand in jars. The long and short of it is that without putting the bigger rocks in first- life’s proverbial “Big Things”- they simply wouldn’t fit if life’s “little things” were there first. In both work and home life, take a moment (or maybe a day, or week or whatever you need) and find out what your true priorities in life are. That’s the first step to making it all work.

A wise man once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” He was right. Everything in life will be just a tad clearer when you create goals for yourself, short term and long term. Want to have your article done and ready for proofing by day’s end? GOOD, stick to that goal! As your day
rolls at you, stay on target the best you can and push yourself to get that objective accomplished, even if it means letting more trivial matters slide. Completing these tasks on schedule will not only give you a boost of confidence but will encourage you to keep setting goals going forward. Speaking of which…

There’s nothing worse than a complete and utter waste of time. Seconds turn to minutes, minutes become hours, hours become days… you get the picture. The best thing we can do (once we are able to identify these activities, events, and yes even PEOPLE) is to break ties with them and move on with our lives. We can do it nicely and with class, but for the love of Pete, please refrain from wasting your precious time with these sorts of entities!

This one’s a biggie. There’s something going down on the job. There’s a big important event happening in your personal life. YOU need to make a call; which of these becomes your priority? It all depends, but in grudge matches such as this, I will almost always air to the family / home life event. Family is forever.
As much as it might hurt for any of us to admit, if we died tomorrow, there’s a very good chance the job posting for your vacant position would be posted well before your obituary. Kids are only young for so long, and time with family and friends should be treasured as tomorrow is never promised. I’m talking “Cats in the Cradle” stuff here, folks. Don’t regret.

In both the office and the home, you’re going to find times when the noise is so irritatingly loud that you won’t be able to hear yourself think. This is
just about the worst situation you can be in. If you’re willing and able to, pack up the laptop or tablet and relocate to a more peaceful location; it
makes all the difference. If you’re not blessed with that sort of mobility, invest in a nice pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Whether you tune
in to white noise, Whitesnake, or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a little bit of sound will drown the distractions out quite nicely. Watch your productivity

Don’t be a hero.
You might be thinking, “I can do it all. There’s a way to balance everything without missing a beat anywhere.” You’d be wrong. It might feel like we can manage things for a bit, but sooner or later, something has to give. The point is, even Superman had the Justice League to step in and give him a hand. You have your coworkers, family and friends there to cover your back. When you need help with things, ASK THEM! You’ll find that if love is in their heart (or, the boss is in the loop), others will step in and give you a hand with tasks when need be. That way, the job is wrapped up in a timely fashion and we can move on to things we really want to make time for. Which brings us to our next point…

I feel like I’ve been picking a bit on workaholics- maybe that’s true. There are actually people in the world who LOVE to work. And that’s cool. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that pushing yourself too hard for too long can have adverse effects on both your physical and psychological health. Not to mention the rule of diminishing returns- eventually, your efforts won’t be worth your payout. When that happens, it’s time to take a break. Maybe 15 minutes. Maybe a day off. And best of all, a vacation getaway. Leave the phone, iPad, and laptops powered off and spend some quality time with those you love even if it’s just YOU. If all goes well, you’ll return to the job you love oh-so-much rested, refreshed and ready to bring your work game to the next level.

The good news is, we aren’t the world’s first leading authority of work/life balance. But luckily for us, there are hundreds of books, blogs, and motivational speakers that can further help you realize and achieve your goal of balancing it all. Authors like Stephen Covey, David Allen, Seth Godin and Laura Vanderkam all have terrific books covering this very subject matter. Buying a $15 book seems like a small investment for something that can reap huge dividends in your life. Have very little time to read? Most of these are available on Audiobook for the commute to and from work!