People seem to be shying away from the term “work-life balance” in favor of newer terms like “work-life integration.”
I’m not a fan. I believe in traditional work life balance, the kind where you work hard and focus while you are working, and then fully engage in your personal life when work is over.
I’m reminded of the great poet/philosopher, Mr. Miyagi, who said,
-Karate “yes.” Safe.
-Karate “no.” Safe.
-Karate “guess so." Squished, just like grape.
An “aways on” approach where you are theoretically integrating your work and your personal life at the same time is great way to get squished, just like grape.
But it's tough. It requires discipline and constant monitoring to make sure both your employer and you are getting a good deal.
Here are a few ideas on how to improve work-life balance.
1. Take commitments you make to yourself just as seriously as the commitments you make to others: This is the “secure your oxygen mask first,” idea. With a change in cabin pressure, you put the mask first on yourself, then on your favorite child, and then the next favorite, and so on. It’s about priorities, people.
2. Do as your manager says, not as your manager does: Your manager may work on vacation or email late at night, but he or she may not expect the same of you. So, have open conversations on what is expected of you and present your ideas on how you plan to deliver. If you need to ask, “do you expect me to reply immediately to the emails you send late at night?” then ask it. The answer is likely “no," but if the answer is “yes,” at least you now know and can take next steps based on that information.
3. Never say to yourself, “if I can just get through the next XX days/weeks/months, then things will get better”: This is usually not true. The time to take control and prioritize is today.
4. Disconnect: This can help your personal and work life. I do some of my best work on airplanes where I don't have wi-fi. It's wonderful. Sometimes it's better to eliminate the temptation to get online or check email incessantly than it is to constantly find the willpower to resist every second of every day.
5. Allow yourself some exceptions: All of this is easier said than done. There will be emergencies. There will be times when you need to work late, lose sleep, and disappoint loved ones. But the key word here is EXCEPTION.