I want to start by saying: Work/Life balance is a myth. By that I mean there’s no “black and white” definition of how you can give the people and tasks in your life the focus that they need or deserve. By thinking that there is some “magic formula” that will give you this mythical gift, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, and worse, a sense of failure. It’s not about work/life balance, it’s about BALANCE.
I want you to think about balance as having PERSPECTIVE on your life. Perspective is having a healthy view of what matters in our lives AT THE MOMENT WE ARE IN RIGHT NOW, with a focus on where we want to be in the future.
Think about this: juggling all the people and tasks in our lives are like juggling four kinds of balls – some of these balls are rubber (they will not only survive a drop, but will bounce back), some are glass (they will break if dropped), some are metal (they will survive a drop, although they will suffer a ‘ding’ or two), and the others are of wood (they might break if dropped, but can be repaired). Each aspect of our lives falls into one of these categories. Using this theory, think about putting your life into perspective this way:
RUBBER: Housecleaning, yard work, other peripheral tasks
GLASS: Family, faith, values
METAL: Work, organizational commitments
WOOD: Friends, neighbors
Putting our lives into perspective (“balance”) is never the same as we move through the different “chapters” of our lives. In our youth, work might have the primary focus; as we get older, family might be our focus, as we move into our middle years, faith – friends – adventure might be our focus; as we reach the mature years, our focus might be health, wealth and contentment.
What are some “Zink-isms” that will help you wade through the muddy waters of establishing balance in your life?
- Start by asking yourself three questions:
- What is the most important thing to you right now?
- In 5 years, what will you wish you had prioritized right now?
- If all your “stuff” was gone (money, friends, possessions), what would be your first priority?
After you answer these questions, look at where you are spending your time, energy and resources right now. Are your actions in line with what you value?
- Next, set boundaries that keep your actions in line with your priorities
- This involves learning to say ‘no’ effectively
- This involves telling yourself what your boundaries are, so that you can verbalize them to others.
- I will NOT work weekends
- I will NOT accept a co-workers workload when he/she has not budgeted enough (time, resources)
- I will NOT work after 6 pm more than two nights per week
- I WILL eat dinner with my family 3 nights per week
- I will NOT miss Bobby’s (or Suzy’s) games this season
Setting priorities and establishing boundaries are the two most powerful tools to regain perspective in your life. Once you have done this, then you will be able to move forward to work on the second most powerful tools in putting your life into perspective.
Here’s a brutal truth: You only have 168 hours per week. Assuming you sleep 8 hours per night (HA!), that leaves 112 hours per week. If your work and your commute take 10 hours per day, that leaves 62 hours per week.
Now tell me, where’s that 62 hours per week going? How can you gain more control of where your 62 hours go?
Below I’ve listed the four “containers” that I believe you can use to sort your time:
- Personal sanity – time for yourself and the things that “fill your pitcher”
- Family and friends – the relationships that matter
- Commuting and housekeeping – time behind the wheel, household tasks, tasks that keep your life running smoothly (banking, groceries, cleaners, etc)
- Work – what makes you money?
I challenge you to take control of your destiny:
- Using the criteria above, identify what you value.
- Keep a time log (no cheating!) for one week.
- Compare your values to your log
Change your behavior, change your life.