Recently I have been reflecting on my work/life balance. To be honest, my life has been so unbalanced I could certainly provide a guide as to what NOT to do. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser, I have come to realise that to live a good life there needs to be moderation in everything. Something I am not good at.
Let me give you some background to help you understand where I am coming from. From 1982 to 1992 I studied for my business degrees part-time while working full time and trying to make my way up the corporate ladder. That was a Bachelors Degree in Business with majors in Marketing and Economics and then an MBA.
While working at least 40 hours per week for my employers, I was adding another 40 hours at least a week in studies. This is not what anyone would call work/life balance. In fact, I was spelling “fun” as “w-o-r-k”!!! If I wasn’t studying, I was working and if I wasn’t working, I was studying. My friends were my fellow students and if we got together for an evening it was either completing assignments or preparing for exams. Definitely not a balanced life!
Today, for me, a work/life balance is where there is time and space for earning a living, enjoying the company of family and friends, having regular holidays, time to exercise and time to ruminate. In other words, balance occurs where there is some sort of equitable distribution amongst all the aspects of one’s life.
Our lives are made up of many parts and I believe these include:
- Contribution to society
- Fun and Enjoyment
- Spiritual Development
I definitely did not have equal distribution amongst these aspects of my life – often because I felt I had no control over my time.
When I was halfway through my MBA, I decided that I needed to go out there on my own and start my own business. I needed more control over my life and a better balance, I thought. Well let me tell you, there is nothing like starting your own business while studying!!
Instead of working 80 hours a week, I was now working and worrying 24 hours on 24 hours, 7 days a week. Yep, I definitely got more balance!
Even when my studies come to an end and I only had to concentrate on my business, I thought, at last, I now have a chance for a better work/life balance.
Well, up until recently, I can say I have rarely had holidays longer than one week a year – if that some years. I have attempted to balance all the parts of my life but with little success. Work seems to have always gained the upper hand.
Not any more ….. Nowadays, I think I know why.
Balance in one’s life is based, I believe, on your personality drivers and personal values. In case you have not guessed yet, I am a type-A personality – very achievement-oriented, a workaholic. Everything I did in work needed to be as good as possible if not perfect….. Exhausting isn’t it????
These drivers and values rarely let me rest – there was always something bigger or better to achieve. As a result, there was little moderation in my life.
Over the past year, talking with my coaches (yes, I have more than one!) I have slowly changed some of my values. Whether that is a result of conscious effort or age or both, I am not sure. I now no longer work on weekends – big step there! This coming financial year my goal is not to work on Fridays – well most Fridays/Friday afternoons??
I am no longer driven to prove myself as much – I guess because I have already achieved much, to be truthful, and for which I am grateful. I try to take the time to read, to get together with family and friends and to even look after myself. Please note that try is the operative word here.
I believe I have a choice whether I want to work hard or whether I want time to play. It is MY values that will drive whether I really achieve balance or not in my life. The personal questions are how do I define balance? What is life/work balance for me?
Each one of us needs to find our own balance amongst all the different aspects of our lives. But first I believe we need to understand the values and drivers we hold about our self-worth and those values we want to hold close.
It is our choice how we live our lives and whether we really want to change our lives to have a greater work/life balance – whatever that may mean for each of us.
PS: To help you on your road, download the Wheel of Life to see which areas you need to work on to bring greater balance into your life.