I remember the day that my soon-to-be husband got his first pager. He was so excited to be considered important enough to be given a company pager because, to him, it meant that he was now the new go-to guy—the guy who could be trusted to fix any problem that came up, day or night. He could hardly contain himself!
I, on the other hand, wanted to throw the pager in toilet after its third day on my sweetie’s hip. He had received no less than twenty-five pages during the few hours we had spent together during these three days. This left me wondering where the line had been crossed between work and home. It also made me think about how I was going to get my fiancé to become more engaged in his life outside of work when he was so unfairly lured by the demands of the people who support his self-esteem and who also pay his bills.
What we needed was a work-life balance plan. I had heard of these before, but had never put one together myself. After going through the process, here’s what I have learned:
1. Figure out your priorities.
In order to achieve a work-life balance, you first need to figure out what really makes you happy. Is it your family? Your friends? Your career? Something else? Take a moment to write down, in order of importance, what really matters to you most. This will help you establish what it is you really want to spend your time on. If something is not on the list or is rated a low priority, you need to give serious consideration to eliminating this item from your life altogether. By sticking to mid-to-high priority items, you can start building a life that you can be proud of and are excited to actively participate in, not one that you are just going through the motions with.
2. Focus on a few activities.
Let’s face it. Most of us are extremely over-programmed. Every minute of our lives is taken up with various activities that, at some point, we thought we wanted to participate in. The reality is that some or even most of these activities are just drains on our time. If you are serious about achieving a happy work-life balance, then you need to figure out which activities you just can’t live without and focus solely on them. You’ll be amazed at how much time, stress, and energy you’ll save by whittling your activity commitment down to just one or two really rewarding ones.
3. Learn how to say no.
One of the things that gets us into the most trouble with our work-life balance is our inability to say no. As human beings, we have empathy for one another and we really do not want to let anyone down. In the meantime, we are letting ourselves down because every time we accept a new responsibility, we are taking time away from our personal priorities. Saying no is not easy and it can takes lots of practice in order to find a way that makes both you and the person you are saying no to feel comfortable with the outcome. But in doing so, you are freeing yourself and your time to focus on things that matter most to you.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Life can be overwhelming, even when we are organized and have our priorities in line. The fact is that everyone needs help sometimes. By not asking for help, we are creating more stress in our lives that can be damaging to our overall health. Stress alone can bring on other health issues. As an example, pre-diabetes can be caused by Insulin Resistance-related obesity, which, in turn, may be brought on by stress. Various forms of stress release the steroid cortisol, and this process may result in weight gain. And we all know that added weight can bring on additional complications like high cholesterol and heart disease.
So what types of things can you do to relieve some of this stress and avoid potential health risks? Ask a neighbor to watch your kids while you go to dinner with your spouse. Or have a neighborhood kid mow your lawn so that you can spend some quality doing something else that you love. The extra effort is worth it as you keep your life and your relationships on track and keep stress down to a minimum.
5. Always have something to look forward to.
We all are a little happier when we have a vacation, fun activity, or big family gathering coming up on the calendar. Everybody’s work calendar is booked with various activities, so why not your home calendar as well? Planning special events will enhance your life by allowing you to keep those personal relationships with friends and family strong. So turn off your cell phone and make the most of these special occasions. You might find that you have more of a skip in your step at work because of it!