As someone who has helped countless clients, colleagues and friends set up home and mobile offices, I have been asked many times, “What is work life balance?” Most people have heard the term work life balance but most view it as a myth or believe the concept cannot apply to their own life. Their job is different. They’re too busy… too important. They’re a victim of their current set of circumstances.
What they should be asking me is, “What does the work life balance mean to you?” Have you ever heard the expression, no one ever died wishing they had spent more time at the office? I have and I believe that’s true. I also believe there are far busier people than me or you and they manage to make time for the things that matter.
Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, used to walk every morning for exercise. I can’t image too many jobs being more demanding than that of a Prime Minister. Yet, he found time to exercise. Famous Entrepreneur Richard Branson has built a multi-million dollar empire; yet he has found the time for his wife and children, as well as the occasional kite surfing adventure.
I’m not saying it’s easy to find time for everything; however, it is possible to find time for the most important things. What most people fail to do is define those important things and plan accordingly. I suggest you write some sort of personal mission statement, so you can define those things you want to take priority in your own life. So what is work life balance? It’s a trick question and your answer will depend on your own values and beliefs.
Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself, so you can work out what you value the most in your life:
Who you like spending your time with might determine your most valuable leisure hours. Spending time with your children, for example, might require you to be home during the afternoon. At this time your children will be home from school and it will be before their bed time. In contrast, you might have a partner who you would like to meet for lunch. You might prefer to take a long lunch and work back late to cover it –if that’s an option in your workplace.
Working a day job might not be the best thing for you if your favourite pastime is to spend your day at the shops. You might prefer shift work or something similar if retail therapy is really what you love… but if you enjoy the night life, you might prefer to work the day and party the night away.
Wait… don’t quit your job just yet. Today’s workplaces usually have a few options for how you work. You might prefer to work part time, work from home, use flexible hours or share a job with someone else. Ask your boss if there are other options before you burn all your bridges. You might be surprised at just how good new work arrangements can be for you.
Some jobs just will not be compatible with your personal values. I urge you to explore other options. Maybe the answer is to work for another company, change jobs, change careers, have a sea change or a tree change. The answer might be to take on shift work or even work for yourself as an entrepreneur.
Working out what you want is the very first step in lifestyle design. Building the life you want is only possible if you know what that is. I can’t tell you what your ideal life is because it will be different for every person. So the most critical step is to work out what you want to achieve in life and design your work around that.
I believe the biggest mistake people make is to make work their only priority year after year; believing that one day they will have time to live. That might be okay if you know when and how you are going to die but for the rest of us, we’re on borrowed time. The only way to make sure you ever have time for your family and the things that matter most is to make time for them here and now.