Thursday, March 10, 2011
The work-life balance
It is a nice word but the reality is hard to pin down. It may not even put us on the right track in our 21st century quest for fulfillment and happiness. Generally, than people talk about work-life balance, they mean the challenge of managing their family commitment when they have children, while juggling the demands of a career. That is the traditional focus, but the concept has evolved quite a bit. There are now many younger people in the workforce, in their late 20s and early 30s, who may not even have home or family but they want a sense of balance in their life.
Often we are thinking of some sort of perfection, where nothing is out of place, there is no stress, and this of course is unrealistic. It automatically means a trade-off between work and life. If I give more time to my family, I will not be able to do my job properly, or if I spend more time on the job, my family will suffer. Yet I want to be able to have it all, to do it all, right now.
Let us think about integration, which means bringing the various pieces of our lives into a cohesive whole. We each have many roles, goals, responsibilities and life plans. We have to get it together. The attractive idea of finding ways to bring life into a unity will give us the harmony and happiness we seek.
Experience shows what people who have very clear priorities and their own clear definition of success succeed best at balancing their lives. They know what is most important in their lives. These are people who can say, before it happens: If I have to make a choice, if work and family come head to head, I know what my biggest priority is. People who realize it may have slow their career for a period, perhaps while a child is younger, and have a less demanding job so they can have more time at home. In addition, they can be at peace with that, because their definition of success is not necessarily the one that society tells them.
Usually we have to just go through life and let the new promotion or the new demands of the job dictate what you do, to feel you do not have a choice. This is not balanced life road. We need to stop and reflect, communicate more with your husband, your wife, your manager at work, and be more pro-active.
The today's truth is that we have too much to do. Technology has changed things and made people accessible 24 hours a day, encroaching on the peaceful time people used to have. Yet some things do not change. We still have 24 hours a day. We all have the same amount of time and how we use it comes down to a personal choice.
The disorganization traits usually come from avoiding the choice and try to do too much. Even a simple thing like, deciding what are we going to have for dinner tonight, can become a huge job if we feel, Oh, I've a lot of work and will not be able to do grocery shopping. Obviously, if we have the knowledge and skills to make something simpler than we are going to gain more time.
For balanced life-planning and other basic management skills have to be used at home as well as in the workplace. One of the reasons why many people prefer going out to work to working at home is what we are very organized in the workplace, we use time management there, and then we come home and just ride the waves, consuming ourselves with the latest problem that has cropped up.
However, there is nothing wrong with wanting to go out to work. We do need multiple interests to enrich our lives and many times, we have talents that we need to give to the workplace and to the world. Nevertheless, it is true that work on the job is often more attractive because it is more project-oriented and very linear, and at the end of that piece of work we get the praise and a sense of accomplishment, whereas at home every day it is the same thing.
Human beings have certain basic needs that have to be taken care of every day, and although we can feel a sense of accomplishment that we have organized something at home, it is soon going to be dirtied again, or another meal is going to have to be put on the table. Moreover, this means changing your sense of where you get your satisfaction - not just from accomplishing the task or from the process of doing it, but from the motive.
We are all expecting a reward or praise for completed work. Lack of reward will kill our desire to work what leads to reduced productivity. This is why we prefer working for others than doing something for ourselves. Promise yourself a reward for completing each task or finishing the total job. For example, let yourself watch an interesting movie when you finish developing page or new promotion plan.