Walking a Tight Wire: Work/Life Balance

Back in the day before smart phones and laptops, or G-docs and Skype, it was easier to leave work at work. But now, the lines get very blurry very fast, creating tremendous stress and pressure to work longer hours, work from home, work during your commute … work all the time. But that’s a fast track to exhaustion, burnout, and serious physical and mental health problems, not to mention extensive damage to personal relationships.

None of us can magically expand time, at least in this realm, so the alternative is to re-think the work/life balance. It’s not easy, but it’s a goal worth pursuing as we all have only so many trips around the sun!

Here are some tips:

  • Kick perfectionism to the curb. Nobody’s perfect. Nobody. It’s an impossible, self-destructive goal. Let it go.
  • Make a list. Put family events on a calendar and keep a daily to-do list at home and at work. Having a plan helps you maintain focus. When you don’t, it’s easy to be sucked into other people’s plans and priorities.
  • Learn to say no. Whether it’s a co-worker asking for help on a project or your child’s teacher asking you to organize a class party, remember that NO is a reasonable option. Avoid being motivated by guilt or obligation, so that you’ll have more time for things that are meaningful to you.
  • Unplug. Check emails no more than three times a day — late morning, early afternoon and late in the day, otherwise it can be a bottomless, needy pit.
  • Leave work at work. Despite the abundance of technology, make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time. And use the technology to your advantage! Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting, or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you’re likely to be.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise. Meditate. Eat clean, healthy foods. Sleep. See your loved ones. Get acupuncture or massage. Read a book. In the wise words of the safety instructions on an airplane, “Secure your oxygen mask first, and then assist others.” If you can’t take care of your own work/life balance, then you can’t help anyone else, either!