Is it ironic that the tagline for 2019’s International Women’s Day was “Balance for Better”? While obviously the balance they were trying to strike is completely different from what I will be discussing today in this article. But I personally feel work-life balance has a huge hand to play to make better the balance of woman at work.
I have realized that when you provide more flexibility to work hours, allowing work from home or uncapped holidays, increases the happiness quotient of the employees, which in turn improves employee satisfaction, leading to better retention. So while companies feel that they are doing a favor to the employees by allowing a balanced work life, they are actually the ones benefiting the most. So how can you better your work-life balance?
Most of us try to fit in too much in the little time we have. Our day can be divided into only three quarters. What we choose to fill that time with is a decision we need to make wisely. A tweet by Randy Zuckerburg that went viral in 2011, made all of us think of work-life balance in a different way. She said that one can pick only three things out of work, family, friendships, fitness, and sleep. Hence, here the emphasis is on prioritizing what is most important to you at that time in life. Studies show that success is not achieved by balancing everything well all the time, but by focusing on what’s most important at that point in time for you.
For example, if you had a critical project that needed all your attention for the next 3 months and you gave all it required by sacrificing the rest, you most likely will achieve the goals and reap the benefits. Later, you can take a few weeks off, to go and spend time with your family or relax with friends or catch up on your sleep and hobbies. This is what work-life balance should look like.
Start with tracking your work day and weekends or holidays for a few weeks. You will soon see the things that you spend your time on. Now mark those activities under the three categories that you have chosen as discussed above. Next assign them into the four quadrants, Urgent – Not Urgent and Important – Not Important. Here you will see your current life for each of those categories. Find out what activities are a sheer waste of time and how you can eliminate those. Also, you will be able to complete the most urgent tasks first thereby eliminating stress. Being aware of how you use your work and free time and living that out consciously will help you to have a more balanced and fulfilled day as a whole.
Once we have identified our three most important priorities as a whole, for example we choose – work, family and fitness, then we will have to design our schedule around that. One cannot achieve results without working hard. We will have to let go of much to achieve much. So we may have to compromise on our sleeping habits, weekend plans with friends, or sometimes even our family. Make small changes to start with, for example, sleeping early and waking up early, this way you can achieve much before your work day begins. However, remember always to choose good changes. Don’t choose partying on a weekday because you prioritize your friends and thereby land up groggy to work or worse have to take a leave. Recent studies show that it takes 66 days or more for a habit to be formed. So be patient and be consistent in your change.
Balance can be achieved only when we draw a clear line between work and our personal life. Yes, there will be days when one will take priority over the other. Like an illness in the family, weddings or urgent projects, client visits, onsite opportunities at work. However, for the larger part of your life, things will be pretty stable. That’s when striking the balance is called for. So when you are enjoying a meal with your family, do not check your phone to see if you have any urgent emails. Especially over the weekends and late evenings once your home, switch off your work phone and laptop. I would suggest to keep it out of sight. The key to enjoying life after work is to just be present. Similarly, on the other hand, when at work, keep your distractions to the minimum. Avoid checking your WhatsApp each time it beeps, keep your phone on silent or vibrate mode. Do not check your social media pages across different platforms and avoid making or taking personal calls that are not urgent at work. What I usually do is, use my travel time from office to home to catch up with my friends on call (using headphones). These small things help to not only strike the balance but enjoy and focus on living in the present.
I have often noticed that between work and family, we can get exhausted and feel depleted. Hence, set aside at least one hour each day for yourself. Use that time to go for a walk or run, read books, listen to music or simply just watch television. This is your time to unwind and recharge yourself. People depend on you at work and at home, hence it is important for you to ensure that you take good care of yourself and not get exhausted. I find this extremely important. Some days I am only catching up on my sleep or reading, while on others I am completing all the pending task at home or simply relaxing and enjoying the company of my family. Each downtime can be different. I would suggest going for a walk after dinner or creating a habit of reading at least one chapter of a novel each day. This is essential as you prepare yourself for the next day to do it all over again.