I work with coaching clients all the time who say they want to have better work-life balance. They talk about work-life balance like it is something tangible that’s just out of their reach. They feel like they’re doing something wrong because they don’t have it.
My response? There’s no such thing as work-life balance. But there is such a thing as life balance.
When people talk about wanting better work-life balance, what they are really talking about is wanting more time for the things that matter most to them. They feel the dissonance between how they are spending their time and how they want to be spending their time, and this makes them frustrated and unhappy.
Most people think if they could only work less, they would have more time for other things. This doesn’t necessarily lead to balance. True balance can only be achieved when you are satisfied with the energy you’re putting into and what you’re getting out of the different aspects of life that are important to your overall wellbeing.
To have better life balance, you need to make intentional decisions that support what you really want. Here are five ways to do this:
Know how you’re spending your time
It sounds simple, but most people don’t know the breakdown of what they spend time on each week. There’s an easy way to figure this out. Track, by the hour, how you spend your time during a normal week. Then, categorize your activities and count up the hours you spent during the week on each activity. What do you notice? You might find that you have more free time than you thought. Or maybe you’ll find that you’re spending a lot of time on things that really aren’t important to you – and not enough time on the things that ARE important to you.
Make decisions aligned with your values
Values are the things that matter most to you. Your values set the standard for how you want to live your life. When you make decisions that are aligned with your values, you will feel happy and fulfilled. However, when you make choices that go against your values, you will experience dissatisfaction and frustration. To get clarity on your values, try the activity listed here.
Focus on your overall wellbeing
Wellbeing is about living life positively and feeling fulfilled. Wellbeing requires balance among these five different elements: career wellbeing, social wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and community wellbeing. You can think of these elements as five spokes on a wheel. Each spoke must be the same length in order for the wheel to function properly. Similarly, we must have the same high level of satisfaction with each of the elements of wellbeing in order for us to function at our best. To learn more about wellbeing and take an assessment to measure your own wellbeing, check out this great book.
Don’t compare yourself to others
You won’t be happy or satisfied if you try to live your life by what other people think is right for you – only YOU know what is right for you. Don’t compare yourself to others and the choices they’ve made. Make choices that support your own values, goals, and ambitions and do things that promote your own wellbeing.
Realize things aren’t going to change unless you make a change
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If you are not satisfied with your overall wellbeing – if you do not feel like you are living a happy and fulfilled life – you must make a change. Otherwise, your wellbeing will not improve.
It IS possible to have balance in your life. But you’ll never be satisfied if you keep chasing the outdated concept of work-life balance, because it doesn’t exist. Instead, focus on your wellbeing.
Jene Kapela, Ed.D.
Do you need help improving your overall wellbeing? Contact Jene at firstname.lastname@example.org.