When we talk about finding balance in life, most of us are referring to the concept of a perfect blend of time and energy between our personal life and our professional life. If you spend any time at all in the real world, you know how difficult this can be. Regardless of what type of job or career you have, trying to find time to fit in a personal life can seem like a daunting task.
The good news is that although it may be difficult, finding balance is not impossible. I recently worked with a client who was near her breaking point. She was in upper management in a mid-sized corporation, and was experiencing what so many had since the recession. Her company had been up-sized, down-sized, right-sized–just about every type of size there was. The result was being asked to do more with less, produce better results faster, and be thankful she had survived all the layoffs and closures. The company she has originally joined had lost its feeling of humanity and compassion, leaving the staff stressed out and exhausted.
As Susan tried to navigate the changes over the last few years, she became more and more obsessed with her work. Longer hours at the office, always available via email, text or phone at any hour, weekends prepping for business trips. Without really realizing it, she slowly exchanged her personal life for her job and career advancement. In this economy, she believed it was the only way to protect her family from the economic downturn.
When she came to me, it is safe to say there was no balance in Susan’s life. She was exhausted, stressed, and overweight. Her job frustrated her but she had no idea how to make a change for the better.
Together we reviewed how much time she actually spent working. Not surprisingly, it was considerably more than 60 hours a week. If she wanted to regain some balance and improve her health, she would need to establish boundaries to protect her personal time.
She started slowly, first telling her colleagues she would not be answering emails or texts after 8:00 pm. She began to set a time for leaving the office, and when that time came–she left. She took back most of her weekends, leaving a window to catch up on loose ends or prepare for the coming week. It was never realistic to think she could only work forty hours a week, but she wanted to limit the time spent working outside of the office, and let people know when she was available.
Once she created a new time frame, she introduced exercise into her week. Pilates and yoga after work and occasionally on the weekends. With her new fitness program in place, she began making dinner with her husband during the week, getting to know him again. Weekends are now spent mostly with family and dogs, and she couldn’t be happier.
Susan created a balance that worked for her. She is at a healthy weight, exercises regularly, eats well, and manages her stress. Yes, she still works more than forty hours, but now her employer and colleagues know what to expect of her, and she doesn’t worry that not returning an email after hours will create a firestorm the next day. Most importantly, she enjoys her work again. She is also able to put it aside at a specified time, and focus on other areas of her life that are just as important to her.
And that–in today’s world–is what balance is really about.
How do you create balance in your life? I’d love to hear about it.