There are books and websites and TV shows that claim to teach the secrets to living a life of balance. With the madness of everyday life, achieving a “balanced life” has become the dream that every adult strives for. Being the best you can be without breaking a sweat.
It’s become the “have it all” of the 21st century: Excelling at work, raising brilliant and well-behaved kids, pursuing high education to move up in your career and keeping an exciting and loving relationship with a spouse. Of course, taking on every aspect of your life is a recipe for failure, and will stress you out even more.
5 Ways to Measure Your Work Life Balance
Instead of holding on to the lofty idea of complete work life balance, start small. Look for areas of your life that need improvement—you’re bound to find more than a few—and concentrate on them, one at a time. If you can identify with any of the five scenarios below, it might be a little painful to evaluate yourself like this. But it’s all part of making your life less hectic and more productive.
Your co-workers avoid eye contact until after your second cup of coffee
You can’t function without coffee. It’s pretty much a given that you’re not fit for human interaction until you’ve had a cup or two. And the absence of coffee automatically means that you will be worthless for the entirety of the work day. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem: Caffeine might be your drug of choice, what gives you the boost to get through the morning. Consider limiting your caffeine intake and finding other ways to jumpstart your day.
While caffeine addiction is real, you may also want to evaluate your nightly routine. How many hours of sleep do you get? Do you go to bed at the same time each night? How do you wind down and prepare yourself for sleep? Our bodies need sleep, and if you’re not getting enough, it can affect your body in a host of nasty ways. Committing to a sleep schedule can help you get the rest you need.
The people at McDonald’s know your child’s middle name
Keeping your kids fed and watered is a little easier when you can get dinner from a drive-through window, but it’s not a good way to teach your kids about good nutrition. Make time on the weekends to do some batch cooking, and recruit your kids as your sous chefs: You’ll be making healthy meals that will last you through the week, and you’ll get to spend some quality time with your little ones!
Your “professional development” plan hasn’t really developed
Gunning for a promotion at work, but your skill set isn’t where it needs to be? The Internet has been an excellent tool for education: Not only can you research your career and find out what skill sets are generally needed for the job, but you can find information about online education and earning a degree without traveling to a physical campus.
Your last date occurred in a different decade
Carving out the time for a personal life can be especially tough if you’ve got a busy life already. If you’re married or have a significant other, finding some quality time might require scheduling it months in advance. If you’re single, get out there as much as you can: Ask your friends to introduce you to single folks, create a profile on an online dating site, whatever makes you comfortable. You won’t meet anyone if you never make yourself available.
If you’ve already got a better half with an equally crazy schedule, go ahead and pull out that day planner. Even scheduled quality time is worth it—and your relationship will benefit from the two of you committing to spending time together.
Your to-do list never, ever shrinks
You dream of a day when your inbox isn’t full of unread e-mails, when your Outlook calendar doesn’t look like a collection of colored building blocks, when you’re already behind before you walk through the door. You’ve always got a million things to do, and you never feel like you’re on top of things.
Technology is sometimes a wonderful thing. If you have a smartphone, productivity apps like Evernote can keep all of your notes and reminders handy and synched with your computer. Google’s apps for Calendar and e-mail run seamlessly on most Android phones, and apps like Skype help you stay in touch, via IM or video chat, with coworkers and colleagues.
The trick is taking all of these suggestions and finding a way to make them all work for you. It was mentioned earlier, but it’s still important: Don’t bite off more than you can chew!
Look at each aspect of your life—work, school, health, personal relationships—and concentrate on one at a time. You might never achieve perfect balance, but taking the time to make your life more efficient could tip the scales in your favor.
How do you achieve work life balance? Do you know you lack it?
Photo by jenny downing via Flickr.