Trying to find that elusive work-life balance? You’re not the only one! Many people feel like the lines between work and life have blurred, and they have little control over how their time is spent.
As productivity coach Laura Stack, MBA, said, “busy is the new normal.” According to Stack, “There’s a temptation every day for every one of us to be workaholics.” And she feels the pressure as well. “After all, aren’t we all busy? Ask people today, ‘How are you?’ and you will most likely hear, ‘Oh, I have been so busy.’ Hey, who’s not?”
How people weave together their personal life with their profession varies. What works for one person won’t work for another. It boils down to whatever is best for you. Still, it can help to know how others are able to wear so many different hats and juggle job and household.
So we talked with several experts, including productivity coaches and clinical psychologists, about what a work-life balance means to them, how they make it happen and what they do to overcome common challenges. You just might pick up a pointer or two for your own life.
What Work-Life Balance Means to Me
For Vicki Hess, RN, a consultant, speaker and author of SHIFT to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy & Remarkable Results at Work, finding a traditional work-life balance is tricky because she works from home. But she’s not striving to achieve a balance anyway.
Instead, she defines a “work-life balance” by her energy levels and feelings. She said:
“Work-life balance to me is a state of mind where you feel like you have energy and enthusiasm for the events of your personal and professional life. As an independent consultant and speaker, I work from home so the lines are blurred. Work-life balance means I can play golf on Thursday afternoon when the course is less crowded and work on Sunday afternoon while it’s raining. I don’t think of ‘balance’ as being a set of equal scales—but more a feeling of being content with the distribution of energy. If you love your work, then you enjoy the time spent there so the time may be imbalanced, but you’re OK with that.”
Christine Louise Hohlbaum, author of The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time In Our 24/7 World, pays more attention to purpose. She said:
“We get into trouble when we treat our work lives as polar opposites to our personal lives. In today’s world, we blend both and should embrace that. Work-life balance is really about being in alignment with your truest purpose and making choices based on that purpose.”
In other words, for Hohlbaum, it’s about “being in alignment with who you are no matter what you are doing.”
Balance between the personal and professional isn’t a concern for psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D, either. According to Palladino, also author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload: “My life is much bigger than my work. I feel balanced when I center myself in my life, not my work.”
Stack, who’s also author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best, agrees. Even though many of us are passionate about our professions, she said that it’s important to remember that “you are not defined by what you do professionally. Your tombstone will not say, ‘Productive, hard-working employee.’”
According to Sara Caputo, MA, productivity coach, consultant and trainer at Radiant Organizing and author of the forthcoming e-book The Productivity Puzzle, it means attending to all areas of her life. She said:
“Work-life balance for me means that I can fit into a day a little of everything. For example I can get some exercise, I can work with a client or speak at an event, I can see, smell and hold my kiddos (and hopefully tuck them into bed at night) and at the end of the day, I can feel as though I have touched upon the areas that are important to me in my life right now. […]
I guess for me work-life balance means that I am taking care of myself and taking the time for me that I need to feel grounded and supported without guilt and without hesitation. I know that when I do this, I show up better in all areas of my life.”