Work life balance has become something of an internet buzzword over the past few years. Although more and more people are becoming aware of the importance of work-life balance, many are still unclear about what it entails. For people that are still in the dark about what work life balance is, this article should be informative and revealing.
Work life balance definitions
To better illustrate what work life balance is, let’s take a look at some ‘official’ definitions.
Cambridge Dictionary defines work-life balance as the amount of time spent doing a job, as compared to the amount of time spent with your family and on things you enjoy.
As defined by Forbes, work-life balance is one of the most important components of a healthy work environment. The publication further describes work-life balance as essential to reducing stress and preventing burnout in the workplace.
Finally, Wikipedia defines work-life balance as the “lack of opposition between work and other life roles.” The site further describes it as a “state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal.”
Wikipedia goes on to state that work-life balance consists of “flexible work arrangements that allow employees to carry out other life programs and practices.”
What is work life balance for you?
Of course, your definition of work life balance might differ slightly, or it may be perfectly aligned with one or all of the above definitions.
For most people, “work-life balance” refers to the push and pull between work and life, and how both sides combine to create a bigger whole. If you can find a combination that works best for you and gives you the maximum enjoyment out of life, you can be said to have achieved work-life balance.
What work life balance is not
When defining work-life balance, it might also be helpful to describe what it is not. One thing that most people can agree on is that the balance between work and life is rarely, if ever, equal.
Striving for a balance between both sides of the equation is essential of course. But always trying to ensure that both sides weigh equally is an exercise in frustration. Doing so is bound to fail and will likely leave you frustrated.
It is also important to realize that there is no magic pill or a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone has different ideas for what constitutes a healthy work-life balance.
In addition, circumstances change for everyone over time. Even if you feel you have the perfect work-life balance right now, there is a good chance you will need to make some adjustments down the line. One of the core concepts of maintaining proper work-life balance is continually working to improve that balance in the face of life changes.
Purpose and fulfillment
One thing that may help you achieve proper work-life balance is focusing on two primary motivating factors: purpose and fulfillment.
In the most basic scenario, purpose is the primary driving force behind why we work or start a career. Simply put, we get up and go to work every day to satisfy our sense of purpose. For many people, the act of working provides satisfaction and reassurance that we are getting something done.
The other side of the coin is fulfillment. While work gives most people a sense of purpose, it is the other, more personal aspects of our lives that provide us with fulfillment.
Let’s go with the dictionary definitions to illustrate each. Purpose can be defined as the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.
For some people, fulfillment comes from being able to afford material possessions and luxury items. For others, it comes from being able to go on vacations any time they want or to cater to their loved ones’ every whim.
Gaining a deeper understanding of purpose and fulfillment could be the key to enabling us to achieve a perfect work-life balance. It may explain why we do the things we do, what drives us to make certain life decisions, and what motivates us to keep going in the face of adversity.
For many people, the optimal work-life balance could only be achieved by giving equal focus and prominence to purpose and fulfillment. A life that is focused solely on purpose could lead to fatigue, burn out, and even chronic illness. Conversely, a life focused exclusively on fulfillment could leave one without a sense of direction and an inability to achieve goals.
Here’s a simple exercise that may help you get on the road toward achieving a healthy work-life balance.
Make a list of career or work-related goals that you could reasonably achieve over the next few weeks or months. These could be anything from reorganizing your workspace to figuring out a more efficient way to sort data. The important thing is to identify tasks that you can accomplish in a reasonably short period.
Next, list down a few medium-term goals, say, from a few months to a year. You could start learning a new programming language, for example, or restructure your department. These tasks should ideally result in perceptible benefits that you could enjoy over the long-term.
Finally, list down where you want to be or what you hope to accomplish in five to ten years. You could work toward becoming a department head, for example, or be in an entirely different career.
This exercise should give you a sort of roadmap or blueprint for achieving short, medium, and long-term goals. Putting together such a roadmap gives you an actionable set of objectives that you can begin working towards immediately. As you rack up each succeeding victory, you will start to feel a sense of purpose as the road forms underneath you.
Do the same thing for your personal life. Set some goals that you wish to achieve over the next few months. You could plan to start a regular exercise routine, for example, or spend more time at home.
Your medium-term personal goals could include splitting your time more evenly between home and the office. Or you could go on that European trip you have been planning since you started earning money. Again, these goals should ideally be achievable within the next several months to a year.
Finally, your longer-term goals could include retiring, spending all your time on your passion, or simply enjoying your family. The important thing is to set goals that are a) achievable and b) contribute to your personal fulfillment.
In closing, keep in mind that the ideal work-life balance is not the same for everybody. In fact, it could even be said that the perfect work-life balance doesn’t exist. Rather than beating yourself up by making sure that all aspects of your life are perfectly equal, it would perhaps be better to find the mix that works for you.
What does this mean? You may find that spending more time at work and less time at home is the optimal arrangement for you. On the other hand, you may find that working fewer hours and spending more time on your hobbies is what gives you the most satisfaction.
The bottom line is this: find the work-life balance that works for you, and don’t be afraid to shake things up from time to time. Life is rarely ever neat and organized, so it makes no sense to compartmentalize your work and personal life into strictly equal halves. Identify the things that give you purpose and fulfillment, organize your life toward achieving them, and make it happen!