I’m sorry to disappoint you but there is no big secret or special formula to achieving that “balance” in life that seems to elude even the best of us.
It is simply about time management.
Ensuring that you spend sufficient time on the important areas of your life will create the right balance. Spending too much or too little time on certain areas will set things off balance. The key lies in how you allocate and balance the amount of time you spend in these six areas of your life:
We’re talking to you, Ms/Mr Workaholic, for who “work-life balance” isn’t even something you bother aspiring to anymore.
If you are spending way too much time at work and the other areas of your life are being neglected, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your priorities in life. It might be time to take a break, even if it is a short one, because everyone needs time off to rest and recharge every now and then.
Can’t take a break right now? Schedule one for the future. Taking a break does not necessarily mean travelling overseas; it could just be having some downtime and doing something you enjoy, like enrolling yourself for a cooking class over the weekend, for example.
Even while working, you are advised to take short breaks. The most common tip would be to look away from the computer screen every hour or so to give your eyes a rest. Better still if your office has a window: look out at some greenery, as this helps ease eyestrain.
Moving on from those straightforward, practical tips, we are going to go deep now.
Besides the obvious motivations like paying the bills, most of the time, there is some underlying reason as to why workaholics bury themselves in work. And we’re not just talking about people who clock in an hour or two of overtime a day. But the serious workaholics who can never unplug, those who regularly bring work home and toil away late into the night and on weekends.
As much as you may genuinely love your work, look deeper at the real reason you don’t seem to have a life outside of work. Are you defined by your work or job title? Do you feel like you have something to prove? Are you overcompensating because you feel like you are never good enough? Or could you even be spending extra time in the office to avoid dealing with a failing marriage or relationship? Whatever it may be, you need to understand the real reason why you let your work consume you.
We may not like to admit it but we let our emotions overrun us sometimes.
We may start off strong with our concepts of love; the only crime being, becoming overly obsessed about the loves of our lives. We pour all our energy into this one person, making them our life’s mission, and end up neglecting other areas of our lives.
While it is important to build on your relationship, you need to know when to jump in to give it your all, and when to let go. Being obsessive can be suffocating. You might choke the life out of your partner, without even meaning to. This is where personal space becomes important. You will need to set aside your own space and time to pursue other things that are important to you as well.
It is actually quite common for people to lose their individuality and sense of self when they are in a relationship. And when it comes to an end, their whole world crumbles and they wonder what hit them. This might have been avoided by just managing the time and effort spent in the relationship.
On the flipside, not spending enough time with your significant other can also fracture the relationship. If the person is important enough to you, you need to make time no matter how busy you are.
It is essential to spend time together as well as apart and to achieve balance in this area, you need to understand your needs as well as those of your partners’ so that both of you have the right amount of time and space you both need as individuals.
Humans are social creatures. While we do get busy, especially with work and our romantic relationships taking up a significant chunk of our lives, it is important to have friends and maintain friendships.
Keeping in touch and making time for friends needs to be an important part of life. You do not want to be the type of friend who only calls when you need help or require something from the person.
The type of friend you are to others – how you treat and regard activity partners, old schoolmates and colleagues – defines who you are as a person. If you are someone who is only nice to people who are of some benefit to you, then that motivation will become transparent to others in time.
If and when you decide to have children, you will need to teach a child how to establish friendships and how to regard their friends. You will be setting the example of what friendship really means.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who spend too much time with their friends. You also do not want to spend all your time with friends, because you will need to be productive in other areas of your life, too. Sometimes, you may need to learn to say ‘no’ to certain social gatherings and events in order to focus on other areas of your life, which may really need your attention. Your friends will still be your friends at the end of the day, even if you miss out on an event or two. And real friends will be understanding and supportive in encouraging you to work on other aspects of your life. Friends who are not supportive are not true friends. They are probably self-centred and only have their personal agenda in mind. Take a look at the nature of your existing friendships and decide if any adjustments need to be made.
Family should always come first. Whether it is the family you were born into, or the family you have created with your partner, you should invest a good amount of time with the family. While most people are there for their family in time of need, which is the way it should be, it is important to go beyond the call of duty and build real relationships by spending quality time with your nearest and dearest.
We make sacrifices for the family all the time. However, these priorities can sometimes be misplaced. To provide for the family translates to being the breadwinner or to contribute to the family financially. However, having a family transcends beyond financial responsibility. The most common example is where the father spends all his time at work in order to support the family, and everyone behaves like strangers.
Some situations cannot be helped and we make do. But there are people who actually do not want to spend time with their family. They may dislike or have issues with certain family members and thus avoid spending time with the family at all costs. They may be intolerant and unforgiving about past hurts and this breeds contempt and bitterness, which creates animosity in the home. They may take sides and the family is divided. Often, they feel more inclined to avoid the situation by spending as little time as possible in the home.
While it is easier said than done, they should in fact be spending more time together in order to understand each other and try repairing the broken bonds. Each family is different and the family dynamics can also be very different so you will need to find the right amount of time needed to maintain good family relationships.
If the relationships have seemingly soured beyond repair, you may wish to seek professional counselling or therapy.
Whether you subscribe to any religion, it is my belief that everyone needs some form of spirituality in their lives. Spirituality is essentially the search for inner peace, be it in the form of prayers, quiet reflection or meditation. It is good daily practice and discipline to spend some quiet time to nourish your inner spirit. This gives us a sense of grounding and helps us feel more balanced.
Last but not least, putting aside “me-time” for yourself is important as it defines who you are as an individual.
This is downtime away from family, work and other commitments. It is a special time set aside for yourself where you choose what you would like to do, just for you. This is your time to rest, recover, feed your soul, and entertain yourself, and it can be in the form of spirituality, hobbies, travelling, sport, art, so on and so forth. Whatever you choose to do with this time, remember that this is a time for you and only you.
While committing more time on a certain task can promote excellence and lead to expertise in the area of focus, one must remember not to neglect other areas that are also important and require attention.
You only have 24 hours in a day, so spend it wisely!