We are often exposed to the term “Work-Life Balance”, an idea that stresses having a good balance between your work and personal time. While this idea might sound appealing, it implies a strict tradeoff in which the time not spent on personal matters is being sacrificed on work.
David Ballard, director of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Organizational Excellence, told CNN Money, “I think the way work-life balance gets talked about is frequently inaccurate. The ‘balance’ part of it is implying you’re equally dividing time and energy, which isn’t necessarily the case.” Those of us who have attempted to create this balance know all too well that it is impossible to perfectly split your work and personal lives because they are often being affected by one another.
Instead, we should be thinking in terms of “Work-Life Harmony”. The idea of work-life harmony integrates work into your life rather than separating the two, changing the way you think and feel about your work and personal life. According to the philosophy Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, shares with his employees, it is important to focus on being happy at work and in your life, which includes prioritizing your well-being. For example, Bezos tries to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. “If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion,” Bezos said to Thrive in 2016. It’s all about how you can adjust your work and/or life to make the two harmonize.
So how can you find your work-life harmony?
Separating work and life is nearly impossible as they inherently affect one another. If work is causing you stress, you bring that home and affect your life and those around you. If you’re going to the gym more, your life choices are benefiting your energy levels at work. If you get a raise at work, you can put more savings away to buy a home to better your life. If you decide to start a family, you may have a different capacity for work. The list goes on. The point here is that when we step back and find ways to make work and life harmonize together, the greater happiness we can achieve.
Ask yourself how you can improve your life by adjusting something at work (and vice versa). Take a look at aspects of life or work that are having a negative/positive impact on the other and see what changes or improvements can be made. Start there and you will start to feel that you are living to your fullest potential.
When we try to “balance” our lives by thinking of time spent on either work or life, we are ignoring our priorities at hand, which can lead to distractions.
Use the day before you start your work week to plan out your priority focus for the week. This includes focusing on what is important over what is urgent. One of the best ways to decide which tasks are priority is by using the Eisenhower Matrix. The Matrix is a tool invented by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, when he was having difficulty prioritizing his tasks. The Eisenhower Matrix allows you to separate your priorities into what is important, not important, urgent, and not urgent. The below is an example of what the Eisenhower Matrix would look like today:
Source: Better Marketing
Once you have your tasks prioritized, instead of allotting a certain amount of time to them each day, break them down into smaller steps you want to complete for the day. This will allow you to think in terms of priority rather than time and you’ll soon find that you have more time than you initially expected.
It’s going to be impossible to find work-life harmony if you hate what you do for a living, so start by finding purpose in your work. Ask yourself how you help the workflow of your organization and think about how you affect it. Knowing how you play a part in helping your organization grow is a great way to see how you belong.
Some other ways to find purpose in your workplace:
Finding work-life harmony means thinking of both work and life as having a positive impact on you and your happiness. Think about areas in your work and personal life that have the most positive or negative effects on you. Use the positive factors as motivators to help you improve the things that have the most negative impact on you. Your attitude and mood can have major effects on your mental and physical health.
According an article on behaviors that impact physical and mental health, negative attitudes and moods can influence your behavior putting you at risk for depression, anxiety, aggression, and physiological stress. Positive moods, on the other hand, increase the likelihood of physical and mental health by lowering these risk factors. Identifying what affects you the most and working to make it a more positive impact will help you improve both work and life to support your mental and physical health.