Work-Life Balance: Enjoy the Ride!

I am always amazed at the “coincidental” timing of things in my life.  The more I see it happening, the less I think it’s truly coincidence, but that’s a discussion for another day.  Last week I was planning to write this post about work-life balance, and then life handed me a great lesson about that very subject.  So, one week later things have settled back down and I am finally getting to this post.  I don’t claim to be an expert on work-life balance by any means, but it is something I work through every day so I would like to offer my viewpoint and hear what you have to say.  I’m hoping to get some good tips from the readers on this one!

I am a recent graduate, 5 years out of school.  In the last 18 months I have bought into the practice that I work at, had a baby, taken on volunteer leadership roles in both the AVMA and Iowa VMA, joined the Missions Team at my local church, and in the last week have gotten a new puppy.  (what was I thinking on that last one?!)  Family is my number one priority through all of this, so in an attempt to make my schedule reflect that priority I have reduced my work week to 30 hours rather than 50.

So, here’s a few things I do to try to keep a healthy balance in my life.

1.  Check-in often.  I’ve always heard that if you want to see if your actions match your priorities, you should take a look at your calendar and your check book (or online statement these days).  Are you spending your time and your money in the right places?  If it’s hard for you to see this yourself, check-in with your spouse, family, friends, whoever you have to hold you accountable.  In fact, if this is something you really struggle with, enlist a friend to be your accountability partner.  Get together, talk, or email regularly to hold each other accountable.

2.  Get rid of the guilt.  No one is perfect and no one can do everything.  When I worked full time, I tried to leave home at home and work at work.  This may work for you, but it did not work for me.  This might have something to do with the fact that I work in a family business with my father in a small town.  Now that I work 30 hours a week, I have made the decision that sometimes I am going to have to do work at home, and sometimes I will have to take care of personal things at work.  For example, I am writing this blog post at 7:00 am before my daughter wakes up for the day.  And most months, my daughter comes to work with me for our staff meetings (since they fall on my day off).  I’ve found that it’s too difficult for me to keep things separate at this stage in my life.  So, I’ve made the decision that there will be overlap, and I will not feel guilty about it.  This approach may not work for you depending on the details of your work/life situation, but what I’m saying is find a system that works for you and get rid of the guilt!

3.    Accept the fact that work-life balance is a journey, not a destination.  I have realized that I will never reach some magical endpoint where I say “There, everything in my life is perfectly balanced, now I can just sit back and relax.”  Well, maybe retirement…  If I’m lucky…  Work-Life balance is imperfect and ever changing.  Everyday I make a decision to try to keep all these things in my life balanced.  That does not mean that every day is balanced, but for me it means that over time most things come out about even.  Last week, the scales tipped to the personal side and work had to take a back seat to family.  For the next two weeks, I think work will have the advantage.     If I look at work-life balance as a process that can continually be changed and adapted to my current situation, then it decreases the stress that I feel.  If it’s a journey, not a destination then I can enjoy the ride instead of wondering when am I going to “get there.”

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