Work-Life Balance: Reclaim Control of Your Life
Are you overscheduled and overstressed?
With today’s busy schedules you’re not alone.
Research suggests that people are experiencing a time squeeze, particularly women, and demographic trends suggest that this is not going to go away.
Just as you budget how you spend your money, it’s important to remember that budgeting is vital when you choose how to spend your time as well. This may seem like easy, but many of us still have trouble saying ‘no’ when someone asks us to commit our time to a worthy cause. All these worthy commitments can add up to lack of balance and excessive stress. It may be especially difficult to say no to commitments that benefit others, that speak to our ideals and values, or that may get us ahead in other areas. Indeed, those are often the commitments we should say yes to, but too many of these commitments can cause an excess of stress. This subject is geared more for women because they tend to juggle more roles, but men will find this subject very helpful as well.
One way to pare down your schedule is to get good at saying no to new commitments. Whether you say “yes” instead of no out of guilt, inner conflict, or a misguided notion that you can “do it all,” learning to say no to more requests can be one of the biggest favours you can do yourself and those you love. It helps reduce stress levels and gives you time for what’s really important.
Here’s how you do it:
- Just say, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this right now.” Use a sympathetic, but firm one. If pressured as to why, reply that it doesn’t fit with your schedule. Most reasonable people will accept this as an answer, so if someone keeps pressuring you, they’re being rude, and it’s OK to just repeat, “I’m sorry, but this doesn’t fit with my schedule,” and change the subject, or even walk away if you have to.
- If you’re uncomfortable being so firm, or are dealing with pushy people, it’s OK to say, “Let me think about it and get back to you.” This gives you a chance to review your schedule, as well as your feelings about saying “yes” to another commitment, do a cost-benefit analysis, and then get back to them with a yes or no. Most importantly, this tactic helps you avoid letting yourself be pressured into over-scheduling your life and taking on too much stress.
- If you would really like to do what they’re requesting, but don’t have the time (or are having trouble accepting that you don’t have the time), it’s fine to say, “I can’t do this, but I can…” and mention a lesser commitment that you can make. This way you’ll still be partially involved, but it will be on your own terms.
- Be firm – not defensive or overly apologetic – and polite. This gives you the signal that you are sympathetic, but will not easily change your mind if pressured.
- If you decide to tell the person you’ll get back to them, be matter-of-fact and not too promising. If you lead people to believe you’ll likely say “yes” later, they’ll be more disappointed with a later “no.”
- If asked for an explanation, remember that you really don’t owe anyone one. “It doesn’t fit with my schedule,” is perfectly acceptable.
- Remember that there are only so many hours in the day. This means that whatever you choose to take on limits your ability to do other things. So even if you somehow can fit a new commitment into your schedule, if it’s not more important than what you would have to give up to do it (including time for relaxation), you really don’t have the time in your schedule.
- Stress at work, the stress of raising children, the stresses that come with ageing parents- any of these situations could provide a moderately high amount of stress. When women are faced with multiple roles, all of which carry heavy demand, they face levels of stress that are high enough to contribute to health problem, missed work, and a diminished capacity to take on more. Finding balance of the roles we play and an “inner balance” can be challenging, but is vital to women’s health and wellbeing.
Striking a work-life balance
Work-life balance is a broad concept including proper prioritising between “work” (career and ambition) on the one hand and “life” (Health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development) on the other. Related, though broader, terms include “lifestyle balance” and “life balance”.
According to survey, four out of ten employees state that their jobs are “very” or “extremely” stressful. Study also states that women, in particular, report stress are related to the conflict between work and family.
If you thought choosing a baby name was hard, you have yet to wrestle with the idea of leaving your career to be a full-time mom or take care of an older parent… Most will want to re-enter the employment market later, but will do so accepting lesser positions or lower wages. These circumstances only increase the work-life balance stress experienced by many women employees.
Survey based on random sampling evaluations as to how male and female workers perceive work-life balance and found that women are more positive than men in how they perceive their company’s efforts to help them balance work and life responsibilities.
Younger generation views on work-life balance
Young adults today believe that parents should get involved and share the labour of raising the children both economically and emotionally. Young people are looking for partners to share the housework and family work together. Both men and women believe that women should have jobs before considering marriage; for better life and to be happy in marriage.
More and more employers are also increasingly aware of the business case for work-life balance. A work-life policy that respects individual, customer and organisational needs can be beneficial to all which ultimately drive performance.
Valuable Tips for the Stressed and Busy
The Asian work ethic has always been to focus on work, sometimes to the detriment of family relationships and responsibilities. Take baby steps below:-
- De-clutter your life – Have you seen those home makeover shows where they clear out all the clutter in a room, and then reorganise the room to returning only these things that are vital to the happiness of the homeowners? You can use the same process to reorganise your life.
- Delegate like a pro – Good managers know the value of delegating responsibility by pairing people with jobs that they can do well, adding some encouragement, and letting go.
- Do a good enough job – Sometimes things need to be done with precision and perfection, but more often, they don’t. Live by the 80-20 rule, where you identify the 20% of work that yields 80% of the results, and focus mainly on what’s important, letting the rest slip if necessary.
- Live in the now, but keep the future in mind – Do you have a plan for the future? For example, when choosing whether to exercise or watch television, thinking about the long term benefits that would come from each makes it easier to skip a moderately entertaining show in favour of getting moving.
- Stay organised – Being organised is vital to finding balance in life. If you have a schedule where everything fits, you’ll be more efficient with your time.
- Consult your inner child – Sometimes we need to take a break from doing the mundane to going to parties and remember to try to keep fun things in your life and stressful things out of it.
- Keep moving – As a workaholic person, it is so hard to find time to exercise if you have a host of activities in your schedule. Constantly moving while you are at work will help boost your energy levels.
- Find time to relax – It is a matter of goal setting. Do your hobbies like listening to favourite music, reading books, or a brisk walk for 10-15 minutes in order to refresh your mind and stir up your senses.
There is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance you should be striving for. The best work-life balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives.
However, at the core of an effective work-life balance definition are two everyday concepts that are relevant to each of us. They are daily Achievement and Enjoyment, ideas almost deceptive in their simplicity.
Achievement and Enjoyment answer the big question “Why?” Why do you want a better income… a new house… the kids through university… to do a good job today… to come to work at all?
I think it is true for all of us that life will deliver the value and balance we desire… when we are achieving and enjoying something every single day.
Hence, a good work-life balance is really having meaningful daily Achievement and Enjoyment in each of our four life quadrants:
Work, Family, Friends and Self
Ask yourself now, when was the last time you Achieved AND Enjoyed something at work? What about Achieved AND Enjoyed with your family; your friends? And how recently have you Achieved AND Enjoyed something just for you?