Moving Beyond Work-Live Balance and Finding the Flow

Publications are filled with articles about work-life balance, yet people in the United States work longer hours than ever before. They are constantly “on” staying connected to work even during off hours.

Families are frequently finding ways to sandwich quality time between work and the kids’ activities. No wonder so many individuals feel overwhelmed and unsatisfied. They are working harder than ever, but unsure of what they have to show for it.

The concept of “work-life balance” is somewhat misleading. It suggests that there is equal time for work and for a personal life – family, friends, etc. The reality is that the varying demands of work and the rest of one’s life is more of an ebb and flow.

 Define Your Own Priorities

Avoid setting standards that can be unrealistic. Work 45 or more hours a week, shuttle kids between sports and lessons and still expect to have a locally grown, entirely from scratch meal on the table every night for family dinner? If that is important for you, it becomes a priority.

To define priorities you have to decide what your core values really are and how you want to spend the limited time you have. Get creative with how you structure things so you can spend your time on what matters most. 

Where can you make compromises that help you be a better spouse, a better parent and a better employee? Let your spouse do the dishes even though it may not be done the way you prefer. Buy cupcakes rather than make homemade ones for your child’s class. Whatever compromises you make – make them in a way that is supportive of what you love doing and what is most meaningful to you.

 Accept What You Can’t Change, Maximize What You Can

Do you really have to stay connected to work 24-hours a day, or can you turn off email after 5:30 p.m.? Are you too busy to take your earned vacation time during a calendar year? Do you feel hesitant to leave your inbox unattended or take a stroll outside the office?

Numerous studies show that down time – whether it’s taking vacation or even frequent mental breaks during the day – will leave you refreshed and more productive than
if you continually power through your work all the time.

Take that lunch break, go for a walk, then return to your desk more productive and healthier.

 Go With the Flow

Life has a way of constantly yelling at us – demanding that our time and attention be directed in several ways at once. It can be exhausting. You may find yourself having to realign your priorities frequently. A sick child, even just for a day or two, can cause you to miss work, maybe even an important meeting. An important meeting may cause you to miss a child’s soccer game. It is a constant dance. Many make it work by simply going with the flow.

 Be Conscientious About the Time You Have

Rather than reaching for the phone to check email first thing in the morning, have a cup of coffee or tea and read the news. If you commute to work, use the quiet time to
transition from your home mindset to the office mindset and vice versa. Listen to music. Park in the driveway or parking space and take a few deep breaths before getting out of the car.

 Avoid Situations That Drain You

Whether that’s spending too much time on Pinterest or Facebook, or listening to the latest work gossip, it is important to be aware of whether an activity – or even person – is helping you feel uplifted or drained. And, while it can be difficult, try to eliminate or at least minimize the time spent in those situations.

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