I recently posed a question to a group of colleagues. The question was “what does work life balance mean to you?”
The answers were all similar; obviously, everyone wants to achieve a balance between their professional world and their personal lives.
But, I’m beginning to wonder if it is possible to ever really separate the two; and more importantly, if we should even try.
When we are at work we are being paid for our time. We are told to leave our personal lives at the door. We are, however, multi-dimensional beings and we can’t compartmentalize our world.
How do we not think about what our family may be up to during the day, or about the vacation we are in the midst of planning? Pushing these thoughts out of our minds is nearly impossible; just as impossible as pushing work out of our mind while having dinner with our spouse.
Many workers are in situations where flexibility of time isn’t an option. Even if they have understanding leadership at work, some jobs just aren’t flexible. So how do those people find balance? For others, their time may be flexible, in that they can come and go as they please, but part of their focus must always be on work. How do they find balance?
My personal belief is that balance has to first be achieved in your mind. Of course you have to become a master at time management and multitasking, but first, you have to learn to have a disciplined mind. Allow yourself ten minutes in your workday to jump on line and reserve the vacation flight. Allow yourself 10 minutes during your family time, to respond to a few emails from work.
The key is not allowing these brief interludes to become all day distractions. Allow yourself the freedom to focus on it for the moment, and then get back to the task at hand. Fighting the urge takes more energy than allowing the small freedom of thoughts.
Remember, each of us has several identities. The harder we try to squelch one of them, the more we will suffer from stress and anxiety. We cannot always control our circumstances but we can control our thoughts. Learning to do this will be a small step towards finding the balance we all are seeking.
I call it a mindful distraction. A technique to use in a digital and fast moving world.
If you have other specific suggestions, please feel free to comment.