It's the carrot that dangles before all of us: Work-Life Balance (WLB).
In some alternate universe, we would all have jobs that allowed us the autonomy and flexibility to bring our very best to the work we're paid to do, while giving us time to participate fully in our relationships, our communities and our self-care.
Realizing this dream seems closer every day.
People work from home, they self-schedule their shifts, they have technological tools available to stay connected 24/7 to both work and life.
Hang on a second. Where's the balance in being connected to everything every second of the day? How do we choose which demand to prioritize, which emails to ignore, which phone call to answer or respond to?
Under the disguise of WLB, we've been hoaxed into blurring the lines between work and life, creating even more pressure on our time and energy.
How can we reverse this unbalanced trend and take back control over our lives?
Here are three guidelines to follow.
1) Stick up for your life. Like a small child, an employer--even a good one--will take as much as possible from you until you draw the line. Look hard at your life and figure out how much of it you want to spend working, then stick to it. Leave your work email and cellphone alone outside of working hours. Your colleagues will get used to it (and be glad you're not adding to their work stress when they should be relaxing).
2) Don't compare yourself to others. Americans are notorious for valuing workaholism as a virtue. It isn't. There is nothing praiseworthy about working 24/7 at the cost of a healthy personal life. Being busy is not a goal in itself. Trust your gut when it tells you there's more to life than your job--when you take care of yourself first, your job performance will improve too. Ignore the bragging of workaholics in your workplace. Instead, make sure in your life has a whole you have: enough sleep, socializing, exercise, engaging hobbies and delicious, leisurely meals, et cetera.
3) Remember you're a whole person. It's very easy to be seduced into thinking you are what you do for a living. Too much of that, though, and you start to feel trapped, frustrated and depressed. Before giving up on your job though as a drastic measure, ask yourself whether you are neglecting your life. Slow down. Remember that you won't bring your best to work unless you're treating yourself well the rest of the time. Give yourself the self-care you'd recommend to your best friend. Work will still be there when you get back to it.
At the end of the day, WLB is still a dream for a lot of us.
We are so used to relentless work pressure that we hardly know what to do without it. With attention, though, we can turn the tools of the new American workplace into a real WLB that works, while remembering that investments in our own life translate directly into improved work performance, we do ourselves and our employers a favour.
An effective WLB is a win-win solution for everyone.
Just my 2 cents....