How To Achieve A Work-Life Balance

I stumbled across a great quote recently from a former Coca-Cola CEO, Brian Dyson, that he made during a speech at the Georgia Tech’s 172nd commencement in 1991. (Thank you, Mark Turner at markturner.net for your excellent detective work in finding the true source of this quote. I sometimes get frustrated with all the misattributions and misquotes, which pervade the old Interwebs and get so flippantly thrown into the ever-growing pile of pseudo-motivational quotes that litter platforms such as Pinterest and Twitter without being subjected to even the slightest bit of scrutiny regarding their authenticity and source.)

Okay, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but I for one, Mr. Turner, applaud you for your effort!

So, anyway, here’s the quote:

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”

~ Bryan G. Dyson, Former President & CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.

It’s a good reminder about the order of true priorities in life, although the cynical part of me does wonder whether or not such a caring philosophy is genuinely exhibited in such large and competitive companies such as Coca-Cola.

The trend in most industries still seems to be work over personal life and part of this is down to the fact that as a society, we’ve been conditioned to thinking that a strong work ethic is commendable – a virtue, even.

And working hard means staying late at the office, competing against your co-workers, taking your work home with you and being available to answer calls and emails at any time of day or night.

So, subconsciously (and possibly even consciously), time spent not working, which includes not only work in its more formal definition, but also doing activities like household chores, looking after kids and family, to name a couple, can seem the opposite of a virtue. Maybe not a vice per se, but perhaps being a slacker or possibly even subversive?

And there’s an awful lot wrong with that picture.

Life generally should be about balance, although you also have to remember that life is also about seasons, so there will be times in your life when it is more about hard work than leisure and vice versa.

When it comes to working, it should not be about the number of hours worked – it should be about how effective you are within those hours.

Work smarter, not harder and all that. (And that’s where better time management comes in)

Work, for most of us, is a necessary part of life – at least the way society is structured currently. Although there may come a day when we live in the kind of awesome utopia envisioned by the Venus Project, I can’t see that happening any time soon, so for the time being, we need to deal with the set-up we have right now.

Immediate Action You Can Take

There is action you can take right now to help you achieve a better work-life balance.

A lot of this stuff is kind obvious, but sometimes we get so absorbed in the target-driven, performance-based, stress-inducing nature of work that we fail to take a step back see how the implementation of some really simple strategies can make a huge difference to our lives.

The common denominator in achieving a better work-life balance is better time management, so check out some of the other posts to help you get started with this.

In the meantime, here are some quick tips for achieving work-life balance.

1. Don’t feel guilty about not working

You don’t need to be working and switched on all the time.

When you are at home, pursuing personal activities, spending time with family, on holiday, etc, there is no need to dedicate any mental or emotional energy to your work and there is no need to feel guilty about not working all the time.

Give yourself a break, goddamnit.

Stop blurring the lines between work and home / Pxhere

2. Establish clear boundaries

Establish clear boundaries between work and home life.

Stop bringing work home.

Turn off your devices and notifications at a dedicated time and then focus on non-work activities.

Develop a good evening routine that focuses on you, your loved ones and your interests.

3. Create more flexibility

If you have to be in an office from 09.00 am to 5.00 pm, then your hours are set out for you. What you can do though, is ensure that you are working as productively as possible during that time and, as mentioned previously, try not to ever take your work home with you.

The other thing you can try is to not work from the office as much as possible.

Discuss this with your boss and see if that flexibility can be created.

Tim Ferriss outlines a great strategy to handle this in his seminal book, the 4-Hour Workweek. I have reviewed this book in this post.

Check out this post: Time Management Tips For Work

4. Be realistic

Be fair to yourself and realistic about what you can achieve in any given timeframe

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew, because we think we can handle it, we underestimate how long a task might take (Planning Fallacy) or we just don’t want to say ‘no’ (see below).

Say no #timemanagement
Learn to say ‘No’ / Gordon Johnson

5. Say ‘No’

Knowing how to say ‘no’ is an important element of managing your time well. There are a whole host of reasons why we sometimes find it difficult to say ‘no’, but thankfully, there are some strategies for overcoming this problem, which I discuss in this post.

Check out this post: How To Say ‘No’

6. Prioritize your time

The cornerstone of time management is knowing how and what to prioritize. A simple and effective way to sort out your To-Do list is to use the Eisenhower Box.

Check out this post: How To Write A To-Do List – Properly!

7. Structure your day

There are various techniques, tools and apps you can find to help add some structure to your day. Find one that works for you. Start with a To-Do List.

Makes sure family and personal activities, as well as your physical and mental health, are also included in that To-Do list and are in the important or urgent quadrant of the Eisenhower Box.

Check out this post: What Is The Eisenhower Box

8. Remove time-wasting activities

Identify, recognize and remove all time-wasting activities

We’re all guilty of it, but some of that stuff really needs to go. Do a time audit to see how you really spend your time. Delete some of your social media platforms and if you really miss them. Generally, they add little to the quality of your life and can be replaced by much more meaningful and beneficial activities.

Check out this post: How To Audit Your Time

9. Mindfulness

Using mindfulness techniques and learning how to live in the moment can provide mental respite from the working day. But it can also help relieve stress and enable you to focus more effectively at work.

10. Quit your job

If you hate your current job, find a job you love.

Life is too short to stick around in a toxic environment with toxic colleagues, doing mind-numbing, spirit-crushing tasks for enterprises that steal all of your time – and your soul.

Doing a job you love already has a great deal of balance built-in.

Time Hack Hero Takeaway

For most of us, work is something we do to earn the money we need to put a roof over our heads, clothes on our back and food on the table and if we’re fortunate, treat ourselves to other activities and things we may desire.

Some people are lucky enough to do work that they love doing – either by chance or by creation. But even if you love the job you do, life can still fall out of balance if you only focus on work.

Spending time with family and friends and pursuing other interests is an important part of being a well-rounded human being, so make sure yours is not just about work.

A work-life balance is not about being perfect. It is simply about not over-allocating your time one aspect of your life and better time management is the key to succeeding on that front.

[Featured image credit / Pixabay]

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