One recurring theme we all face is balancing the demands of their career with those of our personal lives. These are often juxtaposed against each other, leaving a Hobson’s choice. Because each situation is unique, it is cavalier to suggest a list of pre-packaged solutions. Instead, this article will frame an alternative conceptual paradigm and provide some day-to-day coping methods within this new context.
Paradigm At Issue
Though this may be obvious to many of you, the premise of balance is too simplistic to describe the working world in the third millennium. That is, to balance something, pros and cons must be determined. Good must be offset against bad, and rarely is work categorized as good.
And that’s the rub. Work shouldn’t have to be bad. In fact, given the amount of effort that it takes to develop a career, work should be a positive factor in your life whenever possible.
Moreover, as your career continues to develop, what is important to you professionally and personally will change. Therefore, you will constantly be reassessing what a balanced lifestyle means. Thus, the work versus personal dichotomy never ceases.
The paradigm is simply inadequate.
And A River Runs Through It
Now consider a flowing river. Its rate depends on gradient, its current on topography. The steeper the hill or narrower the path, the faster the river flows. The larger the rocks or more ragged the riverbed, the choppier the water. Wide, slow areas are tranquil. Steep, boulder-strewn stretches are a cacophony of sound and water.
Life flows in much the same way. There are periods of high activity, as well as miles of reflective opportunity, and who knows what awaits us around the next bend.
Navigating this constantly changing environment requires some forethought and perspective management. Life is a long-term proposition and proper alignment should always be a primary objective. Several factors play into managing your alignment, including your familial situation, your career goals, your workload, and any civic and other non-professional obligations you have undertaken. If you focus on where you want to be 100 yards down stream and initiate the steps you need to align yourself with that goal, you will find greater satisfaction in your life.
Staying attuned to your immediate situation always facilitates obtaining longer term objectives. Here are several ways to maintain satisfaction on a day-to-day basis.
- Mandatory Personal Time. The very first thing that gets lost in our hectic worlds is time for ourselves. This is not necessarily time to ourselves, rather it’s time for ourselves. Time to do whatever you choose. Start small – during one hour every week, do something you want to do. Spend it alone, spend it with your spouse or your child or children, spend it with a friend, even spend it with man’s best friend. Don’t give that hour away. If you find you need more, schedule another hour, and so on until you find the right mix. You’ll likely be more productive during your other hours knowing that your personal one is coming soon.
- Manage Your Technology. Don’t let technology dictate your time. If you don’t know how to use it effectively and efficiently, then make time to learn how. Every hour you spend learning technology will return several fold to you when utilizing it. Similarly, if you’re a whiz at, but overwhelmed with technology, remember the single most important fact about any modern technology is the OFF button.
- Quiet Time. Remember naptime in pre-school? This is probably the single greatest self-help tool ever invented. Whether you nap, meditate, or just sit quietly for a few minutes, find a solitary place (and many places will do) and take a quick 10-minute break. Close your eyes; let the stresses of the day wash out of you, relax and re-energize. Then get on with it.
- Define Your Space. Experts disagree about whether it’s better to segregate your professional and personal lives or integrate them. Try one method, but do it intentionally. Drive your lifestyle; don’t let others or circumstance drive it for you. At least if you’re at the helm you can steer the ship.
Throughout your professional career, you will be pressed to make time allocation decisions. The frantic pace of the world is not likely to slow any time soon, so never forget that career/personal satisfaction is an important objective. Implement some simple processes to protect yours!