You cannot do right in one department of life while occupied doing wrong in any other department. Life is one indivisible whole.
– Mahatma Gandhi
Balance is about ensuring that all aspects of life are given the proper attention. The objective is to make sure that one or more aspects do not fully dominate to the detriment of others. For instance, work alone cannot define us as people. A life of well-being includes many aspects, paid work being just one. There are relationships with family and friends. There is time spent contributing to the community or other good works. There is time for self-improvement and learning. There is time for solitude, rest and reflection. There is time for exercise. There is time for hobbies and recreation. There is time for unpaid work like housework and home improvements. It is important to cultivate all these key aspects of life and to focus on each one completely as you are doing them. If one of them ‘fails’ for any reason then the others can fill the gap and ensure your well-being does not suffer too much.
People talk about work-life balance as if work isn’t part of life. Working is an important part of life and usually adds considerably to a person’s well-being. Work can provide meaning, enjoyment, achievement, status and of course remuneration. On the other side of this is the fact that unemployment can be frustrating, humiliating, boring and depressing.
Work can cause problems, though. Long hours, deadlines, commuting, competition (sometimes conflict), uncertainty and high expectations can all create anxiety and stress. Also, too many people feel their jobs aren’t challenging, enjoyable or fulfilling.
Studies have shown that in general people are working longer hours than ever, are more stressed and are neglecting other areas of their lives. As previously mentioned it is a shame that a mother or father will be stressed, working long hours to provide the things that a family wants when in fact what the family needs most are stress-free parents who are around more.
Every person is different and has different circumstances but some aspects to consider for a better work-life balance follow.
Are you working for the right reasons?
Is work a means to an end or an end in itself? Sometimes we can let work take over our lives or, at least, become the dominant factor in our lives. We can kid ourselves that work is honourable and rewarding when other aspects of your life are neglected or suffering.
Work-life balance isn’t all about working less it is also about the quality of the job. Get the right balance between enjoyment and achievement. It is better for you to do a job you enjoy and can do well rather than one that you don’t enjoy but pays better.
Get a job that is engaging.
The concept of ‘flow’ states that ideally our skills will meet our challenges. If we are not challenged enough, we will get bored. If we are challenged too much, we will be anxious. If skills and challenges are nearly equal, we can engage better and we can slowly take on greater challenges as our skills increase to meet them.
Do more non-paid work.
At least some of your work could be for yourself and your family at home. If you can grow vegetables, make and trade goods, do house maintenance and renovations, make and mend clothes, and so on, you could decrease the amount of time you spend on money-work.
Here are some more options to provide a better balance:
- Work from home – can you telecommute or work for yourself from home?
- Job-sharing – can you split your job with someone?
- Contracting – can you earn more per hour, and therefore do less hours, by contracting?
- Alternative revenue sources – are there other ways you can make some money, what can you make and then trade/sell?