Did you think that working from home would mean you would have a much better work/life balance? Did you assume that without the normal in-office interruptions that you’d be able to get far more done each day? Have you been disappointed to find out you still have more work than hours in each day? Have you been surprised to find that you are no closer to work/life balance than before?
We’re all struggling to balance our work time and family time and still have time for ourselves. Without many the activities of our pre-pandemic life, I’m betting I’m not the only one who thought that my life would be much more in balance than it was a year ago. I expected to have time to do so much more than I have had time to do.
For a while, I felt guilty. I wondered why on earth I wasn’t getting all those extras done that I had imagined myself doing. When I sat back and looked at what was taking all my time, I realized that while many things disappeared, just as many other things took their place. I felt guilty that I still had not achieved the balance I thought I should have achieved with all the changes to my lifestyle I had experienced.
Are we seeking something that isn’t reasonable? Is it reasonable to expect balance?
[ctt template=”3″ link=”UUaec” via=”yes” ]It is reasonable to expect work/life balance?[/ctt]
No. I think our expectations about what balance means are unreasonable.
It might be reasonable to strive for work/life satisfaction, though.
And, I’m happy with that wording change. I’m satisfied with my work life and my personal life. Some days I work longer than I want to (it’s Sunday afternoon as I’m writing this article, and I do my best to take time away from work on the weekend). Some days aren’t perfect. But I’m still satisfied. I’ve stopped feeling guilty because I realize that I wanted to write this article right now. I wanted to get this off my to-do list. It was my choice. I’m satisfied with that and I don’t feel guilty about it.
We know that work-life balance (or satisfaction) is a major concern for us all. We’re living in an era where we want the fancy careers that come complete with the big pay check every two weeks, the nice cars, and the extravagant vacations. Yet we also want to have that picture-perfect family, a house that won’t be on the next episode of “Hoarders,” a gym membership so we can occasionally feel attractive instead of frumpy, and the occasional dinner that’s cooked rather than just reheated.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”xOyeA” via=”yes” ]How to get work/life satisfaction without the accompanying guilt![/ctt]
So how do we get satisfaction without the accompanying guilt?
Perhaps the easiest way to achieve satisfaction is to continually ask yourself, “does this action help me feel satisfied or not? And if not, why am I doing it?” Put the guilt aside for a moment (believe me, it will come back!).
Here are the larger questions behind work-life satisfaction. They involve knowing what is most important to you and making time in your life for those things. The best way to proceed is to actually put your answers in writing.
- “What is important to me, and what would I like to have more of in my life?” This should cover all areas of your life. Make sure you put in “time for me” if that is important. If you want an annual family vacation, a big vegetable garden, or cut the grass yourself each week, those things should be included. Perhaps you want to go back to school and get your degree, and maybe you don’t, but decide what is important to you. Not what you think you should be doing, but what is important to you.
Create a chart with a “to-do” list down the left column. In the second column, put a rating from 1-10 (one being very low and 10 being very high) to signify how important each item is to you. Not anyone else—you. In the third column, make notes to ensure that you can find the time in your schedule to make each item happen. If you don’t plan to ensure it will happen, it likely won’t. In column four, list the logistical things that will have to occur in order to make each item happen. By identifying the barriers that may get in your way, it will be easier to create a plan to overcome them.
|Item||Scale 1-10||Notes to make it happen||What does this mean?|
|Being well respected at work||8||* Get a professional designation (PACE, CAP, CCAP, MOS etc)
* Volunteer, to raise profile
* Attend meetings/conventions
|-Money for membership
-Time away from family
|Working regular hours||5||Only check email twice during evening|
|Running 3x week||9||* Run in early am 2x week, once on weekend
* Put days on calendar to share morning chores with others
|Someone needs to get the kids up in the morning|
|Eating healthy (homemade)||10||* Don’t buy frozen meals
* Budget accordingly
* Build time into schedule
|Clean and tidy house||6||It won’t be perfect|
|8 hours sleep during week||6||Stop watching TV at 10 p.m.|
|Bathtub relaxation 2x/month||10||* Reserve nights on calendar (schedule)
* Inform others of “bath night”
|Golf 3x week||7||* Reserve times on calendar
* Refuse social invitations that are not a “7” on a scale of 1-10
|Annual family vacation||10||* Save money in special account
* Reserve time off 1 year in advance
|Girlfriend time 1x/month||8||* Reserve times on calendar
* Make plans
|Couple social time (kid-free)||8||* Plan one weekend a month for a social dinner at our house
* Plan one social event per month outside the home
It is important to be completely honest with yourself and recognize that the more important an item is to you, the more guilty you will feel if it doesn’t happen.
When you are struggling with the 1-10 ratings for each event, ask yourself if that event is really important to you or whether you are simply falling victim to society’s whim telling you that you should be doing it.
For instance, you’ll notice that time at the gym is not listed on my list above. I’ve had a gym membership forever, but going to the gym was always a chore for me. I decided that I really enjoy sports and enjoy running, but I wouldn’t say I like yoga classes, walking on a treadmill, and going to the gym. Guilt tells me that I need to exercise. It’s important that I am healthy, and exercise is part of that equation. But I wouldn’t say I like going to the gym, so I don’t. I do exercise, and I do have a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t allow society to make me feel that I have to have a gym membership to be healthy.
Have your partner and potentially your children create a similar chart. As a family, talk about what is important to each of you and how you can help each other achieve success without guilt.
Understanding the most important things to you is the first step towards achieving work-life satisfaction. Making room for the things you want to do and perhaps giving up something to do them is the second step. Then, continually confirming your priorities will help to keep you on the right track.
When you share your chart with your partner, you may find that s/he wants to spend more time at the driving range or an online course. That would be the perfect evening for you to take a long run followed by a soak in the bathtub—completely guilt-free.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”U4amd” via=”yes” ] Everyone has things that are important to them. Satisfaction becomes much easier to achieve by helping each other with the guilt.[/ctt]
Everyone has things that are important to them. Everyone needs work/life satisfaction. The elusive thing called “satisfaction” becomes much easier to achieve by helping each other with the guilt.