If you are serious about managing the “inevitable” work/life conflict, start with what you value most, and follow a vision to be aligned with these things.
Here are five tips to finding a healthy work/life balance:
- Gaining Perspective – Establish the real and relative value of your work, your personal life, and your family life. What is most important to you, and why? Once you decide which area of your life deserves priority, commit to it fully and without restraint. This does not mean that you should ignore the areas of your life that you’ve assigned a lower priority: healthy eating, exercise, and personal relationships also have value to a fully realized person. Care for those areas of your life with the same devotion you’ve given your career or, in the long run, you’ll remain miserable. Develop the ability to step out of your life and be an objective observer from time to time – this will help avoid the danger of hubris and justification.
- Valuing yourself as Much as Your Career – There is nothing wrong with making your career a priority. Simply keep it in perspective, as mentioned above. If you happen to have a family for example, you’ll also need to devote time and effort into appreciating and caring for them. You’ll also need to spend some time and energy on taking care of you, with exercise, healthy eating habits, and some downtime, to reflect and stay in touch with your Self. Don’t confuse this with being selfish, it is called self-care and men in particular are awful at this. Hint: it sometimes requires a little self-compassion. Setting and enforcing boundaries on how you take care of yourself is typically not on your boss’s or board’s minds – you will need to take the lead on this process.
- Committing to Relationships – Without reservation, just as you’ve committed yourself to your career. Human beings need social interaction. Avoiding quality connections and relationships for lack of time or fear of commitment is a losing strategy. If you choose to do so, you will find the time, and the emotional courage to commit. You’ll certainly be healthier, live longer and happier, for it. This is not a quantity – enough to carry your casket is a lot – I am happy with just one or two core (non-kid) relationships that I invest in heavily.
- Developing a Healthy Meal Plan – Without your physical health nothing else matters much. Healthy eating should also be a priority for a busy professional like you. Eating fast food, or quick-and-easy fatty and high-sugar foods, will drain your body of energy and lead to digestive problems. As your body works to digest these unhealthy foods, it has no energy for the work, or play, that you hope to accomplish. Instead, fuel your hard working body with healthy, high-energy fruits, vegetable, nuts, and legumes, in addition to your primary sources of protein: low fat meats, seafood, and poultry.
- Scheduling Natural Movement – Finding time for even a brief work out is just as important as the next business meeting in your day. A brisk walk, or a quick bike ride, will boost your energy levels and help you to focus your mind. A bit of exercise also releases pleasure endorphins into your body, improving your mood, while at the same time boosting your metabolic rate, helping to burn excess calories. Beyond the physical benefits, committing and keeping to a regularly scheduled exercise routine will enhance your sense of Self, and self-esteem. Why? Because you determined that something was important to you, set yourself a goal to achieve it, and succeeded in reaching it. That’s why!
Of course, human beings are incredibly complex, and no single approach to reducing a conflict between work and life will work for everyone. However, you can begin the process by using the five tips above as the foundation for making a good start.
If you continue to struggle with a work/life conflict, chances are you are going it alone and probably feeling alone. It may be time to find support. A friend, coach, or mentor – someone who is not stuck in the same spot and who can provide guidance, a pathway, and some support accountability. Get after it – you’re worth it.