Work-life balance is often portrayed as a set of scales tipping to one side or another, but the reality is that our lives are made up of far more than two halves of a scale, one side measured against the other. Our lives are more like a puzzle with many different pieces.
Trying to fit together all of those puzzle pieces can be difficult, especially for the small-business owner whose work typically demands a lot of time and attention. This unique level of commitment makes fitting together the work-life puzzle especially challenging.
Reframe Work-Life Balance
Reframing the concept of work-life balance in a complementary way versus a competitive way requires a change in perspective. We need to consider all of the different pieces of our lives: our health, our personal relationships, our spiritual lives, our civic contributions, our fun and relaxation, etc. By focusing on strategies to enhance the way the different parts of our lives complement each other, we change the work-life balance concept from a tug-of-war to a positive, solution-oriented challenge.
Assess the Pieces of Your Work-Life Puzzle
In order to find the solution to your individual work-life puzzle, first assess the current state of your life and more important, your level of satisfaction. For a moment, set aside the societal expectations of what a balanced life looks like and consider the following questions:
How is your stress level?
Are there parts of your life that are being neglected or underrepresented?
Is your work really interfering with your experience of life, your happiness and satisfaction?
Are you simply coming up short when measured against the socially accepted work-life balance prescription?
Finding Your Solution
The most effective work-life strategy is finding the set of “trade-offs” that most effectively enhance your individual work-life satisfaction. It's helpful to view these trade-offs through the lens of a cost benefit analysis in the same manner that you might determine the most effective distribution of business resources. Weigh the potential benefit of one activity over another and determine which trade-offs will reap the most benefits in the quality of your life.
Weighing the Trade-Offs
You shouldn't do yoga because someone has said yoga is a useful strategy in balancing work-life, but because you find that attending a class results in noticeable stress-reduction or improved fitness.
Consider whether yoga or taking walks at lunchtime actually enhance the quality of your life? Or are they just additional tasks to add to your already overwhelmed to do list? Does disconnecting from work activities in the evenings or on weekends allow you to enjoy more quality time with your family or cause you to be distracted and stressed by work that's left undone?
In my own busy life as a small-business owner, wife and mother, I have found these types of trade-offs to be a very effective way to enhance my work life balance. My own work-life solution consists of eating lunch at my desk, so that I can spend time with my son after school. I don't take calls during the evening so that I can relax and recharge, but I do work Saturday and sometimes Sunday mornings instead so that the stress of unfinished work doesn't overshadow the other parts of my life. My trade-offs may not work for all of us, but I have found them to be an effective solution for me.
It's important to remember that finding work-life satisfaction is not a matter of achieving a perfect balance between work and home life, but rather determining a set of workable and sustainable trade-offs to create our own individual solution to the work-life balance puzzle.
What solutions have you found for your work-life puzzle?
Royale Scuderi is a freelance writer and success coach. She is the founder of Productive Life Concepts and has been featured on top rated blogs such as Stepcase Lifehack and The Huffington Post. You can also find her musings on life and business at GuardWife.com and Twitter.com/RoyaleScuderi.
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