Achieving perfect work-life balance is not easy, but you already know that. What you may not realize is that dogged pursuit of balance is not always desirable. Just as being a workaholic can wreck personal relationships, blindly adhering to a formulaic mix of career, family, and outside interests can harm both your professional and personal lives. Flexibility is crucial to achieving work-life rightness.
Looking at myself and others, I have witnessed work-life balance blunders, not the one-time kind but the recurring ones. The worst offenders can lead to lagging careers, struggling families, and frazzled nerves.
1. Trying to always maintain work-life balance
There will be times when you’ll need to dedicate most of your waking hours to a business initiative or deal with a personal issue. The scenarios may be once-in-a-decade opportunities, such as a global expansion, or a new product close to market introduction. Or, situations may arise that require your full attention in your private life, such as a family move to a new home.
Planning for certain activities—the big project or the family move—can help minimize changes in the short term. But realizing that you may not be able to sustain perfect balance all the time is important. Adjust your expectations and modify your schedule to attend to urgent and important matters before returning to equilibrium.
2. Spending too much on time-saving services and products
Convenience items can be godsends when pressed for time. Dinners out and prepared meals from the catering company let you work straight through the afternoon and early evening to dinner time. Lawn care and handyman services give you leisure time on the weekends.
Expenses associated with time savings can crush your household budget. Measuring ROI of convenience may seem over the top but it is important to consider whether you are really getting the total time payoff you need from your expenditures.
3. Forgetting to Set and Achieve Financial Goals
Managing work-life balance can be all-consuming, especially if you have children at home. You can excel at generating income and enjoy a satisfying personal life but neglect building wealth.
Set goals that cover all aspects of your finances including business profits, timelines for loan payoffs, and asset accumulation. Monitor progress and fine-tune work-life balance to reach these goals.
4. Not devoting time to professional development and personal enrichment
Just as long-term financial goals may be forgotten, professional development and personal enrichment activities may be skipped to focus on the present. Engineered schedules may not allow large chunks of time dedicated to making major life improvements.
Consider long-term goals when mapping out your schedule. Reaching the next level of work and life success may require many hours each week for an extended period of time. Devise plans and negotiate temporarily-altered schedules that allow you to complete a program before returning to a more equitable work-life balance.
5. Attending every event in which your child participates
Being there for special moments is wonderful when your children are young and just as great when they are older. But it’s easy to become overbooked with commitments when your kids have weekly sporting events and academic competitions, monthly parent meetings, seasonal recognition ceremonies, etc.
Accept that you may not be able to make every event and activity. Determine what is truly important to you and your child, and commit to these events.
6. Missing changes in the world and your life
Work-life balance allows you to enjoy what is happening right now. But holding tightly to the present can be seductive, preventing you from noticing and dealing with changes in economic conditions, competitive forces, children’s development, and family needs.
Accept that your work and life will change during the course of your career, leading to a shift in priorities and blur in focus for certain periods. Be patient with yourself during times of readjustment. Commit to periodic evaluations of professional and personal goals, and plan on emphasizing one or two areas of your life as needed. Aim for work-life balance for the long haul, not a short time horizon.