It happens every January. You look back at the past year with mixed emotions. On the one hand you’re frustrated that you didn’t do a better job at achieving work/life balance, realizing the “work” side of the equation often dominated. On the other hand, you’re optimistic that with a new year comes new hope and a renewed commitment to making work/life balance happen over the twelve months ahead.
Let me start with the bad news…
The Bad News: You won’t achieve work/life balance this year. In fact, you will NEVER achieve work/life balance. This is because work/life balance doesn’t actually exist. “Balance” assumes that there is some magical point where everything is in perfect alignment. The problem is, what seems balanced today will feel unbalanced tomorrow. With the demands of home changing day to day, and work responsibilities constantly evolving, work/life is not a problem you’ll ever solve.
The Good News: Although work/life balance is not a problem that you’ll solve, it is a tension that you can learn to manage incredibly well.
Here are three simple steps that are guaranteed to help you thrive at work AND at life in the year ahead.
Using this Healthy Tension Worksheet, start by answering the questions in the top two boxes with the “+” sign above the words WORK and LIFE. Put your top three positive results from focusing on WORK in the box on the left, and the top three positive results from focusing on LIFE in the box on the right.
Next, answer the questions in the boxes with the “-” sign below the words WORK and LIFE. Put the top three negative results from over-focusing on WORK to the neglect of LIFE in the box on the left, and the top three negative results from over-focusing on LIFE to the neglect of WORK in the box on the right.
Here is what my map looks like to get you started.
Reflect on your actions – and your calendar – this past year. Have you been diligent to invest quality time and energy into life outside of work? Did family, health, friends and self-care all get prioritized?
How about on the work side of things? Have you been focused and fully engaged. Did you work hard to move closer to your “sweet spot” of what you’re good at, what you love and what the organization needs?
Take a look at the following graphic and assess which of the four quadrants you are currently spending the most time in.
Regardless of what quadrant you currently find yourself in, the goal is to spend more and more time in quadrant four in the year ahead.
The good news is that there are practical things you can do to gain the positive results of both work AND home, so you can be as you can experience high performance AND have healthy boundaries.
- What are 1 to 3 things you do to gain or maintain the positive results of WORK in the year ahead? (e.g. Read a productivity book by February 1st)
- What are 1 to 3 things you do to gain or maintain the positive results of LIFE in the year ahead? (e.g. Schedule a “date night” with each family member every month)
- What is 1 early warning signs that you’re over-focusing on WORK to the neglect of LIFE? How will you know? What will you do? (e.g. Missing two of my kids hockey games in a row)
- What is 1 early warning signs that you’re over-focusing on LIFE to the neglect of WORK? What? Who owns it? So what? (e.g. Failing to meet monthly business plan goals)