Work life balance means different things to everyone. This isn’t surprising, since everyone has their own personal expectations and priorities. For some, it means working a certain number of days a week, while for others it means making it to the gym everyday or being able to be have enough flexibility to address childcare needs. For me, it includes things as specific as being able to ensure my kids have matching socks for the five school days (anything goes on the weekends). It sounds silly, but to me that implies that 1) I’ve had enough time to do the laundry, 2) I’ve even noticed how many socks have gotten lost around the house or eaten by my washer/dryer, and 3) I still have the energy to care if the socks match.
Since starting my wellness company, I’ve often been asked about my thoughts on the matter of life balance. It’s a little amusing for me, as my own opinions fluctuate on a daily basis. One day it’s completely okay to be addressing my email or Twitter feed at 5 am, and other days I emphasize sleep or putting more time into finding the perfect craft activity for my kids on Pinterest. Either can seem ridiculous depending on my current level of professional pressure or mommy guilt.
The one thing I do consistently feel strongly about is creating your own definition of work life balance, and not stressing about what somebody else tells you are essential components. Only you know what will keep you satisfied both personally and professionally. Here are 3 pearls I always emphasize when creating your own definition of work life balance:
- Don’t judge your work life balance based on certain days or certain experiences. It’s about an overall sense. Everyone is going to have those days where everything goes wrong and you wonder if it’s all worth it. Try to choose a longer time frame, such as a month, where you measure how often you get home from work on time or how many of your kids’ activities you were able to make.
- Know what your realistic professional goals are, and use them as a gauge for whether you are fulfilled professionally. It may be that your professional happiness rests on being CEO and making an 8 figure salary. If that’s true, by all means, pursue it and do what you need to do to get there. But if that’s a dream (which you’d gladly accept if the fruits of your labor led to it), recognize that it’s not the end game. Instead, set a goal of getting promoted to the next level in a certain number of years. This way, you remain motivated and ambitious, while retaining the ability to pat yourself on the back regularly and take an occasional break.
- Determine what your deal breakers are, and assess work life balance based on that. You will always have certain things you don’t like about your job, but some are just annoyances that you can live with, while others actively detract from your daily happiness. For example, you may be okay with checking your email after your children go to bed if it means that you can be home just after 5, but not okay with losing 2 hours a day to your commute. If it doesn’t bother you to the point where you feel the need to change it, chances are you won’t be citing it as the reason you’re unhappy with your work life balance.
And with that said, it’s time to do that laundry I was alluding to earlier…