By Benedicte Flouriot
For years, we have been talking about work-life balance. How to prioritize between “work” aka your career and ambition and “lifestyle” aka your health, pleasure, leisure, family and friends.
It seems like there was no other choice but having to pick one versus the other. It seemed the two options together were not possible. Wrong! Why should you choose between your work and your life? Why not making both work?
Here are some tips to help you choose what you need to do personally and professionally in order to find harmony and blend both worlds.
1. Choose where you want to spend your energy: Map your life
We only have 24 hours in a day and our days are often packed with a bunch of things that showed up on our to-do list without us really knowing how they ended up there! It’s time to decide what you want to do with your days and why!
Here is a short exercise that is very common in coaching but very beneficial, called the Wheel of Life. You can do it right away and do it again and again, as many times as you want throughout the year, to make sure you keep your life in balance.
• Brainstorm your most important life areas
Start by brainstorming the dimensions of your life that are important to you. Think career-wise and life-wise at the same time. For example: time, physical activities, work environment, relationships, personal development, career, management style, education, health, family, financial freedom, challenge, pleasure, community contribution, etc.
Create your own combination using these different dimensions and only select the ones that you feel you absolutely need in order to find balance in your life. What are the different aspects of your life that you do not want to compromise? What are your priorities?
Write down these dimensions on a diagram, hence the “Wheel” of Life. Each dimension is placed on one spoke of the wheel.
• Assess each area in the present moment
Assess the amount of satisfaction you are getting from each area as well as the attention you are currently devoting to make each dimension. The more you pay attention to the most important dimensions of your life, the more you will find balance and get fulfillment. Over the year, you may need to pay attention to certain areas at different times and adjust according to where you are in the present moment and what you need more or less to create that balance.
To do so, write down the amount of satisfaction you are currently experiencing in each area of your life. Use a scale of 0 (low) to 10 (high) and mark each score on the appropriate spoke of the wheel.
• Join the dots
Join all the marks together to create a shape. The shape may be round, squared or could even look like a weird form that is anything but lines and dots connected together at different levels. What do you see? Does your life look balanced? Ideally, the wheel should be round. It’s easier to ride a bike with a round wheel… right? If this were a real wheel, how bumpy would the ride of your life be?
• How to get a round wheel for a smooth ride
A balanced life does not mean getting 10 in each life area; it’s about getting an even mark in each important dimension of your life. Once you create balance, it’s easier to elevate your satisfaction and therefore reach more fulfillment. Of course, some areas need more attention and focus than others at some time in your life but don’t neglect the ones that already scored high as they need attention too.
• Take action
Once you have identified the areas that need attention, what are you going to do about them? Identify the actions that could help you regain balance. What two steps could you take to immediately make the greatest difference in your current work and life situation? What things do you need to start doing or stop doing? But also, what can you do to maintain the areas that scored high?
2. Choose how to spend your time: Plan, plan, plan!
You now have identified the actions you need to follow to create more balance in your life. But without a plan, you may not go very far. It’s great to have ideas, dreams, visions. However, unless you do something about them, they will simply remain in their current state. Is that what you want? No! So let’s look at the best way to arrange your list of actions and organize the time needed to reach work-life balance.
Start your week by reflecting on your list of actions and draw a weekly planner:
- What needs to be done?
- Who should take action to complete this step?
- When should this step be completed?
- What do I need in order to complete this step?
- Are there any potential challenges that may impede completion? How will I overcome them?
Decide the following things for each week: What do I wish for? What’s my intention? What do I want to see happen by the end of the week?
Use the time-blocking technique to take control of your schedule.
Look at your weekly objectives from a meaningful place by asking yourself:
- What is the best use of my time right now?
- What do I want to achieve this week to improve my quality of life, at work and at home?
- What can I do this week that would make me feel satisfied?
Give the same importance to your personal and professional projects. Place them together on your weekly planner.
Repeat the same exercise every Monday, first time in the morning to set the tone for the week.
3. Choose your environment: Find support
Once your weekly plan of action is set, how will you make sure that you will be doing what you said you will be doing? Identify the right persons that could keep you accountable. Find those ones that will allow you to stay in the momentum and therefore move forward. For example, find your gym buddy who will help you make sure that you achieve the workout goals you set as per your weekly goals. Become a member of professional associations, connect with industry peers that experience the same challenges, talk to your partner or family members about your plans to gain support from them. Choose your work-life balance ambassadors! You may also consider hiring a career coach to act as an accountability partner and help you reach your goals.
4. Choose to adjust when necessary: Be self-aware
Now, you know what you want and need, you have a plan, you have the support to make you accountable and you have also managed to create habits. Great! That’s all wonderful. However, be mindful! What you need now may be different from what you need in six months. What’s the point of having a beautiful plan of action if the actions you are pursuing are no longer aligned with what you need?
Make sure to regularly check on what you need now. Should you see any discrepancy with what you needed six months ago, then adjust! Start the exercise all over again and climb the ladder one step at a time. Make sure that whatever you do is actually serving you. How is this action currently serving me? Is it really serving me? If not, change your plan!