Hello everybody, welcome to episode 26 of Optimal Living Advice. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino. We’re gonna talk a little today about work life balance. We’ve talked about this topic before, but today’s question I think demands a new sector of it.
I think today’s question revolves a lot around values, how we can identify them and how we can use them to our advantage. I’m spoiling it, though. Don’t get ahead of yourself, Greg. First, let’s hear the question…
QUESTION: “I am in a field that is very demanding when it comes to time commitment. The worst part is that I love it and get a lot of fulfillment out of it. That means I don’t have very much time for anything else; usually just part of my weekend is what I have free. I’ve made a list of things I would like to prioritize, such as spending more time outdoors, being physically active, and spending time with friends and family. I feel that I have been going in cycles where I go on a month rotation doing one of those things then going into another for another month, but it’s been hard to incorporate all of those things every month. What is the best way to manage this? Overall, I feel happy and fulfilled, but I’m afraid I’m missing out, and have had some of my friends express insecurity because I can go weeks without talking to them. I’m also afraid of falling down a hole of isolation.”
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 26 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.
All righty. It’s an important question, no doubt about that.
I think that as, probably society as a whole, but particularly the sectors of society that are interested in podcasts like this, do become more mindful and refuse to just work our lives away, the work life balance question becomes more and more pressing.
First of all, work life balance is defined as “a state of equilibrium in which the demands of both a person’s job and personal life are equal.”
When we hear, think about, or even envision the word “balance,” what comes to mind? What’s the imagery associated with it? It’s two things coming to a meeting point. It’s two things giving up a little bit of their space to accommodate for the other. It’s sacrifice.
And when we think about “work,” it can be centered on a number of assumptions and perceptions, such as long working hours being a pressing problem.
You’re an adult, I don’t need to tell you that you can’t have it all in life and that sacrifices need to be made. But to me, this is a matter of sacrifice, and proper sacrifice that is generally free of regret is only made when we take the time to consider what we’re sacrificing – what it means to us and the long term value of it.
It’s a simple formula, but that doesn’t make it easy to wade through. Your guiding light in this scenario is the decision you come to about what you need in your life versus what you can flex on; what’s non-negotiable and what’s negotiable. And that decision requires a lot of parts; it requires the awareness of everything brought to the table by the things you want to have in your life now, and the foresight of everything brought to the table by the things you want to have in your life in the future. Maybe that sounds convoluted. I feel like a lot of the things I say on here only make sense to me.
Let’s break it down, though.
Questions to Ask Yourself on Work Life Balance
So you have your job. You can fill in the blanks on your own time, but for the sake of argument, let’s say your job comes with long hours, fulfilling work, good pay, opportunity to grow, a good environment, emotionally-draining situations, and bouts of time where you need to travel.
How much do these things matter to you now and later? Do you need that money to maintain the lifestyle you’ve created for yourself, or would you flex on that? Does it bother you to have that travel time and be away from home, or do you like that? Are you comfortable dedicating over 40 hours of your 168-hour week to work?
How do you answer these questions now, and what do you think you might say to them in the future? Will you always need the money? Will you always want to travel? Will you always want to work that much? What do these things take away from now, what do you think they’ll take away from in the future, and is it worth it?
Then you have your social life, on the other hand. For the sake of argument, let’s say your social life comes with lots of laughs, expensive dinners, good exercise, outlets to talk about your passions, solid advice, fun shopping sprees, and dealing with your friends’ spouses that rub you the wrong way. Do you have other outlets to talk about your passions, or are your friends the only ones? Do the expensive dinners get under your skin, or is it fun to treat yourself?
My brain hurts. That’s a lot of theoretical questions I just asked; let’s see if I remember how to talk in normal sentences. Jeez. But, it’s the same process of getting clear about what each of the contestants for your time offers, how much those offerings mean to you now, and what you think they’ll mean to you later if you’re not in a position to change them.
Are You Prioritizing Your Values?
Ultimately, it can be boiled down to the hierarchy of your values. Your values, and how each of these attributes we’ve been talking about relate to each one. Sometimes it’s simple and straightforward, like having a fulfilling job being a top value. Sometimes it’s tricky, like income being a lower value, but pets being a high value and pets requiring income. It’s up to you to consider the values you want to live by (as opposed to values you feel obligated to live by) and how those values are best represented in your daily life.
Like I said, that big discussion is the guiding light here as it is for anyone. But hold your horses, cause I’m not done with you yet. I mentioned a little something a moment ago about being in a position to change things and I think it’s worth it to explore that further. It’s important to be cognizant of what you might be able to control in any of these contestants so as to make them more suitable for you.
And for you, more suitable means more balanced. Don’t be afraid to get creative and bundle your top values wherever necessary. Maybe you can get outside more by asking if you can either work remotely or take some time each day to do work on the outside of the office? Maybe you can get more active by biking to and from work each day? Maybe you can plan a set dinner or hike a few times each month with friends and family that everyone commits to, and you knock out outdoor time, family time and friend time all at once?
Not only will this add more value while not having to necessarily uproot things too much, but it will also give you planned, structured time to participate in all the things you want to. And the benefit of having a planned, structured time, beyond the obvious, is the fact that you won’t need to worry about it as much. You won’t need to scramble to figure out when and how you’re going to make time for things, because it’ll be planned.
Your friends won’t have to feel insecure about it either, if the plan does indeed involve them. It might not feel very spontaneous this way, but yet again, that’s where sacrifice not only comes in, but reminds of how it can be a good thing. The less you sacrifice, the thinner you spread yourself. The more you sacrifice, the more apt you are to appreciate that which you commit to making time for.
Work Life Balance: Conclusion
Now for my final thought.
Where’s that from? Did I just steal that from Jerry Springer? I think I stole that from Jerry Springer. Sorry, Jerry, if you’re out there. I’m sure you’re an avid listener of this podcast. I guess I’d just like you to question that last part you said, about the insecurities of your friends.
Yes, planning times for everyone to get together will likely assuage these insecurities that they express. But, I want you to question how much of your FOMO (fear of missing out) is caused by this sort of social pressure, particularly when social media is omnipresent in many people's lives.
With all due respect to your friends, if they’re insecure about your schedule and you not seeing them enough, that’s their problem. Whether it’s YOUR problem or not is something to reflect on. How much pressure are you putting on yourself to meet the needs of your friends and, more importantly, how would you feel about your circumstances and your life if your friends were totally fine with it and not raising questions like they are?
If, when you detach yourself from your friends, you see that you’re actually ok with your life as it is (and I’m not saying that’s a guarantee), the first of the changes that might be worth making is having a discussion with your friends about this and gauging just how supportive of you they really are and thus how fortifying the relationships are – both the relationships with them and whether or not those relationships affect you a healthy amount.
A lot of ground covered today, thanks to a multi-faceted and well constructed question. Thank you so much for sending this in and inviting a new type of discussion on work-life balance, at least as far as this podcast is concerned.
If you’ve got your own questions you’d like answered on the show, you can email them to advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We hope to see you in the next episode. Till then, my friends!
Listen to Greg narrate this post on Episode 26 of the podcast Optimal Living Advice.