It’s 9:30 on Friday night and here I am typing an article because I have been so swamped all week.  This weekend I have to clean the house and do laundry which I haven’t done in a couple of weeks, then there are errands and oh yeah and the article is about work life balance.  Sound familiar?  Well maybe not the writing of an article, but how many of us bring our work home during the week and on the weekends?  How many of us put our family and friends second because of work?  Ask anyone what is most important to them and usually they will say family and friends yet we give them the leftovers.

We all talk about it but what is work life balance? Is this the same as many of us being told we can have it all?

Work/life balance changes depending on where you are in life and what your priorities are.  Work takes up a large chunk of time so does sleep and sadly so does commuting consequently the balance is learning to set priorities. These priorities change, but how you handle them doesn’t. Learn to say no to people so you won’t feel over committed. Finding time for yourself is a vital part of achieving life balance because your needs are just as important as the needs of those around you. If you commit yourself to too many obligations, your productivity for each one will begin to diminish.   Work/life balance has a positive impact on your health and productivity.

If balance doesn’t mean adding schedules or setting time quotas for activities, and one size doesn’t fit all and it keeps changing what does it mean?  It means identifying what is important what you truly enjoy, setting priorities and living in the present. It means finding something everyday you get pleasure from and it means feeling a sense of achievement. I love reading but I can’t always luxuriate with a good book but I drive a lot and have discovered audio books,  I reserve what I want from the library and while I’m driving all over Los Angeles and Ventura County I get to hear best sellers fiction and non-fiction.  I enjoy the books and feel I have accomplished more with my time than bemoaning the traffic.

Below are 6 key steps to help you bring a little more balance to your life

Step 1 Identify your sacred times and what is important to you
What is important to you?  What are the activities or people that give your life meaning?  What do you want to achieve for yourself, your family, your work, or your friends?  Some days you will achieve more in some areas than others but as long as you are enjoying what you do there is balance.  I used to dance and performed on stage for many years and before doing it if someone had told me I’d give up business meetings for my dance classes I would have said they were nuts.  But there I was, it was my sacred time and I chose if there was something more important I wanted to do.  For me the challenge of getting better at what I was doing was important both in dance and at work.  Family time was also sacred time but it changed as the family changed and grew.

Step 2 Identify what gives you joy
Eliminate what is not important to either your enjoyment or personal accomplishments.  When you list your priorities and see what is important you will also see where you may be spending time that really doesn’t contribute to what you value.  Sometimes it may be people; other times activities, or meetings. I was invited to join a networking group that met once a week in the mornings for breakfast. I went for about 6 weeks.  I knew it was time to quit when I was no longer looking forward to being there and it was the same information every week.
Do you find yourself looking for excuses not to do something?  At work this is when you learn to delegate or trade.  If you can’t delegate it to someone see if you can work out a system where you do a task you enjoy for someone who does the work for you that  you don’t enjoy as much.  Both of you will be doing a better job on the tasks and will feel good about the work you accomplished.

Step 3 Set Boundaries
Learn to set boundaries that you protect.  I know it is hard when the boss says we are all working late because of a deadline but that is the exception. In general more work hours does not mean better performance.  Focus on improving productivity within the work day and showing that you can be very productive without working extra hours.  You will be proud of all you accomplish and enjoy the effort.
Having my own business I decided that from Monday morning to Friday afternoon I will work whatever hours are needed but from Friday to Monday that’s my time and if I choose to work because of a deadline ( like this article) or something else then I will but it is my choice.
This is also about living in the present.  When you get home your kids don’t care if you had a good or bad day they just want to spend time with their parent.  While your significant other is very supportive they too want your undivided attention.  Turn off the cell, the pager, and leave the e-mail alone. It will still be there in the morning.  I hate to burst your bubble but you aren’t that important that the messages can’t wait.  Give your undivided attention and joy to the moment and you’d be amazed at the reaction.

This includes making sure you have time just for you as well.  Whether it’s going for a walk by yourself, or participating in a favorite activity make sure sacred time includes you

Step 4 Re prioritize Tasks
This is where you create a plan with your spouse, significant other, friends, neighbors, or hire people.  How happy are you when on your day off you are cleaning, doing errands, carpooling or other activities?  Parents can switch off who watches the kids so the other can enjoy an activity or vise versa.  Play dates allow free time as well.  As far as cleaning goes even if it’s once a month get a service to help out if that’s an issue or if the kids are old enough set schedules so they help out.  It may not be perfect but it frees your time they feel they have accomplished something and it gives you more time to enjoy them.

Step 5 Schedule the Activities you enjoy
You’ve heard it before but make dates with your spouse or significant other, and keep them!  Set aside time to just hang out with friends.  Have family nights.  Do whatever you enjoy doing that makes you feel good.Until you get used to setting aside time for your priorities create a plan to include them. My calendar has the gym and other activities I enjoy written down  Make a schedule and include any resources such as sitters you need to make sure the time is honored. This includes getting someone to feed or walk your dog.

Step 6 Spread the Joy for Yourself and Others
You may not work in an environment where others praise you; learn to pat yourself on the back.  You may not find joy in every task but the more you show it the more infectious it becomes.
At least at the end of every day and ideally during the day reflect on what you have accomplished and what you enjoy.  Help others find their joy. Be proud of where you are and acknowledge everything you have done to achieve it.

Work/life balance is about choices, your choices and your actions on those choices.  Set your priorities, set boundaries, plan your fun and congratulate yourself on all you do and have done.
Ok I’m done.. going to watch a little TV then get some sleep because tomorrow is cleaning and of course some play..