The Importance of Work/Life Balance
We have all talked about, and heard about the importance of work/life balance. Society today is more connected than ever. There doesn't seem to be a downtime for most, as we witness people attached to their cell phones everywhere we go. We see people in restaurants sitting across from each other, talking to someone else through text messages. This also happens within homes, around the dinner table. People leave their work day, and respond to messages from the office during their evening family time.
I have been self employed since 1985, working out of my home. While this is wonderful, it's important to have disciplines in place. Something effective I did many years ago when our children were young, was install an unlisted phone in our home. That number was only given out to family and closest friends. If it rang during family time, I knew it wasn't work related. Another discipline I put in place was closing my office door when I was done work for the day. Over 30 yrs later, I still maintain these practices. I thank my daughter who actually woke me up to this when she was young. We were baking Christmas cookies and I took a business call in the middle of it, and she started crying and said "mommy you promised you wouldn't work". We have an opportunity to either shuffle moments like this under the carpet, or, recognize it as a wake up call and take different actions.
There are also those "important" meetings that just can't be missed. Many work "mandatory overtime", which is a concept I will never understand. These people will lose their jobs if they don't work this "mandatory overtime". Don't get me wrong, I do understand, but I will never accept this is their only choice. There is no way an employer would ever tell me I "must" work overtime or lose my job. It's interesting, when you are self employed you gain a sense of independence and become very solution oriented. We work to live and provide a better life for our families...we do not live to work. There are other jobs, there are other solutions, but as long as employees all "accept" this type of rule, companies will continue to force this upon their employees.
There is great danger in neglecting work/life balance, that many do not recognize until it sneaks up on them. All of a sudden an individual feels stressed, unhappy, too busy, pulled in too many directions, and ends up feeling burned out. When you come to this spot of being burned out, you have no energy, and are totally unproductive, in your work, and in your personal life. You cannot possibly bring the best you have to give to the table when you are in an emotional state like this. Your work production goes down, as does what you put into your relationships.
Let's look at one of the busiest work roles and learn some powerful distinctions.....
I came across an article about our Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who was taking a day off on a Japanese business trip to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife Sophie. Something important I have noticed about this prime minister, is the way he DEMONSTRATES through his actions, the words he uses. We can't talk about work/life balance if we let things that are important in our personal life go. If the Prime Minister of Canada can take a day off, what is so important in your business life that you can't?
Think about this example from another perspective. Let's say the Prime Minister put his wedding anniversary on hold until he had more time. What message would this give to his wife? How supportive would she be of his career? What would this do to their relationship? How would that guilt affect his meetings? What would he be demonstrating to his children? Credibility is built by our actions, not our words.
If you don't understand the importance of your down time, eventually you will come to resent the work you do, regardless of how much you love your work. We work to live, we don't live to work. If you are putting the important things in your life on the back burner, the joy goes out of your work, you feel resentful and it becomes something you are doing just to pay the bills. You will not be producing at your maximum potential and your work will suffer.
Those that understand the importance of work/life balance, understand the many benefits associated with it.
Creativity - I have personally found that it is during my downtime I get some of my most creative ideas. Being around water is particularly effective for me, pools, the beach, on a boat. The same type of effect can also come from fire - fireplaces, campfires, etc. It is the action of sitting still and staring at either water or fire, that the mind slows down and you identify new ideas. It is important to understand the ideas come because the mind is still and relaxed, not because you are attempting to force creativity. We CAN create this type of feeling at any time. We have often built a campfire in our backyard on a week night for instance. It is amazing how much of a treat this feels like, and how refreshed you feel, as if you have been away for the weekend.
Refreshed - When you have taken some downtime to do those things that fill your heart with joy, you become refreshed, and you can see new perspectives. It gives you a renewed energy to get back to work.
Happiness - When we are stressed we lose our sense of happiness. When we come back from a break, we feel happier, we have created some new memories and the "reason" for working is felt through the reward of time off with those we love. This translates into feeling happy.
Happy, refreshed, creative people are obviously more productive in their work, in their relationships, and in their personal lives. It's vital to understand that this is all intermingled. When we have balance between work and our personal lives, we naturally perform better in everything we do.
I challenge anyone reading this to take a moment and reflect....are you "too busy" and putting things in your personal life off? Take a moment and ask yourself what is so important? If the Prime Minister of Canada walks the walk of work/life balance, and can take a day off, so can you.