Finding Balance in Work and Life

Have you ever struggled to find balance in your day? To feel like you are doing all of things you want to accomplish and being in all of the places you want to be? Do you feel like you are getting sucked down a black hole in one area of your life and have nothing to give in other areas?

If you answered yes, then you and I have something in common. I have been searching over the last couple years to understand what my ideal work situation would look like. I am still not totally sure, but am committed to continue to search.

It is easy to feel guilty, like it is okay to live days overwhelmed or unsatisfied because it is just part of our suffering for Christ. Didn’t God say in Genesis that we were going to have to toil?

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Yes, work is a part of our life. Yes, it is mandatory in almost every family. But I firmly believe that God wants us to be joyful workers. Not just those who grin and bear it, but to live a life of joy that is deep rooted. Satisfied with each day in both its hardships and triumphs.

John 10:10 says that “…I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” The life that Jesus is talking about here is himself . He wants your days to be full in goodness and truth and life. So lets figure out some practical ways we can live in to this.

Recently, I enjoyed a talk from Ballet Austin’s Vicki Parson, Director for the Butler Community School, entitled“Take Action for Balance Between Work and Life” 

She had a lot thoughtful things to say from a secular perspective, so being the generous sharer that I am, I will hash out a few of her points here and of course splash in my own thoughts and commentary along the way. I hope it helps you think and take action toward joyful work.

Its not a 50:50 kind of thing

Typically when we hear the phrase work/life balance we think of pictures like this…

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Work Life Balance

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We put work on one hand and our life on the other. But the reality is your work is part of your life. Whether your work completely in your home, in an office building, classroom, or hospital. The work you do each day is part of your life. We do not begin living our life after 5pm and on the weekends it happens all day long.

So with this is mind there is no magic ratio of work and non-work life, but rather there are seasons where the percentages ebbs and flows. The first thing to do is shift our mind away from work verses life and instead we need to think about what our goals are and how can we meet them in all parts of our life. So here are a few questions to help you with this process.

What does balance in your life look like? What would be the ideal?

Picture what your ideal balance would look like. How would you feel? Is it getting everything off your to do list, having little stress, the option for flexibility, feeling joy?

For me, I picture success in this area of life as being happy to be where I am. When at work, I am focused on what is at hand and want to be at my desk and when I am at home, I feel comfortable leaving the things at work to enjoy my family, friends, and hobbies. I guess the word for this feeling is engagement. To feel engaged and focused while at work and while at home. Caught up in what I am doing. This doesn’t mean everything is perfect constantly, or that I do not miss my little girl, but that the majority of the time I can focus on the work at hand and then let it go when its time to focus on other things.

Can you imagine what a balanced life might look or feel like for you?

Alright, good stuff, now that we have the end game in mind, lets figure out how to get there.

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What are your core values?

Core values are different for each person. But what at the end of the day is most important for you? What do you not want to compromise on. These are the things that you know are high contributors to your life feeling balanced. When thinking about these core values, try to think through things that give you a lasting and not just momentary happiness.

Here is a word bank of options as you brainstorm: family time, fitness, faith, creativity, fellowship with friends, service, nature, reflection.

Then think about actions or steps you can take to make sure that these things are in your life. Things that both fit your core values and fits pieces of Martin Seligman‘s definition of happiness

  • Provides a positive emotion
  • Activates and engages you
  • Builds relationships founded on love
  • Provides you meaning and purpose. Where you feel you are contributing to something bigger than yourself
  • Offers achievement.

We need to make a plan… I am asking you to really think of the things that are your core values. Here is another word bank incase you need some started ideas.

Worship, happy hour, your job, board games, sewing, gardening, quiet time each day, family dinner, working out, movies, hiking, visiting family, animals, roller coasters, music, blogging, volunteering in the community, date nights with spouse, serving in your church, taking vacations, reading, sports, the list could go on and on.

Now I know what your saying, because I was saying it too. “How am I suppose to find time to add in my core values if I am already swamped with work responsibilities and home responsibilities. Well here is the big kicker…

There is no extra time, so instead build more boundaries.

Even after you decide what your core values are and how you can accomplish them, there is still only 24 hours in the day. So choose a few (4-8) that are non negotiable, the others are possible when time allows. Then build boundaries in your day to ensure that these non-negotiables happen. Its not about adding more things or even about managing your time better, but creating boundaries. (I am looking in the mirror here). The things that fulfill me can not be put on hold until I retire, quit my job, things slow down, or my kids are grown.

This is especially important when things get extra busy. If you are going through a season at work or at home that is crazy-town you need to set firm boundaries around the things that keep you balanced.

Its important to remember that, even with boundaries and a plan, coming home tired from work or at the end of the day of taking care of home and kids doesn’t mean that things are unbalanced or that you are not enjoying your job. The things we love will make us tired because we are investing ourselves in them.  We can embrace and enjoy the exhaust action of a day well spent. But even around the things we love we need to set boundaries to allow ourselves time to refuel.

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Some Practical Tips for Everyday

After you have identified your core values and set up a few boundaries to be sure that you are making them a priority, how do you sustain these goals in your everyday?

  • Before you walk in the door at the end of the day, figure out if you need to achieve a few more goals or relax and enjoy something. Plan for the place changes or situation changes of your day. On the drive home from work, plan what your next move will be. Keeping in mind what you really need to do.
  • Every once in a while ask yourself when the last time you felt all five of the happiness traits listed above. Then do something about it if it has been over a week.
  • Set some priorities. Figure out if you really need to do  (insert task here). The answer to this question may be different for each person and in each season. Do I really need to vacuum my carpet every week? Do I really have to throw my daughter a big birthday party every year?
  • After you have decided those things that you have to do, but that always wear you down (laundry, grocery shopping, cooking dinner, paying bills ect) then it is time to figure out when you can do those things so that they are least stressful. Maybe it is going to the grocery store once a week or cooking all your meals on Sunday. Does this have to be done? If yes, then when and how is the best way to do it.
  • Learn to say no. Nuff said.
  • Turn off distractions.
  • Get some sleep
  • Pursue your passions

There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences. – Jack Welsh

I hope that this process was helpful for you, I know it was for me.

I want to restate that you were made for goodness. Made in God’s image which is love and all great things. Lets take steps together to live like it.

 

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