Work-Life Balance – No, this is not an oxymoron.
Much has already been talked about striking a balance between work and life. But, the struggle is real, and there is no clear-cut formula to achieve it. Every individual has a unique situation with challenges, and what works for one may not work for another. However, we all must find ways and disagree to live with the problem, as it takes away a part of us without any notice.
The first step to finding a solution to the problem is acknowledging it. Most often, we are so deep into trouble that we do not realise that we are in it until it starts impacting our health, relationships, and overall well-being.
“I was spending endless hours at work, was so involved in work that I never felt that I had practically no personal life. And then, I started noticing severe back pain, low energy levels, and a lack of concentration. I had lost contact with my friends, and my family was upset. I was almost into depression.” – One of my ex-colleagues.
You must have heard similar stories.
What is Work-Life Balance?
Let’s begin with understanding the problem well. You are not striking a balance between work and life if you are not spending enough time on your personal life as you are mostly at work. Well, we all need a job to provide for our families, educate our children, acquire healthcare and do all that we want to do in our lives. But, if we are not spending quality time with our parents, spouses, families, children, friends, and ourselves, we are losing so much in life – which cannot be quantified.
How the problem crept into our lives?
I am an 80’s child, and I do not remember my father and their entire generation complaining about work-life balance. This issue started emerging around 2000 and has now become more prominent. And that was around the same time we started using desktop computers to do a piece of work. Then came the era of cheap laptops and the internet. We are now hooked to our office computers, checking emails and finishing work around the clock. There is no work timing! No, it is not technology but us who have agreed to get into this and are now unable to find a way out.
Taming the Problem: My Recommendations
I have worked for the last 2 decades (almost!) with 10 companies under good, bad, and ugly bosses. But I have never missed a deadline at work. I have taken up different courses and certifications to be relevant to ever-changing technologies (so important). I am pursuing my 2nd MBA in Banking and Finance, an unknown territory (in the final leg).
I cook food for my family, do all the daily chores of a homemaker, and am a mother of a 5-year-old child. Not only that, but I paint, dance and play with my little one. I am no superwoman; I would rate myself as someone with a slightly above-average IQ level.
How do I manage this? I just do the following to stay on top of things:
- Time Management
- Staying Organised
- “No office-No work” Time
- Learning to Say “No”
- Asking for Help
- Loving Life
- Have fixed work timings—anything that works for your organisation and you.
- Start early. If possible, start early, as your mind is fresh and can deliver more in less time. If you go to the office, you can save time on traffic, especially in cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, and other big cities. As the day progresses, you will have meetings and people to talk to. If you start early, you can also wrap up work early. This means you will have more time for your family and yourself.
- Don’t waste your time on unwanted phone calls, WhatsApp Chats, or browsing your smartphone. It’s okay to spend time with your colleagues during tea breaks and lunch, but keep an eye on your watch. Cut down on all unproductive activities during work hours.
- Set up a schedule for your working days (and, if possible, for all days – it becomes a habit, and you will thank me for this later!). Remember our school days. We used to have a schedule to wake up, get ready, catch the bus to school, return home, do homework, and play. Being organised is a great skill, which comes in handy in every facet of life.
- Jot down all the meetings and to-do’s you have for the day. Set up a priority list too. This will help you keep a tab on different tasks. You will never miss a meeting or an important deliverable.
- Use a Pen and Notebook to write down all important tasks and check the ones you’ve completed. This will give you a sense of achievement, and you will be happy to see tick marks for most tasks when you finish the day. If there are not many tick marks, you need to plan better.
- Prepare a similar list as above for the following day. You will be better prepared the next day at work.
Set “No Office-No Work” Time
- Set some time that is exclusively for your personal life. Do not take up work outside office hours and weekends (until necessary). If you are not sitting on the country’s border, the query on Slack or the mail response can wait a few more hours.
- Restrict yourself from checking emails and official messages during off-office, weekends, and holidays.
One of my teammates was constantly complaining about a lack of work-life balance. “Stop responding to Slack and email messages during off-working hours. Uninstall these apps from the mobile if it is too difficult to refrain yourself.” She did. And the results were clear. She could manage her work well and started coming up with newer ideas. Within a year, she was promoted to a Lead position.
Learning to Say “No”
- Learn to say “No” if you do not have the bandwidth to do a piece of work. If you overburden yourself, there is a high probability that you will miss the timeline or the quality of your work will suffer. No sensible manager will want the timelines to be missed or to deliver low-quality work.
- Take as much as you can deliver. Everyone will appreciate it. Nobody likes team members who take up a lot on their plate but fail to deliver. It creates unnecessary pressure on the other team members and the team as a whole.
Asking for Help
- Most of us work in teams. If you are stuck with a complex or a huge task, ask your team members to help you rather than struggling and slogging for hours. There will be at least a few members with better expertise or bandwidth to lend a helping hand.
- Make time to spend time with people you love to be. Your old and ailing parents are waiting to hear from you. Your spouse and your children; talk to them and play with them. Meet up with your friends and colleagues. Stay in touch.
- We all have some hobbies, right? Music, dance, cooking, painting, or a sport. Start nurturing them.
- Me-time. Keep yourself away from social media and WhatsApp, and spend time with yourself. Exercise, eat well, sleep, read a book, watch a movie, pamper yourself in a salon, go shopping or just do nothing!
Life is too precious to waste cribbing about things. It’s true that life is unpredictable. There is no one solution for this slow poison that is destroying us. But we can improve things if we are willing to make changes. Find a better job if nothing works. Go make your move and be in control of your life!