Reflection: It’s been 20 or 30 years since we first started talking about work-life balance. The main challenge in the early days seemed to be that work ate up an inordinate share of our time and energy – squeezing out space for life’s other jobs and joys.
Over the years, the way we talk about this issue has changed. We’ve gone from balance as a distant objective, to flex as a decent workaround, to harmony as a desirable possibility, to integration as a reasonable compromise, to flow as a utopian ideal.
Although the language has changed, so has the culture and the technology. Expectations continue to grow, techno tools multiply, and multitasking runs rampant. The core challenge remains. There’s still not enough of US (that’s ME and YOU) to go around.
Here’s what I have noticed. We’ve become very good at injecting work tasks into what we previously referred to as ‘off-hours or down-time’. We check email while we tend the stir-fry. We fire off a text while keeping half an eye on the TV or the kids.
We’ve become better at wedging personal needs into our ‘working hours’. We take a mid-day break to ferry a parent to a doctor’s appointment. We leave work early to catch a youngster’s soccer game.
Sadly, we still fall short when it comes to working our own needs for R & R (relief and renewal) into the equation.
Action: Whether you pursue balance, flex, harmony, integration or flow, here are three strategies that are essential to sustaining yourself along the way.
- Give yourself permission to pause – to step away from the work throughout the day. Take five minutes outdoors. Share a five minute chat about something other than work. Take five to close your eyes and breathe.
- Set your own boundaries, policies, and targets for well-being. Carve out space to top your tank BEFORE the day gets its hooks into you. Set and honor minimums for things like morning walks, massages, and hours of sleep. Set and honor maximums for things like serving on committees and days spent on the road.
- Unplug the technology. Turn off texting, email and social media for finite periods of time. Give yourself the gift of mental breathing space.
Yes, life is busy and expectations run high. And, yes, you have the right (and the responsibility) to do what you need to do to care for yourself – to sustain your energy and enthusiasm for the long haul. Own it and go for it!
Quotes Of The Week:
- Choose discomfort over resentment. – Brene Brown re the challenge of saying no and setting boundaries.
- Turn off your email; turn off your phone; disconnect from the Internet; figure out a way to set limits so you can concentrate when you need to, and disengage when you need to. Technology is a good servant but a bad master. – Gretchen Rubin
- Putting exercise first creates a win-win. – Josh Steimle
Resources Of The Week:
- Article by Brene Brown: 3 Ways To Set Boundaries.
- Article by Josh Steimle: Why Exercising Is A Higher Priority Than My Business.
Readers Write: In response to the recent post, Ain’t Brain Science A Wonderful Thing, Pause reader, CD writes: Your message this week made me laugh out loud. I used to work in the MRI department. The running joke in our family is that my mom or sisters would call and say “Yes, I’d like to have my head examined…?” We’d laugh and laugh.
I also agree that the information we are able to get about brain activity these days is astounding and really helpful in understanding individual’s coping abilities and levels of functioning. Thanks for the chuckle.