How to Balance Work and Life: A Simple Exercise
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life“ Dolly Parton
It’s difficult to feel satisfied and happy if you don’t have a balance to your life. But to have a balance to your life, it’s helpful if you feel in control of it. People with that sense of control have normally found the happy medium. They spread their time effectively between the key elements of life; work, family, health, hobbies and recreation.
To achieve a happy medium, you’ll need to find an acceptable balance in your life between your responsibility to others and your own wants and needs; in other words your responsibility to yourself.
Working this out should help you to feel more satisfied with life and also to stay positive. People who’ve found this balance tend to look happy and satisfied at work and socially; we see this because it’s reflected in their behaviour, their approach to life and the way they conduct themselves.
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Interestingly, these people also tend to be realists – in other words they’ve come to terms with the fact that we all have responsibilities. For example, they accept that the majority of people have to work to earn a living.
I’d like to introduce you to a simple exercise which will help you to discover how to balance work and life. Even if, on the face of it, you feel satisfied in your life – still try this exercise. It’s called the Life Balance exercise. You’ll need to ask yourself if the balance in your life is right. It’s important that you’re realistic when you do this. Don’t kid yourself that you aren’t happy because you spend more time at work than you do on holiday!
Here’s a simple exercise to work out how to balance work and life
Try to open your mind and think creatively, particularly when you’re thinking about yourself and the things you’d like to do or achieve. During This Life Balance exercise you’ll need to think about the present. You’ll be reflecting on the way you’re leading your life at the moment and whether or not you’ve got your priorities right.
Think about how much time you spend at work and then consider the other aspects of your life which are or should be important to you. This is a personal and private exercise and only you will know what’s important to you. It might help to think in terms of:
Your responsibility to others at work and your family
Your responsibility to yourself in terms of work, enjoyment, health and hobbies
Some people find it helpful to actually map out how much time they spend on the different elements of their life. This highlights any inconsistencies and gives you a more graphic feel for whether or not you’re spending too much time on one particular aspect of your life. In other words, whether or not you’ve got your priorities right.
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Have a look at this pie chart put together by Ashley (one of my students). She’s calculated the amount of time she spends on different aspects of her life over a weekly period.
Ashley’s chosen family, health, work and recreation as her key elements. You can see straightaway just by looking at the blue portion that she spends a lot of her time at work (this includes her journey to work).
Have a go at developing your own pie chart; you could choose the same four elements as Ashley or you might decide to change them to reflect your own life more specifically. For example, if you spend a lot of time cleaning the house, then cleaning could be one of the elements you include on the chart. Include anything you think takes up a significant amount of time. Don’t forget to include sleeping time on the chart either. Ashley decided to include sleep in the health portion (and realised that she probably doesn’t get enough of it!)
Remember, when you do the Life Balance exercise, you’re looking at a period of a week in your life. This week needs to be a fairly ‘typical’ week so don’t choose a week that doesn’t reflect the general pattern of your routine. Make sure you include the weekend as well so the exercise reflects seven days worth of your time. Some people find it helpful to break the week into days and then to break each 24 hour period down.
Ultimately, your pie chart represents 168 hours of your life. Once you’ve allocated times to activities, you should have a good feel for how your time is spent. When you’ve finished the chart, reflect on it and ask yourself:Have you got your priorities right?
What changes you can implement to create more time?
The next step involves change. The best way to start thinking about change is to write down some personal objectives. My blog on how to write Personal Objectives will help you with this.
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