A few years ago a manager at work circulated the “Work-Life Balance Quiz“, from the Canadian Mental Health Association which tries to quantify your balance. The quiz introduction provides the best definition that I have come across; “Achieving work/life balance means having equilibrium among all the priorities in your life – this state of balance is different for every person.”
Our balance is what we choose. I classify myself as a consultant and as a profession, we do not have a 40 hour work week. Add client travel and other commitments, we average 40 billable hours and 50 to 55 working hours per week. This can swing depending on the number of projects and workload. I am comfortable with that as I am compensated for it, and to be honest, it is expected.
What I feel the real issues crop up when the balance gets way out of whack for an extended period of time. Right now, I had a low score on that survey which is really bad, but once a number of commitments get cleared off, my score should be back at 11 or 12 out of 15. In order to get through those swings, there are 4 things I try and keep in mind.
4 Things to Keep In Mind.
1. Keep A Balance
Remember, keep a balance and keep your score to show where you maintain your balance over the year. Periods such as; quarter end, wrapping up one client and starting the next become those really busy times when balance can be a challenge. You will always have swings and keep in mind that they should only be temporary.
2. Don’t let it be the Norm
Work-life balance is a cycle. There will be times when you cannot control it, but take time to have breaks and do something that gets you away. This will help keep you in control even when events around you are not.
3. Don’t Lose Sight of Where You Are
Also, remember to be aware and notice those times you are out of balance and adjust. Keep this survey handy and fill it out every now and then, just to keep you aware of where you are. It is so easy to get lost in what you are doing and ignore the telltale signs that something is not right and avoid burnout. Your family can be the first ones to notice there is an issue and make sure you listen.
4. How Many Items can you Juggle?
There are multitaskers, but how many things can you really juggle before the quality of your work suffers. Better to do a few things really well rather than many things really poorly. I am really starting to believe that you can only do two or three projects at a time really well before your work suffers.
There is a great article by William R Klemm Ph. D. entitled The Perils of Multitasking which reviews the dangers of multitasking and concludes that “Constant switching creates a distractible state of never being fully present. It trains the brain to have a short attention span and shrinks working memory capacity.” No matter what you do, you should always do it well and not take shortcuts, cutting quality because you are trying to accomplish too much. Bring in help if you need it.
Listen to the signals around you as you may not be aware of being out of balance until you are on the verge of burn out which can bring about a whole different set of issues. Take the survey once in a while and gauge where you are and if you need to make any short-term changes in order to get your balance back in order.
A more detailed essay on Work-Life balance can be found in the essay “A Consultant’s Guide to Work-Life Balance“.
Resource: Work-Life Balance Series
The following articles are also part of the Work-Life Balance series.