3 Steps to Define Your Own Work/Life Balance

Posted May 21, 2012 by Monica O'Connell in Life After Five

I’ve been reading and speaking often about the elusive work/life balance. In general, women don’t do the greatest job of balancing the two. Studies reveal regularly that Americans are overworked, burned out and stressed. On top of that, we choose awful ways of coping with the stress. These include overeating, under-sleeping, we drink more coffee, we drink more alcohol, and we take more pills. We know it’s not in our best interest and yet we have work to do. We have goals to reach. How do we balance the two?

In a recent CGN article, we found that Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, reports leaving her job at 5:30 to spend time with her family. This confession made news because it appears rare that women executives would admit to their families and personal lives a priority and still be successful. If Sheryl Sandberg can do it, why can’t you?

One work/life balance template I’ve seen people use is committing 8 hours to work, 8 hours to sleep and 8 hours to play. Is this achievable for you? For those early in their careers, new to a business venture or in the middle of a busy season, this idea seems unattainable and perhaps foolish.

Here’s your opportunity to define your own work/life balance. Play along with me for a second. I’m going to ask a question of you and I’d like you to give a gut reaction answer. Ready?

  1. Name the three most important life goals you’d like to achieve this year.
    Got ‘em?
  2. Answer this question: How many of them are work related? If they are, let yourself off the hook. Get rid of the idea of a perfect/work life balance. Give yourself permission to stay past 5pm or to wake up on a Saturday to complete an extra project.
  3. Then ask yourself: Are none of them work related? Take heed and when your work is done, get out of the office and into your life.

Only you can define balance. What we know about balance is that it’s ever changing. That means your answers might be ever changing. Check in with yourself perhaps every 30, 60 or 90 days and adjust accordingly. You’re in charge of your time. When you start paying attention to your goals and aligning them with how you spend your time, you’re defining balance.

What’s your take on work/life balance? Have you noticed it changing? How do you define balance?

About the Author

Monica O'Connell

Monica O’Connell is a Licensed Marriage and Family therapist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In her practice, she spends her career cheering on “Career Girls” as they learn how to get the most out of life. Monica works with arguably some of the most successful, intelligent, inspiring women in the Twin Cities who tackle self-discovery, career success, and what’s getting in the way of their true desires. She shares her favorite moments as those “best described not by words but by the stomach aching, face soreness that comes from spending an entire day laughing with loved ones.”