This is one of the oldest dilemmas of employed adults – how does one reach an ideal work-life balance? With the ever-increasing workloads and the constant competition involved in being employed and successful, striking the perfect balance between work and spending time with the family is indeed a lifelong challenge for most.
Luckily, the latest developments on the labour market have arguably made employment more accessible than ever. There are practically endless possibilities of freelancing and remote work, and even working mothers can easily find part-time jobs online. In theory, this means that making money while also spending enough time with your loved ones has never been easier. In reality, working from home presents you with the same time management issues as a traditional office job, while adding some new ones as well. True, you get rid of the commute, but now you have the challenge of separating your “working hours” from your “family hours”, which is a lot harder than it would seem at first.
Now for the main subject of this article – what are the most sensible approaches for reaching the work-life balance that you desire? Here are several tips and recommendations to help you with this challenge:
Prioritize your tasks
Undeniably, family always comes first. No career is worth missing out on important moments with your loved ones – they are what makes life worth living. However, when it comes to separate tasks, these can be prioritized regardless of their nature. Whether you need to send a report, finish a spreadsheet, do the laundry, or cook breakfast – each task has a certain degree of importance and urgency. It is up to you to categorize and set priorities, which will ensure that you are focused and use your limited resources in the most efficient manner. The main trick is to do this permanently, on a daily basis, and to stick to what you decide.
Try a Project Management approach
Taking a Project Management approach means that besides prioritizing, you break down your work into smaller components, in what is known as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This allows you to tackle each component separately, by taking “baby steps” towards a greater goal. You will find that it is easier for you to handle your work responsibilities, your house chores, and your family activities, if you break them down and take them step by step. Besides WBS, a Project Management also implies assigning deadlines to each small task and making sure that you adhere to them more or less religiously.
Time Management is the name of the game
Time is by far our most valuable resource, with it being so limited and also having the tendency to fly at incredible speed. If only you could extend your day to 25 or 26 hours, right? Wrong. The trick is to manage your time correctly. Fortunately, there are many tools and tips to help you do this, like Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix, the Pareto Analysis, the Pomodoro Technique or the Eisenhower Matrix. There are also numerous apps that will assist you with your time management. Alternatively, you can even consider taking some time management courses, to cement a productive approach and behaviour. Once you truly become the master or mistress of your own time, you will find that striking a balance between work and family is not as hard as it seems.
Eliminate unnecessary and/or cumbersome activities
Living in the modern world, filled with various distractions and mediums that are
constantly seeking you attention, it is quite easy to lose control and find yourself committing to activities that take up too much of your time, without really being useful for your wellbeing and happiness, or are even outright useless. Sure, you can spend an hour or two playing Candy Crush to relax, but make sure that this habit does not get out of hand.
The same goes for extracurricular activities that you once signed up for, because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and you keep doing them by the power of habit, without reconsidering if they are still useful to you, or if you still have time for them. Volunteering for your community, though certainly noble and selfless, is something that only people who have the time for it can get involved in. It may be a good idea for you to take a break from some of these activities, just until you don’t feel like you have too much on your plate anymore. The same applies to your kids – do not get them involved in too many after-school activities or sports. There is a time to perform and excel, and then there is a time to spend with the family and just enjoy life.
Try to involve your family in your work
While seemingly unorthodox, this approach has actually worked wonders for some families. Your spouse or your children may find your work more interesting and fun than you might think. Let them get involved, as much as the circumstances allow, in what you are doing professionally. This approach can take many shapes, depending on the type of work you are doing – from taking your kids to work sometimes and letting them help as best they can, to actually giving them tasks and projects to complete, to working side by side with your spouse, the possibilities are endless really.
This approach works in several ways. Firstly, it will allow your loved ones a glimpse of your professional side and thus make them understand your work life better. Secondly, it will show your employers and your colleagues your personal, humane side. Thirdly, your family’s input might actually prove very useful for your work performance and results. And most importantly, you will get to spend more time with your loved ones. The epitome of this approach is to get to have your own family business, and many of today’s Fortune 500 companies have started exactly like that, so it is definitely worth some consideration.