We’ve all heard how important it is to achieve “work-life balance.” The ubiquitous piece of advice starts with the idea that we are all stressed out and over-worked — a bunch of workaholics who need to get a life. Those who talk about work-life balance stress the need to integrate more of your personal life (aka, your life) into a busy work life.
But is this right? Why should you treat your life like a competition between the dreary work that you have to do and all the parts of your life that you actually enjoy? Work-Life balance implies that you have to weigh the different parts of your life on a scale.
Work-life Balance is Out, It’s All About Work-life Harmony
By contrast, achieving work-life harmony can be a better way to become a well-rounded person. Rather than striving to achieve some false constant balance in your life, it is about arranging your life so that the different parts are in harmony. The key difference is that achieving harmony means you can focus more on work sometimes and more on your family other times. You don’t always have to try to force everything to work at once. In this article we will examine five ways to create a better work-life harmony.
Make Conscious Choices
People who achieve work-life harmony make conscious choices in their lives. They know that you have to create a map if you want to reach a destination. It is certainly true that you can’t predict everything in life, but that doesn’t mean you should give up on planning. If you want to have harmony in your life you need to first ask yourself what you want out of your life. You need to reflect carefully on both the type of work you want to do and how much time you want to spend working. Likewise, you need to reflect on what you want to do when you aren’t working.
Ask yourself about the quality and quantity of the time you spend with your family and friends. Consider other activities such as spiritual practices, hobbies, volunteer work, political involvement, entertainment, and the ordinary chores that you have to do. Conductors create harmony by getting different instruments to work together and by emphasizing different instruments at different times.
Work with Passion
It is cliché to say that if you choose a job you love, you will never work a day in your life — but it’s cliché for good reason. One of the most important ways you can achieve harmony in your life is to love what you do for a living. Admittedly, it is not always easy to find work that you love, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You need to begin by taking the time to analyze what you feel passionate about. What do you enjoy doing? Think about what gets your engine revving and how you can make money with it.
Research different jobs in industries that interest you. Talk to people who work in those industries. You can find a job that is a good fit for you, but you’ll need to put time into figuring out what that is. You are never going to love any job all the time, but loving what you do is an important step towards achieving work-life harmony.
Prioritize Working with People You Like
Let’s face it, it isn’t likely that you are ever going to like everyone you work with. There are difficult people at pretty much every job. However, your co-workers are an important part of your everyday life. You should prioritize working with people you like. That can mean finding a way to work with you friends. It can also mean making an effort to be friendly with your co-workers and turning them into friends.
If you find yourself working in a toxic environment, think about what you can do to change that environment and better deal with toxic co-workers. Alternatively, consider finding yourself a better environment to work in. Your health, both physical and mental, is impacted by the people you work with, so prioritize working with people you like.
Articulate Your Thinking
Communication is critically important to achieving work-life harmony. One of the main difficulties people have is with saying no. It can be hard to say no when our boss or a co-worker asks us to do something. It can be hard to say no to our family and friends when they ask us to do something for them or want us to spend time with them.
We have plenty of demands on our time. That is why it is so important to communicate frequently with your boss and co-workers, as well with your family and friends. Regular communication with the people that matter to you at work and at home creates harmony in your life, even when everything isn’t going smoothly.
Create the Good to Deal with the Bad
Bad things are going to happen in your life. That’s just life. You’ll get stuck in traffic. Someone you think is less deserving will get the promotion you want. Your kids will get sick and need you to stay home with them. You will have a fight with your spouse.
You can’t prevent every bit of misfortune that befalls you, but you can create good things. Stuck in traffic? Listen to a podcast, or think about going into work a bit later so you can breakfast with your family. Stuck at home with your kids who have the flu? Take that time to bond with them over pillow forts and chicken noodle soup. Creating the good means turning a cacophony of noise into a beautiful symphony.
Work-life balance is out. The Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine concluded in a 2003 study that workplace stress is an important contributing factor to the health problems of workers. The American Psychological Association has come to a similar conclusion. The idea of achieving complete balance between your personal and professional lives isn’t working.
Your attention will be split in too many directions if you try to pay equal attention to everything all the time. That is why you should focus on creating work-life harmony instead. An orchestra will sometimes stress more piano or percussion, but the end result is a pleasant harmony no matter which instrument or section predominates at any one time.
Will you be like a maestro who conducts the different parts of your life to create a beautiful symphony?