For several years now, those who apparently have no idea what work-life balance is and have virtually never experienced it are proclaiming that it is passé -- in favor of work-life harmony or work-life integration.
The truth is, these terms all mean approximately the same things. You can split hairs anyway you want, and I suppose that's a good way to differentiate a program if you're seeking to offer one to clients, but the reality is work-life balance is the overarching issue of our time that all career professionals strive to achieve.
I define work-life balance as the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home life with sufficient leisure. It is attaining focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for your time and attention.
Work-life balance entails having some breathing space for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. It is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within 24-hour days, seven-day weeks and however many years you have left.
Several disciplines support work-life balance, though individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:
Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise and nutrition.
Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital and that life, time and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.
Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned — you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges.
Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent versus important or urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.
By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable.
More people, noise and distractions — independent of one’s individual circumstances — require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.
In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life.
Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.
Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you rather than abuses you.
Technology has always been with us since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share.
Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.
The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges the importance of rest and relaxation — that one can’t shortchange leisure and that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience.
Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.
Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you.
It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.