A popular topic in today’s news is that of work-life balance. What is work-life balance? It’s not simply a matter of the number of hours one spends at work. Nor is it just an issue of corporate policies on flextime and family leave. Work-life balance issues are more a matter of the meaning and quality of life.
Feelings of Imbalance
The problems of work-life balance manifest as feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to satisfy all of one’s responsibilities. When feeling overwhelmed, a person often eliminates those areas they control, such as personal recreation, exercise, and relaxation.
In an effort to carve out more time, people often take shortcuts with food preparation. Fast-food restaurants become attractive as alternatives to planning, purchasing, and preparing food. The high fat and high-calorie content of most fast food meals can compound the problem by adding concerns over weight gain and cholesterol levels.
Popular Solutions to Life Balance
Some solutions to work-life balance focus on time management. Managing one’s time is important and can contribute to a better-balanced life, but time management will not solve the fundamental issues associated with an imbalanced life.
Other solutions focus on setting personal boundaries, specifically being able to say no to intrusions upon one’s time and energy. Though setting boundaries can also helpful in maintaining a balanced life, being able to say no is not the solution to an imbalanced life.
Corporations often offer flexible time as a work-life balance contribution. Flex time is helpful, but again, not sufficient to solve the life balance issue.
At one time, multi-tasking was a popular solution to life balance problems. The idea was to use small segments of downtime to do other tasks, switching back and forth in the manner of electronic devices serving multiple customers. The problem is that humans are not electronic devices.
The human brain is not wired to multitask efficiently. Studies show that multitasking degrades quality and productivity. The more complex the task, the more degradation. Thus the danger of driving and texting on a cell phone. Multitasking can actually worsen work life issues.
Cell phones, BlackBerrys, and vast areas of wireless internet availability offer a false solution. The images of happy people sitting on a beach while working may seem an attractive way to satisfy work demands while vacationing, but as with any other form of multi-tasking, neither the work nor the vacation will benefit.
What Is a Balanced Life?
What then is a balanced life and how does one achieve it? People who profess to have balanced lives speak of their lives flowing, moving relatively smoothly through the peaks and valleys of life experiences. People speak of life having meaning and purpose.
Life balance, then, is a personal feeling that life is as it should be. Life circumstances that might seem imbalanced to one person could be perfectly balanced to another. Work life balance is a personal determination, lending itself only to the subjective determination of each person.
Life Purpose Is Fundamental to Balance
There is, however, a fundamental underpinning of life balance that applies to each person – this is life purpose. Regardless of the hour’s one works and the number of personal and professional responsibilities one has; when life is well aligned with purpose, it will feel balanced.