By Rae Steinbach
We’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of maintaining a healthy balance between work and life outside of work. It’s gotten to the point where some people get so focused on this balance that it is distracting them from both their work and their life.
While having a healthy work/life balance is important, we also need to keep things in perspective. Work is an important part of life, and just because you find yourself dedicating more time to your career, that does not necessarily mean that your life is scarily imbalanced. Considering the times in which we live, the suggestions below will help you understand what a work/life balance means in this day and age, and what you should really be expecting.
The Lines Have Blurred
Part of what makes the work/life balance difficult to understand is that the lines between the two have become somewhat blurred. In the past, the distinction between these two different areas of our lives were more clearly defined. There was time at the office, and then there was time at home. Modern technology has made it more difficult to separate the two.
You might wake up in the morning and check your emails before you even get out of bed. You have calls and emails with your boss and co-workers on your day off. You might even talk to colleagues about the next day’s project when you are at home in the evening.
For many people, this might make it seem like they are constantly working. However, it might not be as one-sided as you think. If these types of communications are dominating your life outside of work, then it might be a problem. However, staying in touch with the job is just a common feature of many modern careers.
It’s important to conduct an individual, weekly check-in on how you think work is influencing your life. Feeling overwhelmed and like too much time is spent on calls or in the office? Recognize that and try to make a conscious change.
You also have to consider the ways that the lines have blurred in the other direction. Sure, you might be doing things for your job when you are at home, but there is also a good chance that you regularly take care of personal matters when you are at the office.
With modern technology, it is very easy to stay in touch with your family and friends when you are at work. You might check your social media a few times a day or make calls and send text messages when at your desk. While work may have crept into your life away from the office, it is also likely that your personal life has crept into your work routine. Neither is necessarily bad; just being aware of the shift in circumstances can help put into perspective what a modern work/life balance looks like.
You Can’t Have it All
Managing the balance between your life and your career can be difficult. A big part of what makes people feel like they lack balance is that they can’t have everything they want in both parts of their life. You want to advance your career and you also have a bunch of goals that you want to achieve in your personal life. The fact that you can’t get everything in both situations can make it seem like you have to choose between one or the other.
This is a false choice, and it is often one of the factors that result in a perceived imbalance between work and life. Part of achieving a good work/life balance is prioritizing what you want.
Focus on the big goals at work — the things that will truly add up to real progress. When you are away from work, figure out the most important things that you want for your personal life. When you know what you want, it is much easier to set the course and get there. You might not achieve everything, but you will get the things that matter the most, and you will manage a work/life balance while you are doing it.
The Distorted Lens
Social media has created a bit of a false reality. When we look at our friends’ social media feeds, we see the vacations, time with family, and the best of what they want to present to the public. People often make the mistake of comparing their real lives with these idealized versions of their friends’ lives.
When you look at your friends’ social media feeds, you are not seeing the days where they had to stay late at the office, them reviewing their emails over breakfast, or the times they had to frantically revise an important report from their home office. This can make it seem like they have found a way to manage a much better work/life balance, and by comparison, it makes your life seem more out of balance than it is.
Remember that everyone deals with balancing work responsibilities and recreation time. You, too, can take vacation time and snap pictures of your dinner on a Wednesday night. However, just as you know from your own experiences, these times come in tandem with a life in the workplace.
We can only do so much with the limited amount of time we have. Work and social lives are no longer two necessarily separate entities. You must recognize the shift in what a modern work/life balance means. You also need to focus on your own life, and avoid comparing your situation to the seemingly perfect lives that you see posted on the social media profiles of your friends.
Rae Steinbach is a graduate of Tufts University with a combined International Relations and Chinese degree. After spending time living and working abroad in China, she returned to New York City to pursue her writing career.
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