Attaining a Work-Life Balance in A Total-Access World
Recently, a blog post entitled, “This Study Reveals the 5 Biggest Regrets People Have Before They Die,” has been garnering a lot of attention on LinkedIn. The article, stemming from conversations an Australian nurse and counselor had while working with terminally ill patients, recounts the major regrets those nearing the end of their life expressed. Amongst those regrets, several participants were quoted saying, “I wish I didn’t work so hard”—noting that this particular response came from every male patient, and a few female patients as well.
Although hindsight is 20/20, most working people today would agree that while hard work is essential (and definitely isn’t going anywhere anytime soon), the old cliché of “life is a balancing act” still need apply. But when we’re in the grind of the day-to-day, with mounting demands from both our personal and professional lives, how can we ensure we don’t end up experiencing a similar fate of burdening regret later in life?
Acknowledge Your Susceptibility to Societal Pressures and Norms
In today’s modern era, the lines between work and personal have become more blurred thanks to advancements in technology, and changing attitudes about when/where we work. With 24/7 access to things like email, and anxieties about wanting to get ahead, demonstrating your value, demanding bosses, etc., work can often bleed over into time with family and friends.
Further, the phrase “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” is a cheap, guilt-heavy deflection from a larger problem. Work is exactly that: work. Enjoying your work doesn’t make you exempt from having other areas of your life neglected when it’s consuming all of your time and energy.
Allow Work and Personal to Remain Separate
Creating strong boundaries for yourself can help you regain a healthy balance between the two. For example, if you work from home, creating a separate space for where you conduct business (instead of posting up on your couch or dining room table) offers you an environment that is strictly dedicated to work and devoid of distractions.
To provide further separation, deactivate your email on nights and weekends to help you remain present with loved ones, and avoid the temptation to work when you should be taking a break. The more pigeon-holed you can make places and times that are dedicated to either work or your personal life, the more likely you are to feel more balanced and successful in both realms.
Accept Your Shortcomings & Take Control of Your Circumstances
The truth is, you cannot be everything to everyone at the same time. Even with strong boundaries, there will be times where work seems to take bleed into your personal life (e.g. using nights and weekends to catch up on projects, traveling, etc.). On the flip side, there will also be instances where your personal life will need to take precedent over work (e.g. birth of a child, loss of a loved one, etc.).
When you’re starting to feel like work is taking needed time away from yourself, family, and friends, take some time to accurately reflect the state of things: is this an ongoing issue or a short-term circumstance with a clear end in sight? Can things be shifted around to ensure you’re maximizing your time and energy? Are you being open and communicative with those in your life who can serve as a source of support? While there is likely no overnight fix, the more control you realize you have over the situation, the more empowered you will be to take the actions necessarily to ensure you’re creating a healthy balance.
Ultimately, there is no cut and dry way to establish the perfect work-life balance. At the end of the day, the best you can do for yourself is create boundaries that work for you, speak up when you need to, and don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.
As for the other regrets described in the blog post? They all stem from a desire to live one’s individual truth, connect with others, and allow room for happiness. While these elements are necessary for our personal lives, who says they can’t play a role in our professional lives as well? Perhaps letting ourselves be honest, open to others, and finding happiness in the all facets of the lives we lead can help us on our own path to find a fulfilling, regret-free life.