Nancy is a mother of three and a telemarketer. She would work eight hours and rush home afterward to cook dinner for her family and do a little of the piled up household chores on weekdays. If traffic is bad, she would reach her house after 4 hours of travel and not be able to do any chores; the tasks are then postponed for Saturday and Sunday. Her weekends, on the other hand, are filled with completing the rest of the chores, buying groceries or marketing for the coming week, helping the kids with their assignments, and spending an hour or a bit more in the church. Then the cycle is just repeated, week in and week out. She barely has the energy to get into the bed at night and wakes up even more tired very early to start the day. She claims to have no time for long periods of rest or a vacation. Sometimes, she feels that her schedule is the one controlling her, rather than the other way around.
Today, many moms (and dads) could relate to her story. In a scenario of demanding clients, increasing paper trails and decreasing required man-hours, online connectivity, corporate competition; blue-collared and white-collared workers alike are pushed to the limit. Pretty soon, aches and pains will manifest on tired bodies. If conditions do not improve, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, heart disease, depression, anxiety and even chronic fatigue may ensue. The physical issues are but signs of burnout from compounded stress. Research even says that as much as 85% of employees have debilitating symptoms from relentless work pressure.
Life is not just about work
The gloom and doom still have hope though, and all it takes is management. Nowadays, work-life balance has become a popular concept and goal for many. A person who does not have other activities besides a job is said to have no life at all. Thus, individuals are striving to spend optimal periods of time in the workplace, as well as at home with family and friends. Moreover, work-life balance is an individual’s ability to keep a sense of focus and awareness, even when there are seemingly never-ending tasks and activities competing for his or her time and attention. There are updated pieces of evidence claiming that people who spend considerable time engaged in family, sports, socio-civic and spiritual activities also perform better at their jobs.
Time is a finite resource that a person should manage too. Otherwise, one may end up spending it on unimportant tasks, events or people. Having a work-life balance requires organization, not only of one’s time but also in the following aspects:
- Self - In self-management, one must recognize his or her responsibility in prioritization and stick to a schedule for specific lifestyle choices. The first step to achieving a balanced life is recognizing that one is in control of what he or she makes out of living. Time for self-care, apart from proper rest, should be allotted.
- Stress - As for stress management, an individual must recognize that increasing complexity of realities produce stress; and the call is to maintain peace and grace amidst pressure-filled situations. The talent to not be easily distracted by noise (auditory or otherwise) must be cultivated.
- Change - A person must also exert effort not to be overwhelmed by periodic changes at home and in the workplace. Although having a sense of control is part of establishing balance, one must also recognize or consider the possibility of modifications along the way.
- Technology - Advances in Science have paved the way for accelerating innovations. However, technology must aid a person by simplifying a task, and not make duties complicated to the point of becoming its slave.
- Leisure - Rest and relaxation are also necessary. Variations in the activities for “time off” is also needed to avoid monotony. A hobby or sport may take a part of one’s time, but the respite it gives will translate to more drive to do other important stuff. Research also supports the idea that exercise helps a person be more alert, so eventually, performance is also improved. Schedule downtime, and protect it as if it is also a task. There should be a time to just do nothing or just be.
First things first
The importance of setting priorities cannot be overemphasized in achieving work-life balance. A person must learn to do away with some tasks or activities that sap his or her energy, or waste time. Gossiping or browsing the internet without a specific goal, are examples of activities that may take up a chunk of time and not help improve work performance or quality of life.
Simplifying one's lifestyle may also spell a big difference. Decluttering, not just the closet; but also tidying up one's bag, car, or even schedule may help to organize and reclaim time for more important things or activities. One must also learn to say "No." to some invitations, favors, and orders, especially when physical fatigue is starting to creep in.
Moreover, some errands or chores may be delegated or outsourced. A person must have enough sleep (6 to 8 hours) to perform tasks optimally so that shut-eye time shouldn’t be compromised. As what a cousin of mine says: “If you can hire or pay somebody to do it, then do so!” Besides, distributing income this way will also help the economy somehow.
Ultimately, we are not called human beings just so we could relentlessly pursue activities. No matter how advanced technology becomes or how demanding jobs are, we have a say on the pace that we do our work. Part of living is basking in abstract concepts like peace, joy, love, and this is not possible if we do not stop and smell the flowers. So aside from aiming for a successful career, it is always rewarding to cultivate relationships, nurture friendships, strive for spirituality and even enjoy being alone at appointed times.