Is it possible to successfully balance your work and lifestyle? The answer is yes. While achieving work-life balance may seem like an unrealistic concept for many working parents, there are ways to achieve it. This article offers advice for parents trying to find this balance.
The concept of work-life balance is so broad that it can mean different things to all of us. As working parents, it may mean more time with your kids, but it also can mean more time to devote to hobbies, to spend with your spouse or to travel. Whether it is a shorter commute, a nightly sit-down meal with your family or something much larger, you need to define work-life balance for yourself--before you can set out to find it.
Before you can set out to achieve work-life balance, you need to know exactly what you are up against. Much like a food diary, a work-life diary can help you figure out what you are already doing well and where you need to improve. Try keeping this diary for one week. Choose a fairly typical week in your household, so you get a good overall picture of your present work-life situation.
Work flexibility is one of the key components for working parents to find work-life balance. Because work is such a large part of every day, it needs to be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. Formally propose a flexible work arrangement to your manager. Ideas include working from home one or more days each week, working a flexible or alternative schedule, working a compressed work week, job sharing or transitioning to a part-time schedule. If your current job won’t support your need for greater flexibility, it is time to find a job that will. The good news is that thousands of companies are now offering flexible work options, so no matter your career might be, there is something out there for you.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, life can throw you a curveball--or several. If you find your quest for work-life balance being thrown off by unforeseen circumstances, don’t fret. You’ll eventually find that balance again. In the meantime, do whatever you need to do to ride out the unbalanced period.
Work-life balance won’t be available to you overnight, so don’t rush to try and change everything in your life. Instead, start with small changes, such as trying to wake up 30 minutes earlier each day or choosing one day a week to “unplug” from technology. For example, Tiffany Shlain, a working mother and founder of the Webby Awards, maintains that she and her family avoid screens, including smartphones, televisions and tablets, for one day each week. This translates into no screens for 24 hours, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday because everyone needs one day off.
Before you know it, your small changes will add up to a big impact on your work-life balance.
Most people talk about “finding” work-life balance as though it is an object to capture or a place to arrive at. But the idea of “balance” is that the ebb and flow between your work and personal lives will forever be tipping back and forth. Therefore, achieving work-life balance is more about putting a framework in place that allows you to be flexible and respond to the needs of any given day, week or month with less stress and more clarity. Focus on the journey of work-life balance, and you will be better able to cope with anything and everything that arises.
Work-life balance for working parents will look different for every parent and every family. To make it work, be sure to define it for you and your family, take stock of your current situation and what work-life balance looks like to you, and then make small changes to achieve it. Each day presents a new chance to better balance your life, so take it.
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