The P.L.A.Y. Response – Achieving Work / Life Balance
From Career Services - October 19, 2012
Given the competitive marketplace, some job applicants are experiencing a sense of pressure to prove that they would be willing to give 110 percent, 24/7. While demonstrating enthusiasm and eagerness for the work and the position is certainly admirable, most people really do NOT want their professional lives to consume their entire lives. And some more enlightened organizations are being recognized for their work/life balance philosophies [www.glassdoor.com] providing such perks as flexible scheduling, generous vacations, onsite daycare, and even subsidized meals.
Unfortunately, these companies, at least in this country, are still the exception. So, unless you are one of the rare folks who really does want to focus on your work day and night, and you aren’t in a company that promotes work/life balance, how do you take care of yourself and find that delicate balance between being a committed professional who also has a time for family, community, and leisure activities?
First, you need to realize that you are contributing to your own health when you are “balanced.” It is often helpful for people to understand than in doing something for themselves, they are improving the quality of their own lives, and very likely, the quality of life for those around them. When you experience better health (in part because you probably eating well, taking time for physical exercise, and even sleeping better), you also experience improved relationships, greater peace of mind, and an overall enhanced quality of life.
One thing you can do to help you discern how to achieve balance in your life is to prioritize what work and life values are important to you. Once you know what you value, you can notice how you spend your time, and adjust and reallocate that to ensure that the way you are spending your time is in alignment with your values. There are a number of basic, free online values assessments that you can take to help with this. One you might find useful is http://www.career-test.biz/values_assessment.htm
In order to realign how you spend your time with your values, try what I call the P.L.A.Y. response: Prioritize – as Steven Covey wrote, “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” If dinner with your partner is the only time you get to talk, and your relationship is high on your list of values but you’ve been skipping meals to study, it is time to re-prioritize.
Live – Here are the questions to ask yourself: What choices do I need to make that I can live with? To what do I say no? To what do I say yes? Again, consider the values that you listed as important as you answer these questions. You really do not need to volunteer for every community service project that comes along if it is interfering with something that you value even more. On the other hand, if you value community service and haven’t been contributing, maybe you say no to a leisure activity and go serve at the food shelf.
Accept – When balance is a priority for you, there are some things you may have to accept. For instance, things may not be perfect right now. But remember, now (and this) won’t last forever. Accept also that stress comes from the way we perceive the world, not from the way the world really is. Every reaction I have is a choice, and sometimes a deep breath may be healthier than getting angry. Know that change requires commitment, and be compassionate with yourself as you make the effort to bring balance into your life. Finally, perhaps not everybody will agree with the choices you make. You can even accept that it is okay if not everyone agrees with you!
You – keep in mind what was mentioned earlier. You will be healthier and enhance the quality of your own life and those around you when you are in balance. Here are a few tips to help you maintain or regain balance:
1. Breathe – slowly, deeply. Breathing deeply slows the pulse and relaxes the nerves.
2. Five minutes intentional alone time in morning. Enjoy the silence, reflect, ground yourself for the day.
3. Choose to eat well. You will feel better and have more energy for the things you want to do.
4. Indulge in a guilty pleasure once a week. This is about balance, remember! Most everything is okay in moderation.
5. Get some kind of regular physical exercise. Again, you will feel better and have more energy.
6. Find the humor in the situation. Humor can de-stress tough moments. When it is appropriate, smile or laugh and watch the tension dissipate.
7. Let go of perfectionism. No one is perfect, and none of us has the control we think we might. Best to go with the flow and accept when things are “good enough.”
8. Seek support / take advantage of resources. Part of being balanced is knowing when to ask for help.
9. Be 100% present in the moment. Studies have shown that people accomplish more, and more effectively, when they are not multi-tasking. Give your attention to the moment – especially when you are communicating with another person.
10. Appreciate the mini-miracles. The sun rise, the color of autumn leaves, the hot shower – things that are so often taken for granted really are “mini-miracles.” Notice them. Appreciate them. You’ll be surprised at how much happier you feel.
In summary, when you are interviewing for that position that you really want, by all means, reassure your prospective employer that you are eager and willing to contribute. And when you get the job, fulfill that promise. But remember also to do an occasional “Values Check” to be sure that your values and the way you are spending your time is in balance. And if not, it is time to P.L.A.Y.