Work Life Balance is one of those things that many people want but have difficulty assessing effectively. In general, we "feel" that we have a poor balance between our work life and our own lives when we are under pressure, have a lot of stress or feel out of control.
So I think it is time we stopped searching for the "holy grail" of work life balance and begin understanding that balancing is a dynamic process. It is not about getting somewhere, but rather about making sense of where you are and choosing to make changes to improve your life and how you see it.
So where does one begin in doing this? Let's start with a very simple exercise.
One a piece of paper, make a list numbered from 1 to 10 of the following categories:
In each of the categories you have listed above, on a scale from 1 to 10, rate your level of satisfaction right now. Don't think about what might be, or what will be - just honestly assess your level of satisfaction...right now.
Now notice where you have rating your satisfaction as relatively high. Think about this and recognize that in this area of your life, you are doing well - you are satisfied. Congratulations!
Very often we tend to focus only on the "wants" or on what we don't have rather than taking a second and just settling into the satisfaction of something that we are really quite pleased about. Do this for your three most "satisfactory" categories and don't worry about their absolute level. This is a relative exercise - relative to other areas in your life - these ones are going reasonably well.
Now look at the categories that you have rated at the lower end of the scale. Think about what sort of rating you would reasonably like to have. This may be a "10" or it might be something lower - perhaps a "7". It doesn't matter as long as you identify an area where you would like to feel more satisfied.
Once you have identified that area, think about one thing and ONLY one thing that you could do to move your satisfaction from where it is, to closer to where you want it to be. This is all about focus, intention and control. This about you deciding to do one small thing, or take one small step to improve your life.
If you are struggling with what this one small thing might be, ask someone you care about for some advice, ideas or a brainstorming opportunity. Sometimes we are so deep in our own stuff that we can't see what can be done to improve our lives. That is okay - you may make faster progress by working with a coach.
The next step in this process is to commit to yourself to make the step you identified. Ideally, you will also make your commitment known to others such as a family member or friend. This really, really increases your chances of following through. Make sure you give yourself a time-frame to take the step as well. This is not about "someday" or "a year from now". This is about action and control, so commit do doing it before the end of the week! Then repeat it at least 28 times so it becomes a natural habit, - something you do naturally without thinking about it.
The final step in this process is to redo your assessment and to repeat the whole process again. The idea here is not to resolve everything in your life. That would be like eating the proverbial elephant! The idea here is to grow into a more balanced life by focusing on the areas that you want to focus on and would benefit from some attention. Don't fall into the trap of everything needing to be a "10". This won't happen because each time you do the assessment your situation and circumstances will have changed. That is okay. Remember balancing is a dynamic exercise, not an outcome! It is about progress and the journey not the destination.
After you have done this exercise a few times, I know you will start to see more balance in your life not by instructing yourself to cut back at work, but rather by focusing your energy and attention on the things you want more of in your life or areas where you want to be more satisfied. Growing in a new or different direction is a lot easier than trying to "fix" yourself or restrict yourself from something you are doing. Give it a try!