When I ask my clients what their values are in life, they often don’t know what to say. So instead of first talking about values, I ask them about their priorities. Talking about priorities helps them understand the meaning of values. After all, without understanding our values, how can we know what activities or efforts to prioritize?
According to the Business Dictionary, “values are important and lasting beliefs” that are essential to the way we live and work. Know what you value, and you will already be a long way toward analyzing your time and energy so as to achieve an appropriate, sustainable and fulfilling work-lifestyle balance.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, work and lifestyle are becoming inseparable. It’s almost impossible to get totally away from our devices so as to compartmentalize each one. Nevertheless, we must find a way to devote sufficient time to the lifestyle side of the equation so that whatever individual balance works for us is sustainable in the long term. It’s a personal matter, meaning what works for one person can be far from what works for another. You have to find what works for you.
Before we go on, now is a good time to dispel the myth that “work-lifestyle balance” must be achieved in the way we have often previously thought. Balance doesn’t mean 50-50. A better way of thinking of it is that balance is achieved when one feels fulfilled both at work and in their lifestyle.
It’s circular and reflexive. Fulfillment impacts work and work impacts fulfillment, just as lifestyle impacts fulfillment and vice versa. Thus, fulfillment becomes the core of feeling balanced. It means you need to examine your work (career, ambition, etc.) and lifestyle (health, family, relationships, spirituality, etc.) with regard to your personal values in both work and in life.
According to the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), each year, the average American spends his/her time:
• At work: 24%
• Off work (not sleeping): 33%
• Sleeping: 43%
Let’s first focus on the 24% of our time that we spend at work.
If you’re with me thus far, then you understand that not only must we achieve a balance between work and life, but we also need to achieve balance at work between our company’s needs and our needs. Let’s call it work-work balance.
To do this, find the appropriate time/energy input so that you’re achieving not only what is good for the company, but what is in your own best interest as well. For example, you don’t want to work solely to get promoted and recognized, but you also don’t want to work exclusively toward fulfilling the company’s mission and culture.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each component of work-work balance from both perspectives.
The company wants from you:
You want from the company:
With these factors informing your thoughts, the next step is to evaluate what your values and priorities are and consider how each is serving your balance. This requires some reflection. If you feel like you’re simply on a “hamster wheel” at work, you might never feel balanced there. If you find that change is needed, then you need to find a way to measure or quantify the factors. I suggest imagining that every above-listed bullet point has a value of 0 to 10 points (a maximum of 140 total), with 0 representing the least amount of satisfaction it gives you and 10, the most.
If you use the formula: Your total / 70 x 100 = Work-work balance (%), then you can see your current job engagement in arithmetic form. The higher your number, the greater your satisfaction.
If you don’t like the result, then it’s up to you to start making a change. Otherwise, you will continue to feel unfulfilled and unbalanced. Possible courses of action might be:
• Changing your employer or career
• Communicating your concerns to your boss
• Seeking greater understanding from your boss as to why you and the company differ on this and finding what works for you both
Also, don’t assume you and the company have the same definition of work-work balance. Now is the time to check this assumption. A possible company definition of work-work balance might be: Under the time pressure of receiving an adequate return on investment in hiring and retaining you, the company must, in its own best interests, keep you committed and productive as an employee. Obviously, there can be an inherent conflict here. But assuming that the conflict is manageable, let’s see what you can do in order to professionally and successfully convey your need for balance at work to your boss.
1. Do research in your industry in order to objectively assess your hard and soft skills, and develop a clear plan to close any gaps.
2. Set a desired goal for obtaining work-work balance.
3. Find a mentor.
4. Work with a coach and design a plan in order to reach your desired goal.
5. Commit to the plan. Take the initiative and be proactive.
6. Look for innovative solutions, always having your desired outcome (work-lifestyle balance) foremost in your mind.
7. Communicate your plans and goals to your boss and team.
Once you do your homework and try your best to own it and implement it, you will achieve work-work balance, and the company’s ROI (you) will be greater.
Now let’s focus on the 33% of time we spend on our lifestyle.
The main components of lifestyle-lifestyle balance are:
3. Family and friends
5. Personal growth
6. Hobbies or fun activities
Again, let’s do a simple evaluation of your lifestyle-lifestyle balance and quantify it. Evaluate each of the seven factors of your lifestyle on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being areas that give you the least satisfaction and 10, the most. Calculate the total. Now, use this formula to assess your lifestyle–lifestyle balance: Your total / 70 x 100 = Lifestyle-Lifestyle (%).
You should immediately be able to see which lifestyle-lifestyle factors are problematic for you. Sometimes, this alone is enough for you to take action. What do you want to focus on? What do you want to change?
You may find there’s one area of your work or lifestyle that requires more attention. Set a goal in order to make positive change happen.
Remember, behind every complaint is a request. Thus, a complaint about a skewed work-lifestyle balance is a request for change – a change that you have the power to make happen.
This article was originally published in Forbes.
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