People all over the world seem to be on a quest to achieve work life balance. However, it seems the concept itself cannot even be defined. Some say people are ‘married to the job’, but does Charles Phillips, calling work his ‘mistress’, have it right? The reality is that what we call it doesn’t really matter, but that there is a way to define work life balance, or at least to a degree.
What Work Life Balance Isn’t
A few things to understand about what this balance definitely isn’t:
- An equal balance. If you could spend 50% of your time at work and 50% of your time at home, that would be great, but that isn’t a balance. Life is fluid, not a mathematical equation.
- Always the same. Depending on your responsibilities – both at home and at work – your desired balance will vary.
- One size fits all. Different people have different needs, which means they will define their balance in different ways.
Achievement and Enjoyment
So what is a work life balance? It is where you have the right amount of achievement and enjoyment for your personal needs. So how do you achieve that? The starting point has to be to understand your four life quadrants, which are:
Once you understand your quadrants, you have to think about your necessary daily activities. Things such as sleeping and commuting are unavoidable, and they take time. Some people have suggested taking 96 smarties, with every smarties representing 15 minute time period. Then take four cups, one to represent each of the life quadrants.
Start by filling the quadrants with the smarties that are unavoidable. For instance, you need 8 hours sleep, which is 32 smarties, and they go in the ‘self’ cup. You may also drive to and from work for 5 hours every day, which is 20 smarties in your ‘work’ cup. At the end of this exercise, you will have a number of smarties left, and you have to divide them in two ways:
- The way you would like your quadrants to look.
- The way your quadrants actually look.
Doing this will give you an immediate visual oversight of what your life is like, and where you need to make the biggest changes. If, for instance, your ‘family’ quadrant is clearly much emptier of smarties than you would like, but your ‘friends’ quadrant is much fuller, it may mean that you should spend an hour or so less on going to the game with your best friend, and take your children instead. It is all about dividing the smarties in a way that makes sense to you, that gives you the balance that you need to live a life that is both full of achievement, and full of enjoyment. And don’t be afraid to take some of the smarties out of that work cup and into the self cup, you deserve it!