The New Meaning of Work/Life Balance

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” —Dolly Parton

Until recently, we have thought of work/life balance as the struggle to find ways to divide our time between our work life and home life. While this challenge still exists for many of us, we now have an added dimension: the struggle between work life, home life, and tech life!

Our devices have become so “demanding” of our time, that they are chipping away at our efforts to maintain our family and work relationships. And since they’ve become such a universal presence, there’s a kind of acceptance that reduces our motivation to put them down and turn them off. What I’ve seen and you may have also noticed, this added dimension has suppressed our awareness of what’s really important to us in life. Cell phones and other devices have become a demanding “lover.” Many people react to turning off their devices as comparable to being rejected or deserted.

Take a few minutes (at least while reading this article) to step back and look at your life as an observer, in order to gain some perspective.

Who and what are the most important parts of your life? If it’s family or friends, think about how much time you are spending with them that is truly meaningful. Time other than simply sharing the latest social media posts, TV show, or events of the day. How much time do you spend with them (and you may want to identify each person) that helps you to get to know them better, and to let them get to know you better, to understand what is meaningful to each of you in your lives at this time?

Take some time to write down what meaningful time with family members or close friends would look like—what you would be doing, what the conversation would be about. You may have thought about this at times and not followed through. Writing helps keep your thoughts and wishes in a more tangible form and you will be more likely to make it happen.

We live in a time when “productivity” and “success” have come to define our self-worth. We are driven to spend a large percentage of our time trying to achieve these goals.

What is your definition of “productivity?” of “success?” Write down those definitions, be as specific as possible. For example, productivity might mean you get all the items on your to-do-list done every day, or you are busy every minute, or only feel successful when you have achieved several goals, including work and exercise, etc. Add to that answering all your emails, text messages or social media feeds. Or you don’t stop until you drop from exhaustion, if then!

I’ve seen people whose whole life has become a “to do” list, including family and social life. They engage in non-work activities much the same way they approach their jobs. It’s all about what they can “accomplish” such as parents getting their kids to get homework done, making sure they attend and achieve in sports or other activities, or getting all the chores done at home within a specific period of time, or making sure their mates are fulfilling their “responsibilities.” Some of these habits come from an internal message that says, “I can’t take time off until I finish all my work and take care of all my obligations.” Another similar message is “I will let myself relax and have fun after everything else is done.” Do you have an until or after voice in your head?

It might be uncomfortable for you to really stop and look at how you are spending your time. You may have developed the belief that what you have been doing is responsible for, or a big contributor to your self-esteem. You may have gotten so used to the order in your life, you don’t want to disturb it.

Here are some questions for you to reflect on—writng them down will have more value:
1. Who are the people in your life who help you to feel loved, respected, valued?
2. What situations or experiences present or past, make you feel you are a better person?
3. What leisure activities make you feel relaxed, joyful, energized, peaceful? (include things like taking a nap, a walk in nature, reading a good book, listening to music, playing games or just hanging out with family or friends).
4. What is the difference you feel when and after you spend time on your devices vs. spending time with people you care about with no tech devices in sight?
5. When are the times or circumstances you feel you are the best person you can be, when you value and appreciate who you truly are?
6. How often do you make choices on how you spend your time based on the needs, requests, demands, or perceived wishes of others? How do you feel after? Do you ever consider making a different choice?
7. What ways would you spend your time differently if you weren’t concerned about other people’s reactions—verbally or non-verbally?

You have the opportunity now to live your life in a more fulfilling way and avoid regrets later.

“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” —Carl Sandburg, poet

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know. I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas about this subject.

Do you know someone who might be interested in this topic? Feel free to pass this on to them.