« When your co-worker takes vacation | Main | Golin shares how it helps employees with work life balance »

How to look at work life balance from a big picture view

It's July and I know exactly what I want to accomplish this month. I have goals. I have a day-by-day to do list. I have lots of enthusiasm. 

Still, something doesn't feel right. If I accomplish everything on my list, I will be thrilled. But I also will be stressed out and I will have sacrificed the time in which I usually  exercise and spend time with my family and friends. I don't want to make that sacrifice on  a regular basis. However, for this month, I'm going to let myself be okay with that.

Let's talk about approaching work life balance from a high-level view.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, 5 Things High-Powered Women Need to Know About Work-life Balance, one tip stood out for me among the others. It was tip #3. Think of work-life balance from a calendar-year perspective.  Consider balance in terms of not only the hour, day and week but also month and year. “It really is a teeter-totter, you’re constantly trying to balance it out,” said Aimee Cohen, Women on Point co-founder.

Some days, when we are handling client emergencies late at night, it's hard to remember that we are in the workplace for the long haul and need to have balance to make it to the finish line. The way I see it, most people need to know how many late nights they are okay with putting in, and for how long. They also need to recognize when they aren't putting enough time into work to reach their career goals.

We are more than half way through the calendar year, which makes it an ideal time to do some re-balancing to finish out the year.

Here is how to look at work life balance in a way you may not have considered.

1. Take a chance.  If you feel like you haven't put your full effort into getting ahead at work or landing a big customer, make it your time to float a new idea or give your job your all. Spend an evening on your patio letting your creative juices stir and getting your confidence high and then go for it. It's okay to give yourself a set time period to give your career or your business 100 percent of your time and energy.

2. Re-evaluate sacrifices. If your goal is to become a partner in your law firm, it is going to take hard work and long hours. How many years are you willing to dedicate to short term sacrifices to hit your long-term goals? You need to figure that out and be okay with your decision. If you have changed your mind about the sacrifices you are making to reach career goals, recognize that and make a new plan.

3. Make an appointment.  Because it's summer, most workplaces are a little more casual, flexibility is a little more available and people tend to be in better moods. Seize the opportunity and make an appointment to initiate an activity you feel will give you ongoing balance. Make a date with a personal trainer, or with a good friend to try a new fitness class, or with your partner to start walking together at night, or with a co-worker to take Friday lunches. Set the wheels in motion to re-balance.

4. Rethink urgency. One of the biggest threats to work life balance is a false sense of urgency. How has the first half of the year gone for you? Have you allowed  to take over every email and action? Remember, if you want to accomplish your goals for the week, month, year...you are going to need to figure out when to be accessible and when to let things slide.

5. Think differently. Some weeks, I am too busy writing articles on deadline to worry about social media or make fancy dinners for my family. I have to tell myself that one week is not going to make a difference in whether I lure new social media followers or whether my kids think I'm a good mother. The same is true for taking a week of vacation, or time off to do fertility treatment.  When you take a long-term view of work life balance, you often make different decision about taking short breaks from work.

Whatever stress you may be facing, remember finding fulfillment is always about the bigger picture. Our work life balance changes throughout our lifetime – it is constantly evolving – and it should as we make the big decisions and our personal and professional lives change accordingly.