Friday, June 7, 2013

Defining "The Balance"

I came across this blog by a colleague (through the company blog) w/c solicit tips on how to achieve work/life balance. Here, it was termed as "work-life integration," but it sounds even worse for me, so let's stick to the more popular term for now.
These are some of the "Secrets" that I wanted to share.
5 Steps towards finding The Balance
1. Accept your priorities.
From the term itself, you should already know which one is your priority.
It's not "Life-Work Balance" to begin with,  it's "Work-Life Balance." We work 5 (out of 7) days of the week - that alone is a great imbalance. As much as we want to deny it (or how others sugarcoat it), our work simply is our everyday priority. We start our day preparing for it, and we end the day sometimes exhausted for it.  Much of our waking hours are spent on it, and for this, we simply have to accept it that WORK is the PRIORITY of our LIFE. We agreed to these terms when we signed our contracts, and that's why we shouldn't whine about it.
The people around us should accept that too. It's not that they are less important compared to our work, it's just that these are the way things are the moment we got employed. We have decided to dedicate most of our time for our job - and the people around you should know, understand, and accept that as well.
Accepting the fact that Work-Life Balance is 'not balanced' to begin with is the best way to start defining The Balance.
2. Make bounderies
Despite the demand of our job and the commitment that we made for it, you should still set rules for yourself.
It can be as simple as:
-No one can call me on my phone for personal matters when I am in the office. (Phones are not allowed in the work station anyway, so they have to wait after my office hours.)
-I'll only work until this hour, and if I have to extend hours, I should be notified early on.
-No one can demand anything from me that is work related when I am already out of the office. (Find someone else in the office to do it or I'll attend to it on the next working day.)
-No one can force me to go to work during weekends if I had no prior notice within the week.
These are just examples of your personal rules that you might want to set for yourself. It puts you under control of your life. It sets the bounderies between your work and your life.
But then again, these rules are limited by our roles and the contracts that we signed up for (refer to step 1 above.) Sadly, as we go up the ladder, the more demanding our work becomes and the less bounderies we can make.
Respect for the individual is one of our company's values - and you should start w/ yourself by respecting our roles that we play in our work and in our personal lives. When in the office, we switch off our personal lives, and vice versa.
Separating our personal lives and professional lives is another key towards defining The Balance.
3. Pay the price of your compromise.
Despite the bounderies, there will be conflicts.
Sometimes, your personal life would demand more time from you than your professional life.
Most of the time, however, it's the other way around.
When forced to choose, most people would complain that they never had a choice to start with, when in truth,  the choice is always there - they just don't want to pay the price for it.
During conflicts, our only guidance will depend on our Values. We ask "which one is really important at the moment?" We must then understand that choosing one over the other will always have a price we have to pay for. It's part of the game, and part of the challenge.
Accepting the conflict and the price we have to pay for it is part of defining The Balance.
4. Reward yourself every now and then
Somebody in the office once said: "We are working so that we can buy the things that we wanted."
Bold and true.
People would use difficult and ambigious words to describe their career goals and ambitions, when in truth, Materialism is one of their main motives. It may not be the only reason why we work, but it's always one of the many reasons.
We shouldn't be ashamed about it (like these people) - being materialistic is part of being human. As long as it is not our only drive and as long as we don't waste every penny that we earn, it's fine to indulge once in a while with the things that we want - food, clothes, amusement, travel, etc. Afterall, Money's just a piece of paper or a digit in your bank account unless you use it for your enjoyment.
To accept the fact that we work for material things is another component towards defining The Balance.
5. Bathe in simple joys
The fact the you wake up after a good sleep is already a source of joy - there people who never saw this day again. The fact that you can eat or a least have a sip of your coffee is already a blessing - many people can't have this luxury. The fact that you have something to wear and a house you can sleep on is already a  blessing - the streets are full of homeless people. The fact that you have a work makes you a better person compared to those who are unemployed. The fact that you made it to the office unharmed makes you very lucky. The fact that you have friends means you are accepted. Even The fact that you have enemies means you're standing up for something.
Most people are unhappy simply because they forgot to appreciate the simple things in life. They forgot to be thankful. They simply got lost in their work.
Indeed, the best things in life are not things. The world is full of many reasons to be happy - we just have to open our eyes and appreciate them every single day - the final component to define The Balance.
I've always thought that there's no such thing as Work-Life Balance - for me, it's just another corporate term. As employees, we should not depend on our company to achieve this for us - this is our duty to ourselves. It's not a seasonal thing - this should be part of our everyday lives. It's not about the next long weekend, or the next team building activity, or the next holiday, or the next vacation - it's about finding happiness both in our professional as well as our personal lives while performing our roles within them.
In the end, everyone has his own definition of what this Balance means, and for that, we too are the only ones who can work to achieve this for us.
*this is the comment of this colleague of ours when he read this blog:
I liked your blog. It’s from the heart and unvarnished. Work/life or life/work, it’s not about balance (as in equilibrium). It’s not about 8 hours work, 8 hours play, 8 hours rest a day. In periods, perhaps decades, we commit to work, to build a career, to support ourselves and our families and to build for our dreams. That’s not balance, but it is an active choice.
I do challenge the comment that it’s tougher as we get more senior. Certainly there may be seen to be more demands on time with seniority, but there should also be a little more freedom or wiggle-room to set the agenda, decide on the diary appointments, and block out some free time. Not always easy, but can be done. I think more junior people (it’s been quite a long time since I’d class myself there, I had more hair and less weight!) often lack control over when and how they work and are more directed by team leaders. But that’s part of learning and growing too.
Warm regards

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