Do you find competing work and non-work life responsibilities to be a major cause of stress in your life?

In our current business world, professionals have the tendency to work harder and longer hours with the hope that they will miss the next layoff sweep. Considering the speed and scope of change, in any profession today, it is easy for individuals to become so consumed with their career that they quickly lose perspective of what is really important. When they are overwhelmed, they do not make good decisions about priorities and that results in unbalanced lives.

WORK/LIFE BALANCE IS A MYTH”, says Gail Blanke (former guest of the Oprah Winfrey Show) in her interview featured in my recently published book Tales of People Who Get It. “Work and life are completely integrated. I have had an interesting career and worked throughout both my pregnancies... I have a very close family and I constantly ask myself what am I committed to at this particular moment? At one instant, it might be attending a hockey game and at another it’s working on a presentation. There were times when I opted out of a business trip because, in the end, my family always came first. We have to learn to be easier on ourselves. We don’t have to be everybody’s everything all the time,” she says.

So how do you cope when you’re being tugged in every direction? And how can you be present for those you care about? Jim Rohn, a successful business philosopher, succinctly categorizes the following five life areas, where each has associated activities and responsibilities attached to it:

  1. Economic/Financial (State of your finances, Investments)
  2. Social (Marriage, Family)
  3. Health/Wellness (Physical, Mental)
  4. Business/Career (Business/Job Goals, Education)
  5. Personal (Vacation, Relaxation)

What does balance mean? And does work-life balance mean equal balance? defines balance as a state of equilibrium; equal distribution. Clearly it would be very difficult to balance all five life areas to live a harmonious life. Would you even want to? Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your various work and personal responsibilities is unrealistic and in fact could be a recipe for disaster.

A better alternative would be to integrate the five areas of your life. When the five life areas, work and non work life activities, are combined into an integrated whole, your simplified life becomes harmonious.

Toronto-based life coach Robin Altman says, “Ultimately, I think that it’s a mindset and that it’s all about the fulfillment factor for the individual. If you see your work as an opportunity to interact with people on a social level, if you see work as an opportunity to learn, grow and have interesting experiences, if your work is aligned with your strengths, values, purpose and goals, then you can “work” for 16 hours a day and never burn out. That said, I’m sure you’ve seen the Wheel of Life diagram – no one’s life can be complete with only one wedge, so it’s important that the person have other areas in their life to fulfill them. In my opinion, it is less a question of “hours” than a question of fulfillment, in other words, you don’t need to split up 24 hours equally into each wedge, but you do need to feel personally satisfied, which is always unique to every individual.”

Based on Altman’s experience with her clients, she has observed that the clients who are serious about integrating their personal and professional life have found ways to do so.

Key strategies to integrate your personal and professional life

  • Divide responsibilities among family members based on skills set, with respect for those divisions
  • Surprise family members by doing the unexpected and not just what’s expected
  • Have regular check-ins to determine what’s the most important thing at that particular moment in time
  • Manage time effectively
  • Be present and mentally aware, especially during family time
  • Carve out me-time, as well as couple-time
  • Try to do only work they love
  • Schedule off duty time

What does the future hold for work-life balance? “It seems we’re heading into an era where more and more people will work remotely, consult or work from home,” says Robin Altman. We know from interviews that those who work for themselves find it easier to find balance, so perhaps that’s a glimmer of hope on the balance front.

“The bottom line is that people need to be attuned to themselves, to their strengths, values, purpose and goals, in order to build more fulfilling lives in general, which would organically include their own form of work-life balance,” Altman added.

The first challenge in making change in your life is analyzing the way your life is going right at this moment. Is this nagging feeling that you’re missing out on important things a normal part of the struggle to find balance or are you headed toward a crisis? You need to know how you stack up when it comes to integrating your personal and professional life. And, what does balance mean to you? You decide.

Author's Bio: 

Avil Beckford is a writer, researcher with over 15 years experience, and the published author of Tales of People Who Get It and its companion workbook, Journey to Getting It. Subscribe to her blog The Invisible Mentor where you will find book reviews, interviews of highly successful people and a lot more. Browse the Resources page and download white papers and an ebook.