4 steps to finding a work/family balance
Finding a work/family balance is not a simple task. A work/family balance is something that will evolve with you and will change regularly. If you’re married without children, your work/family balance will look different then if you are married with, say, 4 children.
The importance of finding a work/family balance that works well for you cannot be understated. Your very health and happiness will depend on it! And it doesn’t have to be all that tough to find, either. In fact, it can be achieved in 4 steps.
4 steps to finding a work/family balance
Step 1: Write down the top 3 most important areas in your life
This may sound easy, but it can actually be quite challenging. This is the key to finding your work/family balance. Your important areas may be spending time with your kids or spouse, working, vacationing, making money, relaxing, volunteering, exploring the world, cooking – anything! This will look different for every single person.
It will likely include family time and working time (making money). The differences will likely lie in the third area of your life. If you think about your life as a balance on a scale with family on one side and work on the other, this third area will be the one that weighs down one side of the scale.
If your third area is vacationing or exploring the world, that can take quite a bit of money, so your working time area will be a bit heavier than your family area. If your third area is crafting with the kids, the opposite will be true. Of course, there are times when the two will overlap – vacationing with the kids, for example.
Step 2: Re-align your actions with your important areas
If, after doing the above activity, you’ve realized your work/family balance is way out of whack, take a minute to re-assess. If the most important area in your life is spending time with your family, but you are only seeing them for 1 hour a day, it may be time to re-align your actions with your areas of importance.
As I mentioned, everyone’s work/family balance will be different. If it’s very important for you to go on vacation, have time to go on adventures, etc., it will likely be important for you to spend an appropriate amount of time working or making money to support these expensive activities – and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!
The important thing is to realize what is important to YOU and balance accordingly. I am a strong believer in the fact that we are happy when we are balanced. If that means you spend more time at work, then so be it. It will make you a happier person and therefore quite likely a better parent.
Step 3: Create a schedule
Now that you have an idea of how your work/family balance will look, create a schedule. Try, whenever possible, to have very distinct categories. This will help you keep your balance. If you have too many parts to your day that is dedicated to both family and work, you may begin to feel as though you are not really accomplishing much in either domain.
Make work time just that – work time and family time should be just for your family. It’s also important to have time for yourself, of course. Here’s an example schedule:
6:00-7:00 – me time
7:00-8:00 – family breakfast time
8:00-12:00 – work time
12:00-1:00 – me time
1:00-4:00 – work time
4:00-10:00 – family/spouse time
10:00-11:00 – me time/work time/etc
The above schedule (or something similar) can help make sure you keep a balance. When it’s “work time”, you will be able to keep your focus as you know your “me time” will be coming up. When you’re with your family, try not to check emails or your favorite websites, as you know the allotted time for that is coming up.
The above schedule provides:
- 3 hours of me-time
- 7 hours of family time
- 7 hours of work time
It’s sometimes very surprising to see your day laid out in this format. 3 hours to yourself seems like a lot, but, keep in mind all of the chores and errands that also have to get done in a day. Depending on your work, this may have to come from your “me time” or “family time”.
If at all possible, consider leaving the vast majority of your chores to the weekend (or a non-work day). This will certainly help you achieve and maintain a work/family balance.
Step 4: Reassess
Try to be very organized and stick to your schedule perfectly for one whole week. Is it feasible? Do you really have enough time to get all your work done? Are you spending enough quality time with your kids? Do you have time for yourself? Time for daily chores? Most importantly – do you feel happy and balanced?
At the end of that one week, it’s time to re-assess. If your answers to the above question were not what you would like, make changes, and try again. Your work/family balance will be continuously evolving and changing with your job, perhaps the season, the age of your children, the size of your family, and so on.
Allow yourself some wiggle room and know that you may never achieve the “perfect” balance. The most important thing is to assess your happiness with whatever balance you do find. Happiness is important.
A work/family balance is incredibly personal. Some people may wish to spend 80% of their day with their family, while someone else would prefer 10%.
This percentage doesn’t at all indicate your dedication as a parent or an employee. It is simply a personal choice. Being happy in your balance will make you both a better employee and a better parent.