I read an article in December about work/life balance, at least I think that's what it was about. I've been reading quite a few articles on that subject lately trying to find balance in a way that works for me and my life, so I don't have a link to the article or remember who wrote it. I do remember one phrase that stuck with me from that article,
"The work will always be there."
That hit me, hard; all of a sudden things became clear about how I was going to balance my life better.
My current job is frustrating to me on a daily basis for many reasons. The one at the top of my list right now is that I'm constantly behind, and probably will be for the rest of my time there due to decisions being made about how things are being done and staffed. Constantly being behind was majorly getting to me, and it still does some days more than I'd like it to. I hate not being on top of things, and I highly value being able to be proactive in my work so we're not scrambling at the last minute stressing about if we'll be able to get something done on time or not. I knew I couldn't work crazy hours to try and get everything done because it affects every aspect of my health, and I like having some semblance of a personal/social life. The one line completely changed how I approach my work day, and in turn my personal life
"The work will always be there."- There will always be another agreement that needs to be taken care of, a training that needs to be done, a meeting with legal about a consultant, an email with explicit directions on our procedures, a coworker who's spreadsheet doesn't like a perfectly good formula, a file that needs to be put together, etc. It will never stop coming, it will always be there. The work isn't going to magically disappear as I complete my tasks. As soon as I complete one task, 1-2 more will inevitably take the place of the completed task. My To Do list will be never ending and everything is supposed to be considered the highest priority.
I'm learning the importance of important v. urgent when working on prioritizing my tasks. It's not that I don't have time for something, it just may not be a priority at that moment. Everyone believes they are important and their item should be my priority. Well I've got news folks, you're important and you're not important all at the same time. I've found the trick is to make them feel like they're important and have my attention even if they don't at that moment. So I send updates and estimated completion times to let them know I haven't forgotten about them, I'm just not there yet. (I am responsible for multiple aspects in our department, and there may be another item that has more of a priority status that they don't know about). I've stopped giving excuses too, or long winded answers. I made my answer short and simple, I don't stress over them misunderstanding my meaning, and I educate when needed. I put that item on my to do in the next 24-48 hours list and I keep working on the day's priority.
I started leaving at a specific time every day too. I get in right before 7am most days, I work through lunch almost every day, so I leave at 3:30 (except on Fridays when I leave at 3). I wrap up what I'm doing, and I go home.
I do not bring my lap top with me unless there's a threat of snow or I'm working from home the next day.
I do not let work invade my thoughts when I am not working.
I do not give out my cell phone number to anyone who has no reason to have it.
Doing this enables me to actually have a life outside of work. I have time to see family/friends, I get to yoga, I can get another workout or two in each week, I have time to walk and play with my dog, I have time to tackle my To Do list during the week so I enjoy my weekend all the more.
I may not always have this luxury since I want to own a small business someday. For now though this works, and I'll find a way to adapt it as I go and transition into new positions in the future. I haven't had a tension migraine in about 2 weeks since I started really practicing this. My stress level feels lower for the most part, and I'm practicing my focus for the year ("slow down and chill out"). I stopped emotionally investing myself in my work too (not normal for me, but very necessary), it was causing additional stress and the job doesn't emotionally care about me. Work won't be there for me when I get sick or life gets rough, but my people will be if I invest time in them. I give it 100% when I'm working, but when I'm done working it no longer gets my attention. I'm finding I have free time, real free time where I'm not sure what to do with myself. I actually have time for a hobby that isn't orchid growing or reading which I had time to do in my occasional spare time, and I don't know what to do with myself. It's a wonderful feeling, not knowing what to do with my time and deciding where to invest it.
"Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices."