Most of us juggle multiple hats as we try to blend our professional and personal lives. We fulfill distinct roles such as employee, parent, spouse, friend, and community member. And we have a limited amount of energy, so we need to figure out what to devote our time to and how to make it all work without becoming a stressed out, tired mess.
The term work/life balance is commonly used to describe this phenomenon. However, I believe work/life integration is a more accurate descriptor because it is about blending work and personal life into one entity, rather than dividing time and energy to try to make them balance. The key is making sure the various aspects of your life are not at odds but flow together to create steadiness in your day.
Work/life integration is more challenging than ever. The boundaries between work and home used to be clear. But the pandemic has shaken up the way we work, and the walls of the workplace have blurred. Technology has given us the ability to work 24/7. Now, you can message your boss from the grocery store, mute a conference call to talk to a family member, or work on your laptop while your daughter is at dance practice. You cannot turn off work completely, nor can you turn off life at work.
We tend to want to be superwomen and excel in all areas of our lives. Unfortunately, “you can have it all” is a myth. Life is about making choices so, for everything you choose, you let go of something else. People who try to do it all end up cranky, frustrated, and disappointed.
If you struggle with work/life integration, here are ten strategies to consider.
- Get your priorities clear
Visualize your life as a pie, and the components of your life as slices (career, spiritual, family, friends, community, hobbies, travel, health). Ask yourself, “What are my main things?” and list your top five. Once you are clear on your priorities, consider dropping any commitments and pursuits that didn’t make the cut.
- Learn to say no
Remember that you can’t do it all. Consider saying no to things that do not fit in your priorities. It’s okay!
Hire others to take care of tasks so you can focus on what is most meaningful. Perhaps you could hire someone to clean your house or secure a babysitter once a week to get your errands done.
- Communicate boundaries so you can unplug
Set and communicate your work hours to colleagues and customers so that you have clear boundaries. Let them know when you will be available and when you will not.
- Delegate tasks
Delegate tasks at work and home when possible. Maybe lean on a coworker to help you at work, or ask the kids and spouse to help around the house.
- Manage your time
This might include activities like organizing household tasks efficiently, running errands in batches, bundling your tasks, or keeping a daily or weekly to-do list.
- Take care of yourself
You cannot take care of others or perform well at work if you don’t take care of yourself. You know what to do! Exercise, eat well, get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you need to make improvements in your lifestyle, start small, one habit at a time. And make sure you set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy such as reading, meditating, or listening to music.
- Ask for help
Sometimes we are hesitant to ask for help because we don’t want to admit we need it, or we don’t want to bother anyone. Instead, consider that asking for help gives other people the gift of giving — and most people like helping others and providing support.
- Ask for flexibility
Consider asking for a work schedule that meets your needs as well as those of your employer. This could include flextime, a compressed workweek, job sharing, or other creative options.
- Practice self-compassion
Let go of perfectionism! Your house doesn’t have to be perfect. Your kids don’t have to be dressed perfectly. Your work doesn’t have to be perfect. Shift towards a more compassionate approach and give yourself a break.
Not sure how to put these strategies into action? Developing an action plan will help. Write your vision of what each piece of your pie (your priorities) would look like if they were well integrated. Next, list three actions that you will take to improve and then, hold yourself accountable for implementing your plan!