“I’m going to have to finish this project at home.” “I don’t think I will have time to take the kids to their soccer practice, I’m staying late at work.” “Ugh, I feel like I haven’t seen my family in days.” Do you find yourself saying something similar to this? There are only 24 hours in a day, and we have to choose how to use them. Often we feel stressed because there is not a balance between our responsibilities and what we enjoy. Our lives naturally fall out of balance from time to time, so we have to set time aside to assess how things are going, and what we might need to change to make sure our daily lives reflect what’s important to us.
Part of this assessment might include asking yourself what emotions you experience throughout the day. For example, when you’re with your spouse or family, do you ever feel anxious about not working? Or at work, do you ever feel guilty about not being with your family? These might be indicators that you need to do a little restructuring of your time.
There are some pretty significant consequences to ignoring the need for balance. You’ll lose energy, your work performance will drop, and when you are with your family you’ll be too tired to enjoy it. Some people lose the ability to say “no” to tasks as well, and they miss out on important family moments and milestones.
Here are a few strategies to work on achieving greater balance in your life.
1. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s natural for life to fall out of balance from time to time. Just use that knowledge to take a step back and plan. Write down what you want out of life. Consider whether how you spend your time reflects what is important to you. Decide what you absolutely want to happen no matter what.
2. Identify your distractions. We all have times during the week where we’re likely to be distracted and procrastinate. Maybe this is an opportunity to free up some time for your significant other or family. Identify what times of the day you are most likely to be productive, and put your focus there. Being unorganized can be a huge distraction, so consider what strategies can help you get work done more quickly.
3. Practice saying no. Stick to your values and decide what is too much. You should be able to leave work at work, and prevent the lines between both words from blurring. If your focus is divided, then you can’t accomplish much. If you have trouble saying no, start practicing it on smaller tasks at work and work your way up.
4. Take care of yourself. When our lives fall out of balance, we often sacrifice healthy habits first. If you value yourself, then that means taking time out to practice good self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and take time for activities you enjoy and that help you relax. That way when your focus does need to be on work or on a relationship, you’ll be alert and get the most out of your time.
5. Talk to your family and coworkers. Ask family members and coworkers about their perceptions and expectations of the balance you all should achieve. Problem solving work tasks with coworkers can help alleviate some imbalances you have at work. Listening to them and making sure responsibilities are shared will help everyone feel less stressed. Perhaps they need to reevaluate their schedule as well, and it can be a whole family/work effort.
6. Plan a weekly activity. Ideally you should plan at least one enjoyable activity with your family during the week, so that you have something to look forward to. Having a way to reward yourself for the effort you put in at work will benefit your productivity and your family.
7. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Have you already mastered saying no? Figure out what is important and what can wait. Do you really need to do that last work task, or can it wait so you can go home and help your significant other make dinner? When making decisions on how to balance work and family ask yourself, “Can this wait until tomorrow?” and “Is this what I should be doing right now?”
Your marriage was once your most important investment. We’d like to help you keep it that way. If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you. Call us today at 949-430-7389 or book your appointment via our online calendar.