I often hear people express their dream of achieving “perfect work-life balance.” While a wonderful goal, it is nearly impossible to achieve while tackling the multiple responsibilities of home, work, and school that are part of our busy lives. In fact, without focus, assistance, and a clear understanding of what “work-life balance” is, it may actually be beyond our reach most of the time. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve … but we have to know what it is to embrace it.
So what is work-life balance? In my opinion, it is a very rare period during which everything falls into place. You have abundant energy, money, and time to achieve every responsibility and every goal you have in front of you. Put that way, it’s easy to see that work-life balance can be fleeting, elusive, and frustrating – and nearly impossible to maintain.
As a general rule, the life of a busy, high-achieving Bethel student represents more of a “juggling act” than a “balancing act.” During a typical week, something will be left undone, someone will be left unappreciated, and new tasks will crop up faster than old ones disappear. Oh, and then there’s the guilt that comes from not being able to achieve the balance we all hear of.
So I give you permission to let it go – along with the ability to forgive yourself for being human. Once the myth of “work-life balance” is discarded, busy Bethel students can actually learn to embrace those rare moments of perfection … and forgive themselves for dropping the ball from time to time.
But don’t despair: The possibility of enjoying those rare moments of “balance” can be increased by following just a few simple steps.
- Establish your priorities. Make a list of the things that are most important to you. If graduating from Bethel University is vital, keep this goal front and center. Determine which of your other goals are important to your happiness, health, and security, and focus accordingly.
- Learn to manage your time. Effective time management can help you fit more in your day without feeling rushed or anxious. Determine just how much time you need to perform your daily tasks, and then divide the day accordingly. You may find that by waking up an hour earlier in the day, you achieve more without affecting your well-being.
- Don’t procrastinate. Stick to your schedule, and complete one item before you move on to the next.
- Communicate effectively with your colleagues, friends, and family. Ask for more time, more understanding, and more help when necessary. No high-achiever can go it alone.
- Unplug at home. When spending time with loves ones, disconnect from your devices, including those that chain you to work and school. Truly living in the moment — even for a moment – is vital to relationships and mental health.
- Schedule a break each day. Give yourself time to do one thing that you really enjoy. Listen to music, exercise, read a chapter in a good book. Relaxation will help recharge your batteries and give you more energy for the tasks ahead.
The myth of perpetual work-life balance is just that: a myth. Don’t let it keep you from enjoying each day in pursuit of perfection. Learn to juggle the important things, and embrace the lovely, balanced moments when they come. With a bit of practice, you’ll come to appreciate them for the delightful rarity they are.
Cindy Smith Chambers has 40 years’ experience in public relations and journalism. She serves as PR Director for Bethel University’s College of Professional Studies, and is a fulltime faculty member specializing in college writing and marketing.