And when they played they really played. And when they worked they really worked.
– Dr. Seuss
There's a chance the title might be a tad misleading.
I haven't got a magic formula for achieving work-life balance, but I am well on my way to making my life overall a lot more balanced. In the process, I've thought a lot (and read a lot) about work-life balance, and come to see it in a different way.
Let's face it, work is part of life. It's not like you stop living when you go to work - although it can feel like it sometimes.
Also, it struck me as odd that work always comes first. Why don't we hear more people talking about life-work balance? Of course work is important, as it gives us the money we need (or nearly all of us need) to eat, drink, wear clothes, take care of our kids, and lots more, but it's not the be all and end all of everything. It also doesn't have to be something to endure while we wait to start 'living'.
That's why I'm sticking to a couple of rules so that when I work, I do it well and enjoy it, and when I'm not working, I enjoy myself immensely.
1) Take care of yourself
This has been the most important for me. When I was stressed and depressed, I tended to compound the problems by drinking too much, not eating properly, smoking, not exercising, and generally not taking care of myself. I quickly found myself in a downward spiral that took a long time to get out of.
When you treat yourself like shit, you feel and look like shit.
Exercising, enjoying time with my family, spending time outdoors, eating healthily, drinking lots of water, reading stimulating books and articles, and working on projects that excite me has all made an enormous difference. I feel happier, more energetic, more optimistic, and way, way more relaxed than I used to - all while actually getting more work done.
2) Leave work at work
I mean that in the literal sense (as in not taking any documents, computers, etc. home), and also in the metaphorical sense (don't think about work, or contact work colleagues about work, unless absolutely necessary).
I work pretty quickly, so if I can't get something done during work hours, then either I'm not being efficient or I'm being given too much work. Both can be dealt with pretty easily: work more efficiently for the first, speak to the boss for the second. Not thinking about work might not be quite as easy, but I've found that boredom is a killer in this respect. Instead of killing time doing something I don't particularly enjoy, I spend a lot more time pursuing things I love.
By the time Monday rolls around, I more often than not feel relaxed, happy, and refreshed.
So even though I'm a work in progress, with good days and bad days, I'm gaining a lot more balance in my life.
A big part of that is no longer viewing work as a necessary evil, but simply a part of a life that's becoming much more enjoyable and rewarding day by day.