I’ve worked in manufacturing jobs for more than 15 years. When I graduated from college, the company I worked for talked about Work/Life Balance and the programs it had to allow people to have happy work and personal lives.
This is a very “human resources” oriented topic. In the years since then, as I’ve switched companies, I find this is being talked about less and less. I do not know if this topic has just become so mainstream that it doesn’t need buzzwords and special programs or whether the companies I’ve switched to just do not value the idea.
Yet, as I mature and my life circumstances change, I find the idea of work/life balance becomes more important to me with each hug my daughter gives me before I leave for work in the morning. It’s even more important on the days when she ignores me and pretends she doesn’t hear me saying goodbye to her.
I have not always struggled for balance. As a young engineer in a manufacturing company, I just assumed 12 hour days were normal work hours. When a paper machine broke down at 3:00 on a Friday afternoon, people stayed until it was up and running again. Sometimes someone got to go home around midnight so they could come back into cover the Saturday day work shift. It’s just how it worked. I had energy and enthusiasm to be the best engineer I could be and to continue furthering my career. While I grew tired of disappointing friends with canceled plans, many of them were in careers where they also worked 12 hour days and understood what I was dealing with. Arguably, some would say I worked too much, but for me, as a single adult with few responsibilities, it felt like my life was in balance.
Now I’m older, wiser, and I was in a very unhappy and demotivating job. I had to make a change so that there was an emotional balance in my life.
Outside of work, there are always things to balance:
- More sleep vs. exercise (I could get up at 4:00am and workout or I could get an extra hour of sleep and feel almost human that day)
- Gear your money towards savings, debt reduction, or purchases or choose how to balance all the things you want to spend money on
- Focus on eating well or focus on exercise to lose weight or try to figure out how to balance both
- Work on getting household chores or playing with your child or balance the two activities and try to include your kid in the chores.
- Eating “real” food versus the convenience of buying pre-made, pre-packaged foods
The list can go on and on. Everyone’s list varies about the choices we make and what we prioritize over other things. I wanted to create a blog about how I achieve balance and ideas I’ve learned and am trying. I don’t believe you ever fully have balance, but that as we get out of balance, how we respond helps us to have less stress in those times when we feel off balance. Even when I was a young, single adult, I found myself traveling for work more than staying at home and wondering why I even paid rent on an apartment. I found myself eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at work more times than I would like to admit. I found myself tired and stressed out from the days at the job, even when I was energized and motivated by what I was doing.
At different times in our lives, we choose different priorities.
When I was a young engineer, I chose work, friends, and fun. As I matured, I chose marriage, exercise, close friends, and work. Now that I have a toddler, I want more of the family life and worry less about the exercise and eating healthy all the time. There are always choices to make and we make decisions every day to balance them. So, while I’ll try to work out and lose some weight, I’m not going to stress out about the fact that it’s going to take a lot longer now than it would have 10 years ago, when I had different responsibilities and a better metabolism.
You also make choices and figure out what items in your life are your top priority at any given moment. Try answering these questions to help figure out what you want to focus on this month, this year, etc.
- Is there an urgent health or safety issue in your family that someone needs help with?
- Are you or your spouse’s work schedules calmer or more hectic in the coming months?
- Does your child have a slow or busy social calendar for the coming months?
- Is there a non-urgent health item you or someone in your family would like to achieve (i.e. lose 10 pounds) or exercise more?
- Is there a vacation, car, or other large purchase you need to save for that will require you to spend less money elsewhere?
- Is it time for you to take a trip and visit family or friends that you haven’t seen in a long time or can you skip your normal trips and stay at home to save money or have more time to do things around home?
- Are there projects that you can work on in a couple hours each weekend that will allow you to make progress on your To Do List?
These are just some ideas of questions that can help you prioritize what you should focus on for the next few months or the year. Once you develop a plan for what you are going to accomplish over the next few months or year, you will feel more balanced and will be able to handle those moments of stress by focusing on your plan.