Finding Work-Life Balance

Growing up, swing sets, monkey bars, and seesaws were all mainstays at the local parks.  Sending our momentum forward to see how high we could go was part of the excitement.  The pendulum motion of swinging back and forth would become rhythmic, and once moving, very little effort was needed to be to continue on moving.

After a period of time, we would eventually become bored with the monotony of swinging back and forth, and move to a different apparatus.  This time, instead of gliding forward and backward, we would move up and down.  However, unlike the swing, the seesaw required someone else on the other side.  And the point of the seesaw was simply that – to work in conjunction with the other person to alternate one side up and one side down.

Our lives are very much a seesaw type of ride.  We all experience the lows, and hope for someone on the other side to help bring us back up.  At other times, we are the ones on top, and want to remain there for as long as we can.  As a result, we pass through life in a continual ebb and flow cycle of up and down, up and down.

As a child, there were two seats on the seesaw, and we needed them both in order to meet the objective.  But, it couldn’t just be any other person in the other seat.  Too light and we stay afloat, too heavy and we are wiping the dirt off our rears.  Ideally, it would be someone of similar size and weight, to equally balance out the two sides.

Even today, our life still requires two seats in order to maintain balance and perform at our best.  One seat is filled with our professional life, and in the other rests our personal endeavors.  However, unlike the seesaw that we knew as a child, it’s best that the big-kid version stay parallel to the ground.  Place too much emphasis into one seat, and the other seat may never find common ground.

It’s a balancing act, and one that millions of people struggle with daily.  The struggle is real, and when one side is taken to the extreme, it can be detrimental to the other.  For this reason, it’s imperative to find that balance – one that keeps each side afloat, seeing eye to eye and remaining parallel to the ground.

3 Options for Remaining Parallel to the Ground

Any well rounded and successful individual that I know has found the ability to balance their profession (work) with their personal life.  It’s because of their deliberate choices and actions they have been able to invest time into both, and grow as an individual in each.  In a ‘need it now’ culture, there isn’t always a fine line separation.  We might find ourselves attached to our phones and seemingly always needing to send ‘one more email’.  I truly believe that this isn’t healthy, for either your professional or personal development.

Too much of anything is simply too much, and I would be willing to bet that we all know when we are doing too much of something.  We are all aware when we should shut things down, however we find ourselves clinging on for just a little bit longer.  Until a conscious decision is made to devote time to both seats of the seesaw, then we will find ourselves grinding to soar high on one side, while the other never gets off the ground.  This leads me to my first option for keeping both sides balanced and parallel to the ground below.

1.  Set aside time every day for work and for you

There is a difference between work time and you time.  Work has everything to do with when you are required to work, and nothing to do with when you are not required to work.  Whether you have a set 9 to 5 schedule, or you carve out a certain block of time every day to complete your work, it is a specific time you are dedicating to your professional responsibilities.

Just as you set aside time work, do the same with your personal life.  Whether it’s your hobbies, family, faith, or activities, build these things into your day, just as if they were required.  When this can be accomplished, the seesaw will stay balanced and you will not be held down by the weight of the other.

2.  Surround yourself with similarly minded people

Imagine a 70 pound kid taking a seat on one side of the seesaw.  Opposite of him is a 150 teenager.  How well do you think it’s going to work out?  Unless the smaller boy finds someone else within +/- 10 pounds, then the success rate is not very good.  As an adult, our goal is to surround ourselves with like-minded people who challenge us to be better.  These are people at work who mentor, coach, and treat us as equals whom truly care for our success.

Like-minded people are also the ones who have similar lifestyle interests and help us to be better athletes, husbands, wives, and friends.  If we have these types of people in our lives, and we invest in them and them in us, then the balancing act becomes easy.  Then, we can follow option number one to make time for them each and every day.

3.  Find yourself a new seat

Change is hard.  I can’t begin to recount the number of times I have mentioned it in my weekly posts.  It’s easier to continue on the path that we know is taking us in the wrong direction, than it is to turn off and find a better way.  If options one and two aren’t allowing both sides to see eye-to-eye (literally), then it’s time to change something about one of the sides.  It could be as clear as finding a new job, or it could require positioning ourselves in a place in which we are surrounded by the things we enjoy the most.  Once there, then we can make it a point to carve out time each day and to surround ourselves with people who think similarly.

Where Are you on the Personal-Professional Seesaw?

My experiences have shown me that a larger percentage of people invest more heavily into one seat over the other.  Whether it’s the ‘demands’ of the job, the ‘nature’ of the training program, or whatever reason, there is always an unjustifiably justifiable reason why one seat gets more attention than the other.

As we work towards finding better balance, the easiest way to help achieve common ground in both areas is to use a simple addition-subtraction method.  For example, imagine that your professional life is bogging you down and keeping you from going on that evening bike ride.  To combat this issue, begin by subtracting one ‘to-do’ from your work list, and adding one ‘to-do’ from your personal list.  If you find that it balances out, then you have met the expectation.  If you still aren’t where you would like to be, then subtract and add one more item from each seat of your seesaw.  Once you have found the common ground, make it a challenge to see how long you can keep both sides afloat!

One Comment on “The Personal-Professional Seesaw: Keeping it Parallel to the Ground, and 3 Options for Finding Work-Life Balance

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