The elusive work-life balance everybody seeks represents a challenging process we have to go through if we genuinelywant to succeed. After working for many years at full power, I came to realize that my personal life and my health were paying too big of a price. When realizing I had to find this havenwe call “work-life” balance, I also realized I needed a plan. As a project manager, I know very well that any plan begins with setting the goals…
Life Goals are just as crucial as Job Goals
At work, we all know (or should, at least) what we have to do. We seewhat goals we want to achieve, in what timeframe, with what resources, and so on. But how about life? According to statistics, the U.S. is among the countries with the lowest score of work-life balance in the world.
For me, this means that most people endanger their health, personal lives, spirituality, and mental balance because they are too busy to work.
While we cannot ask companies, businesses, and corporations to change the way they encourage employees to achieve this balance, we can stand for ourselves and try making things better – without giving up on our careers also.
Making a Plan and Sticking to It
Other people may find different, more personal ways of making changes to achieve life-work balance. Since I am a goal-getter and a plan-maker, I took this challenge on the next level: set goals and implementedthe project of my life just as I would performa task in the company. Here is the path I took!
1. Your Goal Should Be SMART
All goals should be SMART, either at work or in life. To coin a SMART goal, take out a pen and a paper and write things down:
There is a trick in this entire goal-setting process, andthat is the following: what does work-life balance mean for you? The general definition states that it represents time equally spent with your job and with your personal life (family, hobbies, spirituality, rest, etc.).
However, for many, work-life balance goes beyond somehours distributed evenly between work and home. If you are like myself, I quantify work-life balance more regardingpersonal experiences and hobbies.
My view of work-life balance means to travelmore, have new experiences in new places (time is of the essence, of course, just as is money), and enjoy free time to spend any way that I like (in bed with a book for instance).
- When you understand what work-life balance means, you will have an easier time setting a SMART goal.Admittedly, we would all love to be astronauts, but such a goalmay be less achievable than spending one month per year traveling all over the place.
- Be honest and realistic when you evaluate a goal on the SMART scale. Otherwise,you are on the road to frustration.
2. Set a Goal that keeps you True to Yourself
If you happen to feel unhappy, frustrated, or anxious, even thoughyou seemingly live the best of your personal stories, you are probably lying to yourself, andyou deal with cognitive dissonance every day.
- In other words, you might want to stop and take an honest look deep down inside: are you on your right path? Is your work as satisfactory as you make it be? Is this your declared goal that keeps you going?
Offering an honest answer to these questions may put you on the right track. The first rule of goal setting, in any circumstance, is to create a goal that motivates you. Evidently, at some point in life, you planned to learn a foreign language, but you cannot say hello yet using it. Itis partlybecause you did not feel a strong enough motivation to learn it.
- My “true to myself” life goal is to see and know the world. Nevertheless, the job was always my top burden. The moment I realized I had a goal that could motivate me, I knew I was doing things right.
- To“test” the motivational level of a goal, ask yourself this: is this something I “must” do, orI will be miserable for the rest of my life? Alternatively, share your goal with the people in your circle of trust – can you explain them your purposeso passionately you could convince them to follow the same purposethemselves?
Work-life balance and goal achievements both require your full commitment, your amplemotivation, and your entire energy. There is always a sense of urgency toa life goal and a personal engine driving you towards your destination.
3. Break the Goal into Smaller Ones
Itis an excellent exercise you can use every day at work and in life, so practice it, as it is useful.
My goal is: Take a vacation for one month each year to travel, rest, and have fun.
Good. What does it take to get there?
- I will need money.
- I will also need to arrange things at work, somy absence does not disturb the company, my colleagues, the on-going projects, and so on.
- I will need to find a good host for my pet while I am away, and so on.
You can learn how to break the big goal into smaller, equally achievable and reasonable steps, put each of them through the SMART grinder, adapt them, change them, and cross them off your list as you solve them. The sense of accomplishment is priceless.
4. Use some Tools to make things Happen
When put in writing some things get a life of their own, they become real. When it comes to turning wishes and dreams into achievable goals, you need to use the tools you usually put to work at your job.
- Use positive words, numbers, dates, and figures. For example, I will save $250 a month for 12 months to have $3000 next year when I leave for my yearly holidays.
- Use calendars to set dates and write down time-bound to do lists;
- Use dedicated goal setting worksheet examples and templates, as they are godsend for those not used to work with project planning and managing on a daily basis;
- Use forms and sheets to track your smaller goals as you achieve them, etc.
We are familiar with using tools since the dawn of time. Anything that works for you works for your goal as well. Just do not forget to return to your pages on digital sheets every time your smaller goals need adjusting or when unforeseen events seem to represent an obstacle towards the destination.
5. Stick to the Plan
Itis probably the hardest part but remember that you chose a goal that motivates you and gives you energy only when you think about it. Setting goals and sticking to them works as well in life as in the workplace. If your work-life balance means getting some extra hours to spend with your family in the evening, go back to step 2, break down everything in the smallest of pieces, write things down, create a board if you like, and keep on taking those steps no matter how exhausting it feels.
At the end of this quest, you will reach your goal, and you will achieve the balance that we all so need.