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5 Ways to Create Work Life Balance

 What does the words “life balance” mean to you?  To most people, balance is about having enough time for family and work.  If you took the time you wanted to spend with your family, would your work suffer; would you be completely happy or stressed out; would you be satisfied with life?  Probably not…  The concept of work life balance is tough to imagine for most Americans today.  As the world economies become more and more competitive, Americans are forced to work more.  While the rest of the industrialized world learned to reduce the number of hours worked, America found itself to be at the top of the increasing trend instead.  A recent study showed that the percentage change in hours worked from 1970 to 2002 has increase by 20% in the U.S.   Could there be balance when you’re asked to work 20% more?  While during the same time frame, other industrialized nations such as France, Germany, Japan has all decreased hours worked by 23.5%, 17.1%, and 16.6% respectively.  How does this relate to your hours worked?

The impact of this trend is reason for serious concern.  The increasing health costs for organizations are an undeniable fact.  Even with all of our technology, we still experience knowing someone with unexpected heart attacks.  Many Americans suffer from some form of back ach, while others are dependent on drugs to get through the day.  Even those in the health field like doctors are low in their morale.  A 2001 California survey of physicians found that 75% of respondents were less satisfied with their work.  Many believe that it is impossible to have that balance between your work and personal life.  Without that balance, what is life for?  Rather than blaming your work, could it be that the concept of work life balance be flawed?

Consider a different perspective on the term balance.  The traditional concept of balance is an external idea.  It is dependent upon other environmental factors outside of you, allowing blame.  Balance is an internal way of life.  It has highly influenced by your inner self rather than the outer environment.  Everything around you is simply a reflection of what’s going on inside of you.  You’ve heard the term – “mind over matter”.  Expanding the term mind into intelligences, this concept is true!  You intelligences have the power to create the reality you desire.  The following 5 ways to create work life balance is not just something to do; it is also a new way of thinking and being.  It incorporates many research studies from emotional intelligence to systems thinking.  It is something that I’ve developed, taught and coached many students, executives and organizations.  These steps are a contextual methodology that can flow in any environment and give you the balanced life of your dreams, as it has for me and many clients. 

 # 1: Identify your passion.  Passion is one of the greatest drivers of human life.  It gives meaning to the simplest actions and events.  It puts smiles on people’s faces and your heart.  Without passion, life is not worth living.  Look at those with heart attacks – do you know that heart attacks occur most frequent on Monday mornings at 9AM and least often on Friday afternoons at 5PM?   No other mammal exhibit such a trend.  Do you think those with heart attacks have passion for life at 9AM on Monday or have their hearts decided to quit?  How’s your passion level on Monday mornings?

To better your life, identifying passion is a conscious effort.  It doesn’t happen at the coffee machine at work.  One basic tool that’s proven to work very well is a dream collage.  To create this dream collage, obtain a bunch of magazines and cut out pictures that attract you.  Don’t try to make sense of them or allow your mind to tell you why you can’t have it.  Simply cut them out.  When you’ve got a stack of them, paste them on a large poster board.  This dream collage is now a representation of your passion in a web of images.  Place this collage at a visible place such as your office or your doorway.  The more you look at it, the more your unconscious will make the dreams happen.  Passion is one of many systemic medicines that relieve stress.  And it’s significantly cheaper than any medication.  So, by when will you have your dream collage made to lengthen your life?

 # 2:  Make time to learn.  Contrary to what schools teach you, learning does not mean read 20 books every year and pass an exam.  Learning is not just about taking in information; it is about taking action with the new information to create knowledge.  Balance within life comes from the constant shifting of who you by spending at least 30 minutes a day learning.

In these 30 minutes, you can reflect on what happened during the day.  Understand the lessons that were presented.  Ask yourself, what would you do differently next time?  Write it down.  Absorb some new information from journals and educational books.  Create an action plan to incorporate the information into your being.  This will be your own knowledge management system, share it with others.  Within months, you’ll be able to reinvent yourself on a regular basis and create a balanced reality.  So think back in the past week – what lessons have you learned and what are you doing differently?

 # 3: Engage in emotional intelligence (EQ) learning.  The majority of your education thus far incorporates only analytical intelligence or IQ.  Consider spokes on a wheel – if you have one spoke that is well developed and strong and another that is weak, would your wheel be able to maintain its shape as it rolls through the ups and downs of life?  Probably not…  In order to achieve any form of balance, your EQ must be further developed on a conscious level.  To get a fundamental understand and some basic development activities, read and incorporate into your life these two books: Multiple Intelligences by H. Gardner and Executive EQ by R. K. Cooper & A. Sawaf. 

When engage in your everyday communications, seek the underlying emotion that drives the logic.  Learn to have emotional conversations with friends and colleagues.   This type of conversation facilitates heart to heart communication. As a result, balance is created in most situations. Consider this thought – 80% of human decisions are made by emotions while only 20% are logic based.

 # 4: Engage in somatic awareness.  Somatic awareness is another key spoke on your wheel of life.  It deals with the intelligence of your physical being.  For example, when another person is about to bump into you, your body automatically tenses up to get ready for the impact.  The act of becoming tense greatly reduces your ability to move out of harm’s way.  Another common situation is your breathing – in moments of tension, fear, or anxiety, your breathing tends to become shallower.  The shorter breaths increase your heart rate which speeds up your thinking.  This significantly reduces your ability to think clearly and not just react. 

Your body is an incredible radar system that facilitates its own needs.  In order to create any form of balance in life, you need to be conscious of the signals that the body is sending you.  This level of awareness will bring about the possibility to change your way of thinking, as well as your physical health.  Next time when you get into a challenging situation, take a look at how you’re breathing.  Focus on slowing it down and see what happens…

 #5. Create a default schedule.  Most people can quantify some percentage of time that they’d like to be involved in a certain activity.  Yet, few actually measure it, for fear of realizing the truth.  Take a moment to jot down how many hours you’d like to be working, playing, and hanging out with the family/friends.  Once you’ve got the overall hours down, go deeper into the various divisions within each category.  For example, in the 40 hours of working time each week, you need to be doing 5 hours of administration, 5 hours of marketing yourself, 25 hours of production, and 5 hours of learning.  Schedule all of these activities into a default schedule where your entire week can be planned out with specific focus.  When something comes up, you’ll automatically know when the next time slot for this activity is, and place it there.

The default schedule is a tough challenge for many people, as they now have to be disciplined to follow their own schedule of their idea life.  Don’t make excuses, just follow it.  It’ll take you at least a month or two to create one that works well for you.  Once you have it, this tool will give you a new level of comfort in life and also greatly increase your focus level where you can be fully present to accomplish tasks.  Just imagine, what would it feel like to live everyday as the day of your dreams?

 Balance is not a duality of work and personal time.  In contrast, balance is about an inner peace that facilitates completeness.  The 5 ways I’ve described gives you a start on getting there.  Although there are tangible actions, these methods are primarily focused on a new way of thinking and being.  When you enter this journey, you’ll find that life can be perfect, just as you imagined it when you were a child.


By Dr. Ted Sun

February, 2005

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