Recently, someone told me that I must have work-life balance because I go to work and then I go home to my family. Huh? That didn’t make much sense to me. After my husband and I had our son five-and-a-half years ago, I never thought I’d get to a place where I’m not thinking about home at work and work at home. On many days it has felt more like work-life entropy.
I am nowhere near balance but I am not aiming for balance. I am working on having a harmonious relationship between work and home. As we know, relationships take work and my work-home relationship is a work in progress!
In their 2016 book The Joy of Science, Snieder and Schneider cite Glennon Melton Doyle who said, “Forget unicorns and balance. If you were perfectly balanced you’d never have to take anyone’s hand to steady yourself, and that would be a tragedy.” Ditto to that. There is no magical potion out there for work-life balance perfection. But I believe we can reach a place where we aren’t judging ourselves harshly for not achieving perfection. Some tips:
- Do not include a ton of items on your daily to-do list. Even if you have a ton of things to do, focus on completing three to four major tasks. Having that sense of accomplishment will help you remember what you got done and not focus on a bunch of items that are still in progress when you get home after work and want to have a relaxing dinner.
- I typically do not pick up my office phone if it rings after 4:45 pm. If it rings a second or third time and I receive an urgent email, of course I will look into it to make sure everything is alright. But it is important to have some time to wind down at work before you head home. The last 10 minutes of my day typically involve checking my mail for anything that needs signing, cleaning out the coffee maker, and dusting my desk. If I went straight from responding to a difficult email to picking up my child from school, I would be super distracted on the car ride home instead of enjoying the time and learning about my son’s adventurous day.
- Do not give up activities you enjoy. You may not have time right now for a lot of spontaneity but there is nothing wrong with scheduling in fun. Including yoga, the gym, the bookstore, and family zoo visits on the calendar helps ensure that I am protecting time for my non-work activities.
In one of the doctoral seminar classes I teach I ask students to reflect on their academic program and what they want to get out of each day in the program. This is what I want to experience each day: love for family and friends, learning from colleagues and students, sharing ideas and experiences, and having meaningful conversations. Pretty ambitious for each day but as I work on my work-life relationship, I’m getting closer to harmony!
Dr. Daniela Friedman is professor and chair of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina (UofSC). Dr. Friedman was awarded the James A. Keith Excellence in Teaching Award of the Arnold School for her exceptional classroom teaching and mentoring of students in 2011 and the faculty service award in the Arnold School in 2015. She has more than 150 publications in peer-reviewed publications and has secured millions of dollars of grant funding as principal investigator or co-investigator during her time on faculty at UofSC. Dr. Friedman also is active in professional and community organizations. She is a wife, and she is a mother of a dynamic and smart five-and-a-half year old who has endless amounts of energy and wit. You can read more about her and her work on her faculty profile.
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