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Work and life balancing act

Rosemary Augustine -- We often think that creating balance in our life only has to do with working fewer hours. Some even envision working part time in order to have balance. But the true meaning of having work and life balance is really having a certain quality of life.

What is the quality of life you desire? Quality of life may mean longer vacations for some, alternating Fridays off for others, working part time, being self-employed or living in a certain part of the country. Whatever is your definition, quality of life questions relate to a bigger picture centered on working and generating income. "How do I create the life I want and work at the same time, generating an income?"

In order to create work and life balance, it is important to first assess your current life. In simple terms for this article, your assessment should include such areas of your life as your work and career path as well as your emotional, physical, spiritual, and financial self. Identify the things you like and don't like about your life. Ask yourself, "What are the things that need to change in order to have the balance that I seek?"

I often approach this topic with another set of questions too, asking, "If you could live anywhere, do anything, and money was no object, where would you live and what would you do?" In your response, describe the life you would like in both the ideal and real world. Are you at least close to your real world answer? Also, look at your obstacles to living such a life. Are the obstacles so great that you imagine never having such a life or the balance you desire?

Here are some other things to consider if you want to succeed in having work and life balance:

Stop Working So Much

Whatever the number of hours per day you work, start by reducing it today by 30 minutes. By starting with 30 minutes, you won't feel like something else is being jeopardized because you took a larger block of time. You're also more likely to keep the 30 minutes to yourself over the long term, and also less likely to go back to the old habit of working that extra 30 minutes. This extra 30 minutes is assuming you've also taken a lunch break and don't work weekends.

What do you do with your extra 30 minutes? Take the time for yourself. Be totally selfish. Take a walk in the park, drink a cappuccino, or sit quietly next to a fountain and gaze at the sky forgetting everything around you. The trick is to let your mind go and not worry about getting back to work, or making "to do" lists of what needs to be completed. Once you start taking 30 minutes on a daily basis -- just to unwind -- you will find that overall you are much more productive, because you've "recharged" your batteries.

Take Time Off From Life

Get away for a day, a weekend, or a week -- by yourself -- to think. But not to think about what you think you should think about. Forget the family, dog, bills, and car problems, think about you! Self-introspection is a scary place to visit; because there are things about yourself you sometimes don't want to see. However, the purpose of such self-introspection is to see the things you want to change and address ways to go about it.

Identify Your Values

Know what's important to you today. Many people work in direct conflict with their values. Others honor the true meaning of living and working within their value system. Your values will shift depending on what's going on in your life. For some deeply entrenched in learning on the job, it's a thirst for advancing technical skills. For those who just lost their job, future income security becomes the value. Ask yourself, "What is important to me?"

Get In Touch With Your Obstacles

Know what barriers prevent you from succeeding in areas of your choice. For example: fear of failure/success, fear of change, fear of the unknown, toxic lifestyles, toxic relationships, clutter, drugs or negative self talk, just to name a few. Identify your obstacles and work on ways to improve your life by reducing and/or eliminating the things you don't want, so you can allow for the things that you do want in your life.

Define Your Goals

Identify what you want to do in the next six months or next five years. By identifying what those goals are, you can begin an action plan in order to achieve those goals in a timeframe comfortable for you. When you define your goals, you see how out of balance you really are, because you realize you're not working on the things that are truly important to you.

Design A Plan

What goals did you list that you want to achieve personally and professionally? What do you have to do to achieve such goals? Set up an Action Plan so you know the steps needed in reaching those goals. If the process is too overwhelming, break down your goals into smaller achievable chunks, ultimately getting you to your bigger goal.

Finally, balance doesn't happen instantly and once you have it, you constantly work at keeping it. However, the most important place to start in getting work and life balance is with you. You have a choice to begin today in taking that extra 30 minutes for yourself. Go ahead, see how it feels. Guaranteed you will want to keep the 30 minutes just for yourself.

Rosemary Augustine is an author and Career Coach.

(c) 2002 CareerBuilder.com

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