We are continuing our conversation about transitions. Today we are talking about my favorite Transition Tips: When Your Work-Life Balance Shifts. I’ll be referring to work-life balance as WLB for simplicity’s sake.
WLB can be very tricky to define as people can have very different definitions for what balance looks like to them. I like the WorkLifeBalance.com definition. They define WLB as “meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of my four life quadrants: Work, Family, Friends, and Self.”
Work-life balance has become a popular topic in the workforce and is something that can seem incredibly hard to obtain, if not impossible. So, what happens when the balance that you thought you would have isn’t there? Or maybe you’re wondering what to do when you have fought so hard for balance to suddenly have it shift? We are going to be talking about when WLB shifts happen, what can make them difficult, and how to get your WLB equilibrium back.
When Can It Happen in Life
Work Responsibilities Increase
When we think about WLB shifts, this is the first thing that comes to mind – your workload increasing. This can happen if new responsibilities get added to your list, such as gaining a project or client, getting a promotion, coworkers quit or get fired leaving their tasks behind, or getting a new boss who has different expectations.
Work Responsibilities Decrease
You have a job you love and are passionate about, but something happens. Cuts are made and you are left with fewer hours and tasks, and maybe less of a say. This decrease can also cause imbalance in your WLB.
Life Responsibilities Change
Homelife can cause your WLB to shift as well. Babies, sick family, marriage, divorce, a move, etc. Good or bad, your home life responsibilities can change. This means your time, effort, and focus might be taken away from work, thus shifting the WLB you knew before.
You gain balance, then something shifts and you lose it. Changes, stressors, and shifts happen – they’re a part of life. Let’s talk about what makes it hard and what can you do to find it and make it easier!
What Makes This Transition Hard
You’re Stretched Too Thin
You wake up, hurry to get your family ready and rush out the door with that lukewarm cup of coffee in hand that you planned on drinking an hour ago. Once you get to work and you are bombarded by deadlines, unplanned meetings, and emails. You arrive home already exhausted. Then the real work starts, you still need to make dinner, check your kid’s homework, and go to bed just to do it all over again. Chances are you’re feeling stretched way too thin! You are stressed, overwhelmed, and cannot seem to catch your breath! This is not a sustainable or healthy way to live.
You started your job with a general sense of what it would look like: the hours, the responsibilities, the stress, etc. You had that picture in mind and planned accordingly. However, what was expected and what actually was did not match up. Your well thought out plan went out the window, along with maybe a little bit of your sanity.
We live in a culture where being busy and overworked is glorified. The rat race is so difficult to get out of, and people might look at you differently or think less of you if you decide you want to cut back. We have pressure to perform, do, and be certain things even if they don’t align with our balance, values, or ideals. It’s important to know what you can and cannot handle, what your values are, and who you want to be to with that kind of pressure.
How to Make This Transition Easier
Manage Expectations and Establish New Norms
Now that you have experienced how your WLB has shifted, figure out what your new normal looks like and manage your expectations accordingly. Maybe that means getting a new planner and getting organized by writing everything out. Consider talking with your spouse about what you need to get out the door earlier so you can get home on time. Maybe that means establishing expectations with your boss and what that looks like moving forward. Figure out practically what you need and ask for it so that you are set up for success!
Stress is everywhere and all-consuming – it can take over your life if you let it. Figure out what helps you manage stress, relax, and show up as your best self. Some popular stress-reducing activities are exercising, meditation, reading, getting enough sleep, and having meaningful conversations with loved ones. Find out what works for you and make it a priority in your life.
“So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you. And thinking that way empowers you to work really hard for a really long period of time.” ― Marissa Mayer
Establish Your Boundaries
Take the time and determine not only what you can handle, but what is sustainable for you. Boundaries can be hard to establish but are so important for your wellbeing. Are you taking work calls at home during dinner with the family? Are you utilizing the PTO you have? Determine what healthy boundaries look like for you and stick with them! It’s easier said than done to maintain the boundaries you’ve set. Seeking out support and accountability from loved ones can help keep your boundaries rooted right where you want them to be.
WLB is amazing when you have it and can be difficult when you don’t. It’s critical to fight for, but it’s also important to remember that life is hard and it doesn’t come with a user manual. When your WLB shifts and you feel overwhelmed, have some grace with yourself! Hold firm to the fact that you are doing your best and will find your balance again.
WLB shifts are a part of life – things happen, priorities change, imbalances occur. Remember that order and balance will come back again. Take a deep breath and know that you are doing your best and that your best is enough!