How to Tell if You Have Work-Life Balance

On first impression, this post might have a stupid headline. Whether you have achieved work-life balance doesn't seem like such a difficult question -- all the people you need to consult are nearby, all the necessary data is at hand and there isn't any fancy math involved in reaching a decision. But as Pamela Slim, blogger and author of Escape from Cubicle Nation, recently pointed out, in the midst of the whirlwind of modern life it can be difficult to separate occasional exhaustion and normal anxieties from real warning signs that your work-life balance is out of whack.

If you want to know how you're really doing, Slim suggests you stop comparing your life to some mythical state of perfect balance (or your co-workers or friends). Instead, try pondering the following questions:

  • Do I enjoy my life while I am living it? When you step outside in the morning, do you take a deep breath and marvel at the wonder that the sun keeps coming up each day? Do you watch your kids (or pets!) intently and notice how perfect they are in their own quirky way? If you hate most of what you are doing most of the time, and miss the beauty of a full moon or the smile of a stranger because you are so busy rushing around, you may want to slow down and pay attention.
  • Do I have a very short list of people I make a priority, without exception? The more our friend count stacks up on social media sites, and the more our client base grows, the harder it becomes to give sustained, quality support to those in your network. Emails linger in the inbox, and @ replies go unanswered on Twitter. But some relationships need to be nurtured every day, without exception.
  • Do I "stay on my own yoga mat" as yoginis say, and not compare myself to others who are smarter, more productive, more witty, more sexy and more funny? I am lucky enough to hang out with some pretty smart and accomplished people. At times, their level of productivity overwhelms me. They negotiate great book deals, furiously write blog posts, close new business deals, and make time to eat right and work out. When I have a moment of compare and despair, as my friend Martha Beck says, I immediately step back and revisit my own vision of success.
  • Do I wield a "No Axe" with great gusto, cutting unenergizing, unprofitable and unstrategic activities from my calendar? Charlie Gilkey wrote a great post explaining the criteria of Opportunity, Visibility and Cash Flow. If your daily activities do not fall into these three areas (including nurturing critical relationships), it is time to raise your no axe and whack them off.
  • Are things a bit better today than they were yesterday? I have a lot of big personal and work development projects: a healthier and more fit body, a new book, a new body of speaking work... The big list is overwhelming. But each day, I take a small step toward completing it.
For much more on Slim's personal quest for work-life balance, check out her blog.

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(Photo courtesy of Flickr user garryknight, CC 2.0)