How to Achieve a Balance between Work and Personal Life?AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
"Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish, but you only spend it once" ~ Lillian Dickson
If you Google “separate work and personal life” you will find 1.4 billion entries with tips on how to do it. It is quite common to differentiate between these two aspects of what is, in reality, one and the same life.
I suppose that a good part of the people who believe it’s necessary to establish a clear separation between their work and their personal life is because they don’t like their work very much and consider it a necessary evil in order to be able to face the bills each month.
Many of us have been educated that way. From an early age, we have been told that we have to work to live –although in reality, they meant to work to not live–. We have always been encouraged to do what has better job opportunities, whether we like it or not. We assume that it is perfectly normal to live doing something we don’t like.
Separate vs. Balance
Personally, I don’t think it’s very “normal” to live five days a week waiting for the hours to pass so you can enjoy two days in which you can do whatever you want, or exaggerating a little, spend your whole life waiting for retirement to come so you can start enjoying life.
I don’t think anyone should be satisfied with that. Wouldn’t it be great to wake up every morning with the desire to go to work, with the desire to go to a place where we feel good because, in addition, we contribute to creating a better world? Shouldn’t this be the ultimate goal of companies? Wouldn’t we also be infinitely more productive? Imagine not having to wait until the end of the day or Saturday to feel happy. Imagine that you don’t have to wait until you are 65 (or older) to start enjoying your life to the fullest.
Throughout the day you interact with your family and friends, but also with your customers and your colleagues, and it would be nice to be able to enjoy all these relationships, each in its own way. It’s true that sometimes the problem is that we work with people we don’t like. While we choose our friends, our partners and the people we spend our leisure time with, we don’t usually choose the people we work with. But that can be changed.
We must start by changing our approach. Distinguishing between personal and work life means throwing away a good part of our life. Instead, let’s try to do what we like or, in the worst case, that we like what we do.
The balance between work and personal life is achieved when you manage to integrate both aspects of life in harmony, not when you separate them. This balance is only a state of mind that is reached precisely when you do not have the need to separate both worlds. If you manage to enjoy your work and your relationship with the people you work with, the need to mentally separate the professional and personal spheres disappears.
Human beings like to commit to doing things. This happens not only at work but in a wide range of activities in our lives.
A direct consequence of the idea of separating the two worlds is the need to use different management systems for personal and professional affairs. Most people manage their professional matters in some way, better or worse, but do nothing with the rest of their issues.
Using two different management systems, one for our professional commitments and another for our personal commitments, is not an effective solution, although they are often imposed by the rigidity of the companies we work for.
Personal issues are always there and, like professional issues, they require a cognitive burden. If you have a personal problem, it will affect you when you are at work, and if you have a problem at work, it will have an impact on you when you are at home. Therefore, it’s not a matter of separating the two worlds but of managing all commitments correctly, whatever their nature.
How does GTD help you balance your life and work?
The GTD methodology (Getting Things Done) is a very good option for managing all kinds of commitments, as it makes no distinction between work and personal life.
In GTD, the term “work” is used in its most universal sense, meaning the change that needs to be carried out on anything that needs to be different from the way it currently is.
Defining the different areas of focus that make up your life allows you to enjoy a comprehensive personal management system that encompasses all aspects of your life and work, and their evolution. Each area of focus represents a tactical part of your system.
When you manage your personal issues properly and get them out of your head, you are also helping manage your professional life, as you free up space in your head so you can work without distractions.
It’s much easier and more effective to think of a single “I” when it comes to managing your life, than to split that “I” into two halves and switch back and forth between them all the time. A personal management system should include all aspects related to the individual.