A New Way to Look at Work/Life Balance?

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iStock_6Work/Life Balance is an issue on the mind of many managers, especially women.  Juggling all of the demands for our time and attention can be challenging.  Often times we look at this issue in a simplistic way- as the strict balance between my work life and my personal life.  How do I excel at work and at home, keeping all the balls in the air and meeting everyone’s needs?  This approach is more of a time or management approach.

Another way to look at is to consider managing your energy not your time. In their Harvard Business Review Article, Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy of the Energy Project advocate balancing your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.  You can read the entire article here.  Some of their advice includes:

  • Enhance your sleep by setting an earlier bedtime and reducing alcohol use.
  • Reduce stress by engaging in cardiovascular activity at least three times a week and strength training at least once.
  • Defuse negative emotions—irritability, impatience, anxiety, insecurity—through deep abdominal breathing.
  • Fuel positive emotions in yourself and others by regularly expressing appreciation to others in detailed, specific terms through notes, e-mails, calls, or conversations.

Positive emotions are the focus of positive psychology.  Recently I learned of another way to look at balance through the eyes of Positive Psychology.   The Brief Strengths test allows you to discover your character strengths.  Although the analysis will generate 24 strengths, your top 5 would be signature strengths.  You can take the test for free at the Positive Psychology web site of Dr. Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, authentichappiness.com.  You will need to register first and all content is free.  The test is located under the Engagement Questionnaires.

I learned that one of my signature strengths is appreciation of beauty and excellence.   What’s the value of knowing your character strength?  First and foremost, they are core to who you are as a person.  Second, using these strengths regularly and drawing upon them in challenging times can create a sense of balance or wellness.  Let me give you an example.  This fall, the weather turned to a perfect 65 degrees.  I was able to get outside, and spend 3 hours raking some leaves, doing some gardening, preparing plants for winter hibernation.   While this might seem like mundane work to some, it allowed me to enter what positive psychologist, Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi  termed, “flow.”  Conditions of flow include a sense of being fully engaged and letting go of over-thinking and over-trying.  Based on my appreciation of beauty, in this case nature, I was able to be in the moment as I gardened.   The benefits of those three hours were so powerful that I was able to stay centered for days.  In addition to gardening, people find flow while creating art, making music together, weaving , hunting, singing and storytelling.   How are you creating balance in your life? What are you doing to create the conditions for flow in your life?

29 Replies to “A New Way to Look at Work/Life Balance?”

  1. Within the realm of hlaeth coaching (nutrition counseling and personal training) I find the strengths based approach to be of HUGE importance! I have unconsciously, in the past, applied both tactics to my clients and looking back on their reactions and performance.. the strength based approach has been much more effective in persons achieving their goals. I now consciously apply the strenth based approach as much as my mind will let me.. as I too have been used to the traditional deficit approach of coaching. Always great to be reminded of how powerful a positive word or two can be!

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