I run out of time every day. I sometimes wish there were 34 hours in a day because that extra 10 hours would allow me to do some of the things I want to get done. When I don't get those things done, I feel I have let people down.
I'm currently struggling to balance my work time, my family time and time for me as well. And the time I have for my family. I love my family, but I really love my job too and sometimes I feel like I'm being pulled in both directions. I love my job; I love my family and my girlfriends and I love to run. The problem is that I don't seem to have enough time to get it all done and something inevitably feels as if it fell through the cracks.
We know that work-life balance is a huge concern in North America. We are living in an era in which we want the fancy careers that come complete with the big pay cheques, the nice cars, and the extravagant vacations. We also want to have that picture-perfect family, a clean house, freshly pressed clothes each morning and the occasional dinner that is cooked rather than just reheated.
A couple of years ago, The Wall Street Journal surveyed more than 800 business professionals and found that those who focused on creating a balance between career and personal interests said they were most satisfied with their lives. People who said they were focused primarily on family or work tended to be less satisfied. The question remains: How do we achieve a healthy balance?
Perhaps the easiest way to achieve balance is to constantly ask yourself "does this action help me with balance or not? And if not, why am I doing it?"
Here are the larger questions behind work-life balance. They involve understanding what is most important to you and making time in your life for those things. The best way to proceed is to actually put your answers in writing. Ask yourself:
• What is important to you, and what would you like to have more of in your life? This should cover all areas of your life. Make sure you put in "time for me" if that is important. If you want an annual family vacation, or you want to cut the grass yourself each week, then those should be included. Perhaps you want to become a vice president, and maybe you don't, but decide what is important to you.
• How can I make space for these things in my life? It's likely that to make space you will have to give something up. Are you willing to do that? I love to have time in my bathtub. I consider it a decadent experience, yet it is important to me that I spoil myself occasionally. But if I pour myself a bath at 8 p.m., I feel like I am taking time away from my family. And I am. But if I want my leisurely bath, I have to give something else up. The best route to take is to find the times that have the least impact on my family -- for instance after the kids are asleep or on the weekend. That way I get what I want and so do they -- that's balance.
• What things are taking up too much space in your life? In the past, cleaning my house fell into this category. I felt that I could be doing other things that were more important to me, and cleaning was one of the things that took too much space. So I hired someone to do my cleaning. I had to give something up -- money -- but I got something in return -- more quality time for myself.
Understanding the things that are most important to you is the first step to achieving work-life balance. Making room for them, and perhaps giving up something to do that, is the second step. Then, continually confirming your priorities will help to keep you on the right track.
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