Juggling Work and Life—The Ultimate Balancing Act

For most people, daily existence is divided into work and everything else, also known as “life.” Work includes everything we do to earn money and to improve our ability to earn money. Life includes home, family, friends, pleasure, leisure, and personal enrichment. Balancing the two can be difficult, especially as you get older and have more responsibilities at both the home and the office. Many times it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do.

A recent article in Forbes has some helpful suggestions on how to balance the work part of your daily routine with the life part.

The first thing you need to do is to prioritize. Many people spend a lot of time shuttling their kids to and from extracurricular activities such as sports, music lessons, school clubs, and so on. While you certainly want your kids to be well-rounded, choosing a couple of extracurricular activities at one time, say one sport and one performing art, instead of four or five, will be a great time-saver.

Prioritization applies just as well to work as at home. You are sorely tempted to impress the boss by taking on extra work. While this gambit is a good strategy for career advancement, overdoing it would be a quick path to aggravation, stress, and burnout. You should certainly be a good, productive employee. But you will do neither yourself nor your employer any good if you find yourself distracted because the deadline for that project is drawing near and you want to make your son’s championship basketball game.

Next, you should make technology your friend—not your enemy. The proliferation of handheld electronic devices and smart phones has blurred the lines between work and home. Technology can be a kind of electronic chain that can pull at you at inopportune times when you need to do the life stuff.

On the other hand, the ability to telecommute can be a lifesaver if you have home responsibilities but also need to get some work done. Check what your company’s policies are about working from home. Your boss may be sympathetic if you tell him or her that working from home once or twice a week will help you deal with a sick child or an elderly parent who needs attention while absolving some of your work responsibilities.

Back during the “Leave it to Beaver” era, Dad went to work, and Mom stayed at home to clean and cook. Since two-earner couples are the norm in the modern era, time for cleaning and cooking is at a premium. Two solutions exist.

One way to deal with it is to have a house-cleaner come in once a week to take care of the housework and a yardman to take care of the mowing and the edging. This solution is a fine one if you have the financial wherewithal to pay for it. However, if you are of limited means, perhaps learning not to feel guilty that the beds are not made and the floor is not mopped as often as when your mother or grandmother kept house would be a more practical solution.

Cooking an evening meal can be an arduous task after a hard day at the office. Some people try to live on take-out or delivery, but that can have adverse health consequences if too much of it is fast food. Learn to cook meals that do not take a lot of time to prepare. A programmable slow cooker that can have a meal ready when you get home will be a godsend in this area.

While balancing work and life can be hard, the task is doable if you put some thought and planning into it. The final suggestion is always to budget some down time when you can just relax and recharge the batteries. This way, you will be better able to deal with responsibilities at home and work.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how you balance or integrate work with life? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or email Moira Gill at mgill@ncacpa.org.