Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Way to Look at Balance

Today we kick off the new year and by all accounts, it's going to be a busy one. As I embark on my first full work week in nearly three (thank you, December Blizzard, you fit right into my year-end plans) I keep thinking about an article on work-life balance I read in, of all places, the American Medical News. The article, "Achieving Work-Life Balance: More Than Just a Juggling Act" aims to inform doctors on the fine art of balancing their lives and careers. Doctors...really? The men and women who work 48 hours on straight? How is this even a hot topic in this profession?

But the article is intriguing and has several points that apply to all of us, even if we don't pull overnight shifts.
  1. Balance can be achieved, even with long hours. As long as you're spending your time the way you want to spend it, the hours themselves don't necessarily matter. Stop thinking of "balance" as leaving the office at 5 PM.
  2. The Balance Shifts. Almost daily, your work and home life demand different things. Make changes, and even the small ones count, to keep everything in line.
  3. But balance is the wrong term. Balance implies a neat, compartmentalized dichotomy where you can divide your life 50-50. That's not true for most women, particularly working mothers. I prefer the term "integration," particularly as I wrap up my 5-7AM early work hours to pause, feed the kids a hot breakfast and send them to school and the sitters, before I head back to work.
  4. So Trade Off! Particularly for working mothers, I'm fond of the phrase "you can have it all, but not at the same time." Figure out what's most important, prioritize, and forgive yourself for letting go of the rest.

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