How do you integrate balance into your life when your job requires so much focus and time? Can you be successful at work and still have a life? How will incorporating life-work balance into your days now support you when you retire?
Doris Kearns Goodwin, a historian, biographer and author of books about several American presidents, addressed this vital topic on TedTalk. She told of the seminar she attended at Harvard University as a young student led by renowned psychologist Erik Erikson. She said, “he taught that the richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love and play; and to pursue one realm with disregard to the others is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age. But, to pursue all three with equal dedication, is to make a life possible not only with achievement but with serenity.”
Her talk included references to Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, in which she capsulized Lincoln’s balance, brought about through the enjoyment of his many interests, as well as his humor, devotion to family, and dedication to work; and diversely, Johnson’s imbalance due to the exclusive and narrow career path he traveled. Once retired Johnson, she said, was never able to enjoy life.
These are strong thoughts that need to be absorbed by today’s 24/7 work-oriented individuals. By enjoying the fullness of life now — which includes your work, relationships, health/vitality, volunteerism, ongoing learning, spirit, and leisure — you will know how to enjoy your future.
The Mayo Clinic staff asks us to consider the consequences of poor work-life balance by providing this list:
1. Fatigue. When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
2. Poor health. Stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can worsen the symptoms you experience from any medical condition. Stress also puts you at risk of substance abuse.
3. Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm relationships with your loved ones. It’s also difficult to nurture friendships if you’re always working.
4. Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you might be given more responsibility — which could lead to additional concerns and challenges.
Here are some tips to help you restore your equilibrium.
1. Figure out what’s important. Stop and make a list of what’s important to you and how it will increase your happiness, sense of self, involvement in your world, and success.
2. Use management techniques to move you forward. Add to the list goals, dates, and outcomes to achieve.
3. Really do it. Actualize your list by activating it now. Don’t wait for another day.
4. Health is No. 1. Take care of your health by getting essential sleep, learning how to say ‘no,’ and not working 24/7. Consider 8/5.
5. Unfocus from work when you leave for the day and refocus on your life. Leave work at work most of the time. Understandably there are a few projects that need more time. But minimize them.
6. Use technology instead of letting it use you. Plan how to interact with technology so you’re in charge and not usurped by responding to other people’s messages and needs.
7. Take a break. Take a mindful rest period to revitalize your brain and energy during the day.
By taking care of you, you will improve how you take care of your business commitments. The work will get done, and you’ll also have a life. Then, when you transition to retirement, your life will already be full, and retirement won’t seem as traumatic as it can be. You will have the advantage of embodying this new stage of life with aplomb.
The New Retirement: A Paradigm Shift is a recurring column by Gloria Dunn-Violin (415-259-7090, havingalifenow.com, nowwhatrcoach.com, email@example.com). She is a certified retirement life coach, professional speaker and a business consultant. She has over 25 years experience in organizational behavior and development as a trainer, facilitator, consultant and coach. She also advises financial, insurance, and other business services on how to provide their clients with advice about retirement and aging.