Work/Life Balance: A Five-Step Approach to Achieving It Your Way

Gary McClain, PhD, is a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences and therapist who specializes in helping clients deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

The term “work/life balance” gets tossed around a lot. I use it a lot myself when I talk about my own life and with my clients.

I occasionally do a workshop on this topic for local companies. Employees come in during their lunch hour and I talk to them about the importance of having balance in their lives. But I often wonder if I am giving them anything of real value. They tell me how most days, they have no time to do anything more for lunch than grab a sandwich to eat at their desks. Some are working well into the evening, others are rushing from work to pick up children, who are then going to need dinner and help with their homework, or to be transported to Little League practice or dance lessons.

I ask myself: What can I tell them about how to achieve work/life balance when they have so many demands on their time?

Tipping the scale

The problem with work/life balance as a term is the word “balance.” It conjures up an image of a scale, in perfect balance, with an object on each side of the scale. It’s all too easy to assume the object on one side should represent work, with the object on the other side of the scale representing the opposite of work, such as relaxation or fun. (By the way, “work” doesn’t have to mean employment. Responsibilities at home also consume your time and belong on the work side of the scale.)

For most of us, that kind of balance is impossible. And maybe not even desirable. As a result, any possibility of work/life balance is easily written off.

But I think that when we write off work/life balance, we ignore the message. And it’s a simple message: in the midst of your hectic life, take some time for yourself to recharge your batteries.

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