What is Work-Life balance?

A healthy work-life balance is key to reducing stress and a positive, healthy lifestyle.  This is basically common knowledge, and is touted by health magazines and medical experts everywhere.  See what they say over at WebMD, and also how work stress affects women from Dr. Oz here and from the Department of Health and Human Services here,  One of my biggest struggles as a professional is that I let my work crowd out the joy of my non-work life.  This spillover prevents my “relaxing” activities from actually being relaxing.   

The Mayo Clinic offers some suggestions for reducing stress by maintaining a positive work-life balance.  These tips are pretty basic, but I plan to put a few of them into action this year.   With finishing law school, studying for and taking the bar, and searching for and beginning my first real job in the next year, I know that the work-side of my life is going to be busy and exciting.  I want the personal-side of my life to be just as important and hope to spend this year bettering myself as a person as much as I do as an attorney. 

As an almost-attorney, stress-management and work-life balance is especially important.  Lawyers experience overwhelming stress every day.  The ABA recommends maintaining time separate from your billable hours to focus on nutrition, family, and rest.  This year, I will make these goals a priority: 

1.  I plan to create boundaries between my work time and personal time by not answering emails after 8 PM unless they are emergent client issues.  I know that this is not always do-able, but if I try to save my time from 8-10:30 p.m. for 100% me/personal time, I think it will help me to reduce daily stress. 

2.  Exercise.  Exercise is the number 1 stress reducing activity and, when combined with its numerous other health benefits, it seems silly not to exercise.  Yet, for some reason, I just never have.  My family was never very active and I was a clumsy child so I never played softball or soccer or took gymnastics.  I still feel really awkward about working out (more about this later) but I’m going to do it at least twice a week.  It’s just stupid not to, and I can accept that and deal with the rest as it comes. 

3.  Plan and set goals for my free time.  I often sacrifice my “me” time to my husband’s interests or to finish up a work project, and even when I’m “having fun” I am often thinking about work or stressing that things are not complete.  This is wasted time, because I’m not relaxing or having fun and I’m not working!  I’m not letting it happen any more.  I’m going to schedule in my free time — how crazy is that! — for a few months and see if it helps. 

4.  Keep to my schedule.  I am excellent at planning things out but sometimes let my committment to the plan slip and, thus, lose my exercise or sleep time to last minute things.  Further, when things get sloppy I feel more stressed.  I’m going to schedule a time to clean up clutter and a time to wake up, a little at a time, to see how things go. 

As you can tell, these goals are more organic than measurable and I plan to incorporate them into my life slowly instead of adopting a rigid, robotic schedule.  Life is full of surprises, and too many requirements for each day can add stress when things go awry.  I’m going to measure my progress here on the blog, and hope you will join me in a less stressful 2011!


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