Wouldn’t it be easy to balance work and life if there wasn’t all that dang work to do?  Unfortunately for the majority of us, we spend most of our waking hours working.  Whether you are in the office or working from home, you have to balance the amount of time you spend working and time you spend decompressing.  I think everyone struggles with finding the right balance, and their certainly isn’t a shortage of literature on the subject.  The problem is that there are a lot of poor suggestions on the topic.

Nigel Marsh, a CEO and Author, said in a TED talk on the subject, “All the discussions about flexi-time or dress-down Fridays or paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family.”

He strikes a powerful note here.  If you ask 100 employers what they do to help employees with work-life balance, I guarantee half of them don’t even have an answer.  The majority of the rest probably have things like flex time, or have crazy hat Wednesday’s, but that doesn’t really solve the core issue.

Nigel goes on to say that, “There are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to enable them to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like.  It’s my contention that going to work on Friday in jeans and a t-shirt isn’t getting to the nub of the issue.”

So what are we to do in this situation?  The first step is to be aware of the situation.  Do you have a good work-life balance?  Do you spend enough time at home with the kids and family?  Being aware is the first part of solving any problem.

Next you have to take control.  Your employer, whether it is a corporation, a government office, or a mom and pop shop, will balance your life for you, but may not do it in a way that you agree.  You have to design your life the way you want it.  Don’t put your life in the hands of a company, it is your decision how to run your life.

The third step is to give yourself enough time to reach your balance goals.  Don’t expect change to happen overnight.  On the other side of the coin, don’t wait too long.  Falling into the trap of “I’ll relax when I retire” is the last thing you want.  Set goals and give a few months for changes to start happening.

In the words of Nigel Marsh, “approach balance in a balanced way.”  Make sure when planning for work-life balance that you set aside time for each section of your life.  Work, family, fitness, spiritual, or whatever is important to you.  Finding what things matter to you in life, and making time for them, is the most important thing you will ever do.  You won’t just be a smarter worker, but a smarter person.