How To Achieve A Better Work-Life Balance

“Work-life balance” has become almost a mantra. But what does it mean? We all know that spending too much time at the office can be problematic for our personal lives. But we also want to earn a good living, make our employers happy and gain a sense of professional fulfillment.

And our home life deserves attention, too. We need and want to spend time with family and friends, eat well and sleep well. Hobbies and recreation? Yeah, well – wish we had time for those, right?

Listen, nurturing our physical and psychological health is every bit as important to our long-term success as turbocharging our careers. And pursuing hobbies is a valuable part of our development – both personally and professionally. So, it pays to make time for them.

It’s so important that we engage in things that bring us joy. Not only does it nourish us and make us feel good, but it also sets us up for more success in the workplace.

You’ve heard the expression, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” When we skip out on the activities that we love, our perspective narrows, we don’t foster personal creativity and our confidence can dwindle. On the flip side, by engaging in our passion pieces, each of these three areas of our lives expands.

Consider the rationale behind each element. Let’s take perspective for starters. When we engage in a creative hobby, we think about others. Whether we’re painting, playing an instrument, gardening or writing poetry, we no doubt consider how others will receive our efforts. In this way, hobbies cultivate a broadening of our perspective to include the thoughts and feelings of other people. When finished with the “me project,” we take this expanded mindset back to work projects, making us more effective at communicating and working with others, no matter the task.

As to creativity, in today’s business environment it is a must-have trait to stand out competitively. That’s because employers these days have quickly evolving business environments and are on the lookout for innovative ideas that will foster continued growth.

When your mind is focused only on the day’s tasks, meetings and deadlines, being creative is an afterthought at best. But a creative hobby breaks you out of the “daily grind” rut. When you give yourself the mental space to focus on feelings and creating something from scratch, you tap your creativity. It opens you up to more creative thinking in all areas of your life, including on the job. There’s science to back up this point. Neuroscientists have found that rational thought and emotions involve different parts of the brain. For creativity to open, both must be in play.

Finally, confidence is positively impacted when you engage in your hobbies. Sometimes in our work life, we can lose faith. There are those days when you make a mistake or get stuck on a project. But take some time to do something you love, and you’ll step away feeling a newfound sense of pride. You’ll take that swagger back to the office with you. I promise. And it doesn’t have to be a long indulgence to pay off big time. One study found that spending 45 minutes making art helps boost someone’s confidence and ability to complete tasks.

I know my own career has benefited from my hobbies and personal pursuits. For example, I recently volunteered to help out with my kids’ school’s auction, which is an important fundraiser. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and one that re-taught me lessons that apply in the workplace.

My job on the auction committee was to come up with “experiences” that could be auctioned off. You know, behind-the-scenes tours – lunches with notable people.  At first, I was at a loss for ideas.  But then it hit me. I brainstormed with committee colleagues and reached out to my network of friends and professional colleagues. The result was a great line-up of experiential auction items that will generate lots of donations. The lesson: collaboration is a powerful tool both in the office and in personal pursuits.

Golf has also taught me a valuable work lesson: discipline and the drive to improve are essential in all that we do.

A recent article from the Harvard Business Review indicated that most people “could name several activities, such as pursuing a hobby, that they’d like to have time for.” The truth is, you have the time for anything you really want to do, including hobbies.  It’s all in how you prioritize your activities and manage your time.

So, get that work-life balance in check, and spend some time each week actively pursuing the things in life that make you happy. Not only will it help you personally, but you’ll also benefit professionally, too. And, once retirement rolls around, you’ll have tons of activities that you’ve cultivated along the way to fill your time. Now that’s what I call happy living.

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