Work life balance

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Me, my work, my life. Off balance. What is wrong?   

Today, my work and life are not in balance. I spend long hours at work to eke out a pay check, to fulfill career ambition or just to make more money. Then I spend considerable time in commuting to and from work. I return home physically and mentally exhausted. I microwave the frozen left overs from the fridge, nibble on the meal as I check my iPhone for emails, text messages and missed calls. Work place conflicts, project dead-lines, job security fears – all these weigh in my mind as  I mechanically play with my three year old son for a few minutes, then move over, open up my laptop and immerse myself in work to meet project dead-lines, to please my boss or just to hang on to the job I have. After a short, inadequate and fitful sleep, I wake up the next morning to the emails on my computer. Grabbing a cup of coffee, I fight the peak hour traffic to get to my workplace, chasing a paycheck and a living. Then I realize that my three year old son is not there anymore. He has been replaced by a fifteen year old handsome youth. How did he grow up so fast? Where was I all these years?

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USA lags behind developed countries in work-life balance [Source]

Among the OECD countries, Denmark  has the best work life balance while Turkey fares poorest. Unites States hovers near the bottom.Healthy work life balance is almost a non existent luxury in the States. “It’s a choice”, says  Romina Boarini, a senior economist at OECD who measures well-being and progress. “The U.S. has the highest income and wealth, highest in terms of housing conditions and jobs and earnings, but on the other side of the coin it sacrifices work-life balance.”

How to improve the work life balance? Here are a few tips from the treasure house of sanatana dharma.

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I have a certain expectation on what my work life balance should be. I need to be able to spend time as needed and as I want on personal matters. At the same time I want to be able to complete my assignments at work, secure my job, promotion, realize my career ambition and the flow of pay checks. I look to the work place, family, friends and the daily commute to afford me this work life balance. But I don’t receive it there and end up frustrated, helpless and stressed out.

I don’t achieve the work life balance I want because I’m  going about it the wrong way. I cannot get work life balance by engaging in work related issues at home and by fretting over personal matters at the work place. Work life balance is also just not a matter of distributing hours between work place and home. It is more to do with balance than work life or personal life activities.

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To achieve work life balance I must focus exclusively on the balance aspect of life, and not so much on whether the activities are work related or personal. Let me explain.

  • I must leave behind work pressures, people problems, project time-lines and other work related things at the work place when I head for home. I must not bring them with me in to my home. This may seem an almost impossible thing to do at first, especially in the strangle hold of the primacy of work culture in the States, but with discipline and practice, this can be achieved.
  • I must do the work in hand well, really well, with enthusiasm and full application of my skills regardless of what the work is. I must not expand the work to fill the time available but complete it promptly and efficiently without delaying it. And I must not procrastinate. [yogah karmasu kowsalam – Bhagavad Gita 2.50]
  • I need to develop a balanced attitude and learn to calm my mind. Even a small progress in these two mental matters gives huge dividends for a healthy work life balance.
    • Understand and appreciate the fact that I’m not actually doing the work in hand. It is the other way around. The work is actually doing me [Try not doing any work that comes your way to experience the truth of this statement first hand!][kaaryate hi avasah karmah. Bhagavad Gita 3.5]
    • Put to good use  the three basic natural tendencies I have – the lethargic, the aggressive and the balancing. Use the aggressive tendency to overcome lethargy; then use the balancing tendency to temper the aggressive tendency. [This is no different from driving a car. A car has accelerator,  brake and cruise control. Accelerator overcomes the braking force and the cruise control tempers the acceleration to balance the speed of the car.All three are required in a car and when used properly gives a smooth ride]
    • Receive every piece of work with gratitude and do it as worship. Truly speaking, work is life. If I’m unable to work, both my physical and mental health are affected and I degenerate. So, I must do the work in hand with gratitude for the opportunity it gives me to do it and for being able to do it. Do it as worship for the work I’m doing nourishes my life itself.   [mat karma krut mat paramo math bhaktah. Bhagavad Gita Ch 11]
    • To calm and master the mind is truly a phenomenal thing. This is achieved at the pinnacle of sacrifice, self discipline and selfless life. But a starter with two baby steps in this direction is enough to achieve a healthy work life balance.
      • Reduce desires. Put a ceiling on them. Giving up one desire, just one, has an exponential impact on calming the mind. A calmer mind gives better clarity. With better clarity, I’m able to do work more efficiently, promptly and with fewer errors. [kaamaat krodho abhijaayate. krodhaat bhavati sammohah. Bhagavad Gita 2.63,64]
      • Enjoy five slow, deep breaths, minimum  thrice a day – on waking up, at noon and while retiring to bed.

A short cut also is available to achieve a healthy work life balance. Live with the objective of primarily serving others. [paropakaaram idam sareeram – Vyasa] That is enough. The “others” could be my boss, fellow workers and customers at work, my family members or the fellow commuters caught in the daily traffic snarl with me or any one else for that matter. This attitude of life as service, of  putting the needs and benefits of others before mine, itself helps me handle every piece of work well, frees up currently wasted time, balances professional and personal activities and strengthens my mindfulness to life and living. Do I need anything more than  a service mind-set to achieve work life balance?

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Here’s to your healthy work life balance, dear reader!

 

 

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