How working parents can improve work-life integration

These days, it seems everyone is discussing work-life balance. Can we really balance our lives, especially when there’s work, children, and other commitments? Can working parents have it all?

That depends on how you interpret “balance.” Perhaps, instead of looking for work-life balance, it’s time to reframe what that means and, alternatively, pursue work-life integration.

6 Steps to Help Find Work-Life Integration

Step 1. Start by Reframing Things

Work-life balance is a common phrase, yet it can be confusing. It can imply that we should devote equal time to work and life. However, that’s not always realistic.

Instead, it’s helpful to visualize life balance in a more holistic, integrated way. Think of this as work-life integration, fit, or blend.

Try imagining life as a pie. Each slice represents an area of your life or a role that you have, like being a parent or volunteering at the animal shelter. The size of each slice symbolizes the amount of time you spend on each role.

You’ll likely have numerous slices, and that’s OK. The more important question is whether you spend time on what you enjoy and what is important to you.

Step 2. Define Your Balance

Balance is a very personal concept. What works for one person may not work for another. To figure out your unique vision of work-life integration, answer these questions:

  • How do you define balance?
  • How do you know when you are balanced?
  • How do you know when you are out of balance?

Step 3. Revisit Values and Priorities

Can you define your current values and priorities? If not, complete a detailed values exercise to learn more about where you stand. This will enable you to make more informed decisions about how to allocate your time each day.

Step 4. Track Your Time

As Laura Vanderkam discusses in her book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, humans are prone to misestimating time. To better understand how you spend your time, try recording what you do for two or three weeks (Vanderkam offers a tracking form on her website).

Once you have completed this task, group your records into categories, such as career, health, and leisure. Then, create a pie based on your results. How do you really spend your time? Many people are surprised by their findings, especially when uncovering the ways they waste time. They also realize they are progressing toward their goals. It just doesn’t happen every week.

Step 5. Recalibrate Your Life

By now, you probably have a more realistic view of your work-life integration. Look for clues as to why you feel unbalanced in life. Perhaps you are spending much more time (or much less) in one area than you thought.

Also, consider which areas in your life give you energy and which ones deplete you. What is missing in your life? What do you want to do more of? Are you meeting the values and priorities that you identified in Step 3?

Create a second pie that represents an ideal version of your life. If you find you are not dedicating much time to your creative pursuit, be sure to carve out a slice (even if it is a sliver) in your perfect pie.

Step 6. Devise Improvements

The final step in understanding and improving your work-life integration is to think about solutions. List the areas you would like to enhance by referring to Step 5 and comparing your “real” and “ideal” life pies. Begin to brainstorm ways you can make improvements in these domains.

For instance, perhaps you would like to work fewer hours at your job. Smaller-scale solutions might include delegating certain projects to others, while more substantial changes could involve requesting a flexible work arrangement or seeking a new job working from home.

Or maybe you would like more time in your week to exercise. One strategy might be to trade time with your partner so that you both have an evening off while the other one takes care of the kids.

Integrate for Balance

By taking the steps above to reenvision life balance and determine what you want and need, you can feel content and satisfied with your unique life integration—even if it is still a bit chaotic.

This article is from Flexjobs.