Join in the #ELGLWorkLife series, survey and webinar focusing on work life balance. This series aims to address that age-old challenge of balancing professional work with a personal life.
Ben Kittelson (LinkedIn, Twitter) is a Budget and Management Analyst at Guilford County, NC. He recently moved to the south after getting his MPA at Portland State University in Oregon. Ben has been involved with ELGL’s efforts for two years.
When I signed up to write for this series I thought that I would be in a pretty good position to talk about work-life balance when my turn came up. I had just started my first full time job and since balance was important to me I wanted to focus on it and be able to share my hopefully successful story. That did not happen. Instead the last few months leading up to this article were hectic and not a great example of balance, but I learned something important: Work-life balance is a continual process of reflecting and evaluating.
I started my first local government job last November and I thought I was ready to balance my professional work, my volunteer work with ELGL, and life in a new state. It’s not that I wasn’t ready to balance those things, because I did and in many ways I achieved a positive work-life balance. But when I reflected on how things were going it didn’t sit well with me, even though I had used advice from others to work toward balance, I felt like I had let some things that were important to me slip and probably overdone other things.
That’s when it occurred to me that there is no magic bullet to work-life balance, no one has the answer to achieving it. Now I don’t mean that we can’t learn from one another’s experience and their efforts to achieve work-life balance – the articles that have come out in this series have been awesome – and maybe you pick up a tip from everyone. Instead I mean that there isn’t one magical solution to achieving balance, it varies for each person. And for me I’ve learned that work-life balance is a continual process.
I have come to realize that work-life balance starts with identifying your values and what’s important to you. Here’s what I know about myself, I value:
- Challenging myself in my job,
- Volunteering with ELGL,
- My relationships,
- Being involved in my community,
- and, taking “me” time (stuff that I like to do, reading, TV, hiking etc.)
Well there are only 24 hours in a day so you can tell it is a tall order to figure out how to balance all of these things. I started out by taking some advice from other people and deciding that when I came home from work, I would be home. That meant no work, just “me” time, time with my fiance, and maybe exercising. And I have to say, it worked! I felt like I put work behind me each day and came back refreshed.
But other things that were just as important to me, like work with ELGL and getting involved with my community, suffered. I realized that I wasn’t doing all of the things that I valued in the manner that I wanted to do them. However, just because that’s how things had been going didn’t mean they needed to stay that way. I decided to reevaluate and adjust.
For me that meant that doing more work would help me become more balanced. I know that might be a little like saying a good diet should include additional french fries and donuts, but it’s true. I’ve started doing things after work hours and on weekends because it’s allowed me to feel better about how I’m handling all the things that are important to me.
Now I plan to reflect and evaluate again soon, because I’ve learned how important the process is. If there’s one piece of advice I have for work-life balance it’s that no one has the answer. It’s a process, reflect on what’s important to you and continually think about and evaluate whether you’re doing a good job for you.