Keeping a Work-Life Balance

By Dan Bobinski

Dan-Bobinski

The beginning months of each year seem to be a common time for us to take inventory of our lives. As well we should. Research published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology reveals that employees with a good sense of work-life balance experience greater job satisfaction and have lower rates of turnover and absenteeism. So bring on the setting of both personal and professional goals, right?

Of course. But, as with anything, we need to ensure balance. Sometimes people miss setting goals or routines in important facets of their lives. In his book, “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People,” the late Stephen Covey suggested we keep ourselves sharp by setting goals in four areas: physical, mental, spiritual, and social/emotional. Personally, I think that model is overgeneralized. Conversely, my personal mentor in the 1980s recommended I set goals in 14 areas. I thought that was too many.

Consequently, over the years, I have toyed on and off with creating a user-friendly model that helps me categorize the practical facets of my life. My rules were simple. The model had to be easy to remember and it had to represent a well-balanced life without being too detailed nor to general.

Nearly a decade ago I settled on a system that I think works well. It has held up and has proven to be practical, so about a year ago I began sharing it with my clients. I was surprised at how well-received it was. It’s like people were hungry for something like this, and many of them ate it up.

I present it here in overview form in hopes that it will help people set goals to create a more balanced life. After all, I’ve never been to a funeral at which the deceased was praised for being stressed out about work.

The idea behind any work-life balance system is to evaluate what’s going on in our lives and then set goals or routines to maintain balance. In his “Seven Habits” book, Covey suggested we do weekly planning and daily adapting. In other words, we will be more effective if we look at the facets of our lives at least once a week and readjust our activities to match our priorities. To quote Covey, we shouldn’t prioritize our schedule, we should schedule our priorities.

To make the model easy to remember, each facet starts with the letter F. They’re also in alphabetical order, in three basic groups: two facets start with the letters “fa,” two start with “fi” and three start with “fo.” Of course, what’s life without fun, so that last category wraps it all up.

Here are the facets with a little explanation for each one. Feel free to modify them to your liking. It has to work for you or it won’t be useful.

1. Faith. This facet is about your spiritual life. It doesn’t matter if you attend church seven days a week or if your faith has a humanistic flavor, pretty much everyone has a spiritual component in their lives. Goals or routines in this category should help you on your spiritual walk, such as attending services regularly or maybe participating more in ministry. They might also include reading books or attending studies that align with your spiritual perspective.

2. Family & Friends. This facet is about your relationship with your family and others. Examples might include spending regular time with specific people or doing special activities with them throughout the year.

3. Finances. The financial facet can include everything from balancing your checkbook regularly to managing your investment portfolio or even estate planning. Anything having to do with finances can be placed in this category.

4. Fitness. This is a broad category that I use to address things related to mental, physical, and/or emotional health. Educational goals might go here (unless you’re a full-time student – if so, see the next category). It might also include going regularly to the gym or even keeping a journal or diary. Dietary goals or routines also fall into this facet.

5. Forte. This unique category has to do with wherever you spend most of your time. For many this is one’s job or career. In these cases, this category can be used for creating goals or routines that have to do with work projects or with professional development. For those who are full-time students, this category can be about accomplishing school projects. If a person’s forte is being a stay-at-home mom, this section can be used to create or monitor goals and routines related to being a great parent.

6. Fortress. This facet is about setting goals and routines regarding your residence, whatever that might be. It could include regular maintenance activities as well as remodeling goals. Even people living in apartments have things that must be done to protect and maintain their Fortress. By the way, I happen to include car maintenance in this category, because when my car is in my garage, it’s in my fortress. I thought about creating a “Flywheels” category, but I’m not that big of a car nut, so I include cars here.

7. Foundations. This category is about your involvement in community activities or civic organizations. It can include goals ranging from attending certain community events to participating in service clubs or being involved with government action committees. This facet will vary widely person-to-person.

8. Fun. This is the category I use for things like vacations, hobbies and concerts. Whatever a person classifies as “fun” that does not fit into the other categories can go here.

To keep one’s life balanced, it’s a good idea to have goals and/or routines established in each of these categories. If this model appeals to you, give it a try. If it doesn’t work for you, I’m not offended, but I do recommend you find something that resonates and helps you reinforce a healthy work-life balance.

Dan Bobinski is president of Workplace-Excellence.com and Everything-Training.com As a consultant, speaker, and trainer, he helps organizations of all shapes and sizes on issues of team building to create excellent workplaces. He is also the author of numerous books, including the best-selling “Creating Passion-Driven Teams.” Reach him at dan@workplace-excellence.com