Finding a balance between work and personal life is not like reaching balance on a scale with equal weights. It is not about working less. It is about spending your time in a way that brings satisfaction.
Experts say we need to get more specific about what personal fulfillment looks like and define our path to find it. Does fulfillment and better work/life balance mean eating dinner as a family a few nights a week? Does it mean reclaiming Saturdays to take rides with a bike club?
"Narrow it down and set one important intention, because behavioral change is hard," said Shani Magosky, executive coach and owner of Vitesse Consulting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Our brains are hard-wired to reinforce habits that exist."
Once you know exactly what a better work/life balance looks like, Ms. Magosky suggests you figure out what you need to do to make it happen. Remember creating a habit or breaking an old one takes time and practice. It requires change. What specifically are you going to do to make sure that change happens?
If your goal is to eat dinner more often with your kids, post a photo of you doing it somewhere you will see it each day -- maybe on your computer desktop. "You need some kind of reminder to keep the intention in the forefront of your mind," she said. Digital reminders with built-in alerts are catching on, too, and often provide the nudge to get a late-night dweller out of the office at a scheduled time.
If you find yourself spending a Saturday at the office instead of with your bike club, don't fret or give up. Change the background on your mobile phone to yourself on your bike as motivation for making it happen the next week.
The key is to examine what is at stake if you don't make a change. For example, if you are on the phone or online all the time, will your health suffer, your relationships become strained, your children become resentful?
Business consultant Nigel Marsh noted: The companies we work for aren't going to create work/life balance for us. We have to take control of and responsibility for the life we want to live.
Often in January, people become convinced they need to change jobs to feel like their work and personal life are more in sync. Tom Connelly, an executive recruiter with global executive search firm Boyden in Coral Gables, Fla., said he already has seen a flood of resumes from people who feel unfulfilled in their current jobs.
But he cautions that a new job does not guarantee better work/life balance, regardless of whether you work fewer hours. You can have satisfaction with work, despite having a work profile that would scare the living daylights out of the 40-hour work week.
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.