How should people go about finding work/life balance? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
I'm not sure we can ever find a perfect balance--so much depends on how demanding our job is, and on the other end, how demanding our family/non-work life is. What we can do is make an effort to cut out everything that either isn't necessary or doesn't really make us happy or fulfill us. Doing this gives us more time to dedicate to the things that really matter. Paring down to what matters makes us feel like our lives contain more space--we feel freer, more relaxed, less hectic.
For me, what worked was to make a YES LIST--a list of the things I had to do (like work, laundry, housework) or wanted to do (like seeing certain friends, reading, exercising), and then to write out a separate NO LIST--a list of time-killing activities and people that didn't make the first list. I didn't want to continue filling my precious spare hours on things that ultimately weren't important to me. My job made the YES LIST of course, because I needed to work. My husband made it too, as did my children, exercising, and certain good friends. But distant acquaintances didn't make it, nor did any task that took me away from my family in the evenings (school/church/civic committees, for example, or certain volunteer positions). After I made the lists, it became so much easier for me to guard my limited free time. When someone asked me to join a certain committee or go to dinner, etc., I would mentally scan my YES and NO lists--if the requested activity wasn't on the YES LIST, I gave my polite regrets and kept the hour or evening for the things I had decided were more important to me.
Once I had pared down my life to only those things on my YES LIST, my work/life balance seemed pretty good. My life was no longer bursting at the seams with obligations and social events that made me feel rushed but didn't make me feel fulfilled. I had narrowed things down to what really mattered, and in doing that, I allowed myself to add some space to my days and weeks. Suddenly, my life felt easier, and far more balanced.
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