We all say we want it: Career-life balance.  But sometimes, trying to find it can feel a bit like searching for giant squid in the South Pacific—or for Nessie in Loch Ness.  You’re pretty sure it exists, somewhere, but actually grabbing it by the tail is another matter.

I felt the same way, once. But over the years I’ve discovered that career-life balance isn’t really all that difficult to achieve. Like yoga, or Tai Chi, or any other practice, it just takes a bit of time and discipline to master. First you need to learn the basic techniques; then, you can start to practice them.

Your first step is to determine which areas of your life you want to improve and/or pay more attention to.  If you’re not sure, revisit the Wheel of Life.  Draw a circle on a piece of paper, and divide it like a pizza into 8 sections: career, money, spirituality, friends and family, recreation, personal growth, physical fitness and health, and marriage/significant other.

Now, on a scale of 1 to 10, rate your satisfaction in each area.  Be honest, even if it makes you feel guilty.  When you’re done, you’ll have a snapshot of your current career life balance (or lack thereof).  Don’t automatically go for the lowest number, or try to focus on everything at once; pick one or two key areas to work on. Also, be aware that working in one area can help to improve others. For example: if you want to spend more time with your family, organize a hiking trip, a golf game, or a day at the playground. You’ll be upping your fitness level (and theirs) while still focusing on your primary goal, which is quality time.

If you’re not the sketching type, check out CNN’s online Work Life Balance Calculator. It’s a good on-screen visual tool to help you find your personal balance.

The current economy has put a lot of people into worry mode, and many have stopped engaging in the activities that used to help them find their balance because of financial concerns. If you’re out of work or concerned about losing your job, or just a little tight in the finance department, you don’t need to give up fun activities.  Just look for more creative ways to do them! Here are some ideas:

  • If you cancelled your gym membership, check out your local recreation center.  Bonus: rec centers are great places to meet people. You could network while playing basketball!
  • Check out meet-up groups like those on www.meetup.com. You can find inexpensive ways to have fun, network, and meet new people.
  • Give yourself permission to take down time. Especially if you’re searching for a new job after being laid off, every minute not devoted to the job search can start to feel like wasted time. Don’t push yourself too hard. If you work yourself to the point of burnout, you won’t be at your most effective in a new job.  Relax into the process, and remember that it’s okay to take a few moments for yourself in the midst of your search process.
  • Take 10 minutes a day to meditate. Meditation is free, easy, and requires no special equipment. Plus, it’s one of the best stress relief techniques out there. Meditation—especially creative visualization—is a favorite technique of the world’s most successful people.  Not sure how to begin? Invest in one of the hundreds of great meditation CDs out there.
  • Don’t forget your core values. If something is really important to you, try to find a way to keep doing it. Maybe your best self-care is a relaxing massage, or a painting class, or a day on the golf course. Instead of giving these things up out of hand, ask yourself how you could make it work with your current budget. Maybe you could go less often, or during off-peak hours.  Maybe you could find some other, less important item to cut from your weekly budget. However you handle it, remember that your favorite activities are your favorites because they make you feel good—and feeling good is an important part of career life balance.
As a certified professional coach, radio show host and workshop leader, Dawn helps sales, marketing, advertising and creative entrepreneurs to accelerate their career so they’ll love their life!

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