A funny thing happened to me a few years ago. And it seems like it happened slowly or perhaps it just took me a while to recognize it. That funny thing was I didn’t have anyone waiting for me to come home from work. My children, who today are 21 and 18, started managing their own lives. Whether it be working, school or spending time with friends on their own schedule, they were no longer waiting for me to come home and make dinner. I didn’t have a jam-packed evening calendar with performances and rehearsals or parent-teacher conferences. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even recognize fully this had happened until one day I realized how burnt out I felt.
Rather than reveling in my new-found evening freedom, I started working longer. I crammed in a 5 pm meeting, because I could. I worked on emails until 7pm, because I could. I stayed at work chatting with my fellow empty nester/no kids co-workers, because I could.
This represents a different work-life balance problem that doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves. So often articles such as this one are aimed at those with small children, while those that have grown children, four-legged children, or don’t have children, are left to figure out the balance for themselves.
Through a bit of research and my own experience, I have found three tactics that may help you get on the road to achieving the work-life balance you are seeking:
Set boundaries and stick to them – If you aren’t intentional about creating space for your life outside of work, it will never happen. Start a general rule that once you are home, the laptop stays closed or commit to leave the office by 6 pm every day.
Schedule time to cultivate your non-work life – Your priorities at work have dedicated time scheduled so why shouldn’t your personal hobbies and relationships get the same level of focus? Maybe you’ve wanted to learn to cook, paint or play guitar. There are lots of subscription services you can sign up for where the instruction and materials you need come right to your doorstep. Or maybe you are like me and are really in need of some scheduled exercise. This year I signed up for a Pilates class twice a week. I paid upfront for 12 weeks of instruction, every Tuesday and Thursday. These scheduled classes give me a reason to leave work and I have come to really look forward to them each week. Also, don’t forget to have dedicated time for your relationships too. Call your grandma, have dinner with your dad or go see a movie with your best friend. Small steps go a long way towards avoiding burn out.
Recruit others to help – Remember you are investing in yourself and your relationships so why not enlist your friends and family to help you remember why balance is so important. My husband is my true barometer about how successful I have been in a particular week because he sends me a text if I’m not home by 6:30 pm. It’s never anything stressful; usually just a reminder that he’s looking forward to making dinner or going for a walk. Or sometimes it’s a “hey, are you still alive out there?” Those are my queues that I am getting off track from where I want to be. If you aren’t married or don’t have a significant other, ask a friend or family member to take on that role. The key is connection and an external reminder that there is a big, beautiful life out there that is waiting for you to engage with it.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Lyndsy Blonquist is an Assistant Vice President at Intermountain Healthcare, an integrated delivery network (IDN) based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her current portfolio includes responsibility for Business Relationship Management functions which serves to bridge the gap between the company’s technology division and clinical/business leaders. Lyndsy has worked in healthcare for the past 15 years in roles spanning both payer and provider. At Intermountain Healthcare, Lyndsy has had experience working in several venues, including Payer Contracting, Revenue Integrity, EMR implementation, and Revenue Cycle operations. Lyndsy serves as a Board Member for the Utah Chapter of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and a Steering Committee Member for the Business Women’s Forum with the Salt Lake Chamber.