Work-Life Integration

Submitted by Andrea Alfonsi

Work-Life Balance implies that there is some state of homeostasis in which all aspects of our lives are in perfect harmony.  This rarely happens!  In the words of world-renowned yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, “The moment our attention ceases and we congratulate ourselves for being balanced upright, we have already begun to fall over…Achieving and maintaining balance are the path, not the destination.”  Consider instead that the destination is Integration, a state where there is dynamic flow between our core values and our daily commitments, and, our time spent on each of these.

Take a moment now, and think about your core values – for each of us, they are different in their order of priority but for many of us they include family, friends, health, spirituality, and work.  Yoga is a wonderful complement to many of these values, health and spirituality most directly, but can enhance our awareness of our relationships to our whole world – inner and outer.

Yoga challenges us to take a holistic view, with work and family and friends and our other values together.  At first, this can be overwhelming.  We cajole our bodies into poses that use muscles we have been previously unfamiliar with.  Sitting in silent meditation, our minds race to our To Do lists.  There is a whole new language entering our ears and minds.  But we know that with practice, yoga gets easier over time, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

Approaching the spiritual side of self is an important part of harmonious Work-Life Integration. But how do we make the time for yoga practice when our lives are so busy?!  I encourage you to begin with an exercise to kick off the journey that I call Sunday Night “Homework”. In my own experience, my week and my yoga practice is always better when I plan ahead!  What is Sunday Night “Homework”?  It is a planning exercise to help keep us in check each week with our core values.

Set aside 1 hour to planning for the week on Sunday night. The first time you do this it may take longer than 1 hour, but I promise with practice the time it takes will shorten. If you work odd hours or days, set time aside for your planning exercise on whatever day will work for you.

Look at your calendar for the week ahead.  If you keep separate calendars for work and personal commitments, set these side by side.  (In the future, you may want to integrate these as well, so you can see the big picture more readily.)

As you review the week of activities, ask yourself:

Which are your MUST DOs? Mark these with an M.
Which can you put off?   Add these to next Sunday night’s homework so they won’t be forgotten.

Review your MUST DOs against your core values.  Which ones are linked to which of your core values?   Which of your core values don’t have any MUST DOs?  What can you set in motion now to free up time to focus on a higher priority value?  What can you delegate, outsource or prepare in advance?

Delegating is a great and often underutilized tool.  Send a few emails, texts or better yet, call or leave a voicemail to ask for help.  You may have to be a little creative here.  For example:  Can you ask a friend to drive the kids one way to a sporting event so you can take care of a few errands before attending? Can you ask a co-worker to cover a shift or “own” a project for the day, offering them the chance to shine in the spotlight for a few moments?

Outsourcing is relatively easy to find, though sometimes cost money.  However, if you think of your time as an opportunity cost, a few extra dollars here or there can make a big difference in freeing up time.  For example: Can you send out the laundry or find a dry cleaner that picks up and delivers at work?  Can you hire a local teenager to mow your lawn?

Preparing in advance takes some additional time for sure, but you may end up with better quality time later.  For example:  Can you throw a few things in the oven to be re-heated later in the week so instead of cooking dinner you can share some family time? Can you pack for that business trip now, so the night before you leave, you can focus on your mental preparation for that presentation or business meeting?

Review your work. Act like you’re a teacher grading an assignment, did you touch on all your core values? If not, go back and move a few more things to the delegate or put off list. In that spirit, think about the process, not the outcome. Does your planning exercise reflect your natural roles in your life? Go back and reevaluate your delegating and crossing off. What else can you change to better reflect what is important to you, to your goals and not only to activities that take time away from these?

On a side note, rarely will everything go perfectly as planned and even if it does, it might not match with your priorities, the things that are truly important to you, such as spending time with the family or being successful at your job. Build in time for the unexpected and try to block an hour or two on your calendar for that.

Finally, reward yourself after you complete your planning exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything big.  Some ideas: have a cup of coffee or tea with a loved one, take a yoga class, watch the sunset, read for pleasure, turn off your devices and breathe!