Dear New Shrink,

Some might consider me a workaholic. While I have always been dedicated to my job I am continuing to find it harder to find time for my friends and, most importantly, my new husband. I know that many people struggle with work/life balance issues but it’s really tough when it’s you who is dealing with the constant struggle to find enough time for the requirements of life and to succeed at work. How can I find a better balance and create time for my friends and family?

Signed,

Needs Balance

Dear Needs Balance,

You are right, many people do struggle with work/life balance; there always seems to be more things to do than time in a day. However, what I would suggest to you is something I remember learning awhile back — balance isn’t a matter of time but of choice. You have the power to choose where you spend your time, how you will utilize your passion, and where you will dedicate your energy. Balancing life’s requirements comes down to making clear choices about what’s important to you. In other words, it’s about you defining your values and making commitments to those values. Our values often shift throughout life. Your recent marriage may represent a time when your life values are shifting and changing to accommodate for your new partnership. Often times our decisions (i.e. where we allocate our time) will also need to adjust as a result of the shift in our value system. It may be time for you to ask yourself a few questions.

Do you know where you are spending your time? You may find it helpful to keep a journal tracking where you spend your time and energy. Start by making a list of things that are most important to you. For instance: your career, your husband, religion, friends, down time, family, hobbies, etc. Then keep a log of what you are doing over the week and how much time you are spending on each activity. Since each week may have its ups and downs it may be helpful to track for an entire month to get a true assessment. Is everything necessary? Are the things at the top of your values list getting enough attention? How much of your week is dedicated to those things that are truly most important for you?

Do you know your limits and are you being honest with yourself about them? It’s natural to push yourself harder and harder to reach your goals, especially when you are looking to secure or advance your career. However, do you allot time that is just for you? And if so, do you keep your personal time sacred? In order to be successful at home or at the office it is crucial that you make time for yourself. Does your spouse feel as though your private time is really just for the two of you? Are you able to shut-off from work when it’s family time? If your values overlap, perhaps it is possible to combine time with your husband or friends along with your hobbies or other things that are important to you. Protecting your private time will likely make you more successful in the office. You’ll find that you may come in to work more refreshed, with greater creativity and excitement for your work.

Finally, what do others think about your work habits? You note that others might consider you a workaholic. It may be helpful to get feedback from others. Are you maximizing your time at work to complete your tasks? Is the amount of time you are spending at the office necessary to get the work done? It is not always true that more time in the office means better work. Does your company have any policies to help support employees work-life balance? Your company may be judging your performance based on the quality of your work not the time you spend behind the desk. Sometimes gaining feedback from your colleagues may help you determine whether your hours are in line with company expectations. It may also be helpful to get a buddy so you can keep each other in check.

Knowing your values and your priorities will help you live a more balanced life. I firmly believe that you will make time for the things you want to make time for. Remember, you are the only one able to determine what’s most important for you and it’s up to you to make the changes that are suitable for you.

KATRINA DAVY is a professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Cornell and Columbia universities. Send your questions to newshrink@gmail.com. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!