Dear New Shrink,

I have been finding it difficult to find a balance between work and home. I often stay in the office late at night and end up taking work home on the weekends. While I really enjoy my job, it seems that all I do lately is work. I’m constantly connected to the office and end up checking my work e-mail more than I check my personal e-mail. As a result, I have found that I have much less time for friends or dating than I used to. I cannot consider leaving my current job, but are there things I can do to find a better balance?

Signed,

Workaholic

Dear Workaholic,

Finding a balance between work and play can be a difficult feat. To start on your pathway to better balance, I would ask you to consider that finding balance isn’t a matter of time but of choice. Creating a better work-life balance will require that you acknowledge that 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. Personal values can change throughout life based on individual situations and circumstances. Where we allocate our time will also need to adjust as we grow and develop on a personal and a professional level. 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 relationships, religion, friends, travel, 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 sense of where you’re dedicating your time.

Then evaluate and analyze your list. Consider whether all of the things listed are absolutely necessary? Are your top values part of your busy agenda? 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. Do you truly 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. 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? It may be helpful to get feedback from friends, colleagues, and family. 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.

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? Consider scheduling a confidential meeting with human resources to learn more about the resources or workshops that might be available to you.

Knowing your values and your priorities will help you live a more balanced life. 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 best for you. Keeping in mind the common phrase, “Don’t be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

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