Work-Life Balance in the Eye of the Beholder

“Far and away, the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” —Theodore Roosevelt

By Tessa Hultz

This quote sums up how work-life balance can pose a particular challenge for REALTOR® AEs. We are presented daily with the opportunity to work hard at work worth doing, which tempts us to do so well past the posted office hours.

We serve an entrepreneurial industry of type-A personalities who work evenings, weekends, and holidays. On top of that, many of us have an organizational mission to engage and serve the greater community as well. It’s rare that I have an evening when I don’t check email after I’ve tucked my fifth-grader into bed, and rarer still when I unplug entirely. But in my interpretation of balance, that’s OK.

“Bonus” hours and being connected doesn’t mean I lack balance in my life, no matter how many TV shows and magazine articles tell me I’m supposed to unplug at 5:30 p.m. and spend my weekends taking long walks in the woods. I really enjoy what I do for a living.

I see balance as consistently meeting the needs of work, home, and personal life that does not come with a strict computation of hours. My approach to cultivating balance has been to take a big-picture view. Balance is not something I can measure by a single day, week, or month. Balance is something I feel taking place over a longer period of time, typically the entire year, so my cultivation and measuring of it must take place over time, also.

Work hard, play hard

Balancing the scales with a purpose-driven profession on one side means acknowledging that the job I love requires a lot of time, energy, and creative resources. Counterbalancing this to attain a happy, whole person means putting the same amount of energy and creativity into my personal pursuits, but it, too, takes strategy and planning.

One of the most effective planning tools I have to create balance in my life is the annual work calendar. Looking at the annual association/MLS calendars of events and meetings gives me a pretty good idea of what the year will look like in terms of when I might be donating more of those bonus hours. I can identify the pressure points in the coming year, when time will be short and tensions will run high, and begin to sow the seeds of balance by carving out necessary times around those white-knuckle days to tend to my personal priorities. Sometimes just knowing that relief is around the corner can help me through some of the more challenging moments. When balance is a challenge in my life today, it means that busy calendars probably are too, so I set these days aside for myself early each year before meetings and commitments fill the spaces in my schedule.

As small as it may seem, strategically planting these calm spaces or thrilling adventures into my calendar and allowing myself to refocus my time and attention on my personal life when it is needed most can shift the balance of an entire year from feeling like an occasional runaway train to being poised to bring my best self to both work and home, consistently.

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"My approach to cultivating balance has been to take a big-picture view. Balance is not something I can measure by a single day, week, or month."

For me, a few chapters of a good book serves as a daily microvacation, and weekly enrichment classes help me achieve personal goals that keep me from slipping into a work-home-work routine. A few times each year, I get together with amazing friends to take on new adventures. These take a day or two but give us fresh new perspectives that endure. The key really is as simple as doing things you enjoy most.

I know work-life balance articles tend to focus on enriching the life side of the equation, but it benefits the work side, too. A happy employee, no matter what your job title, is a more engaged and productive employee. So the good news is that I know the time I take to do the things that matter can really be chalked up as an investment in helping the association be successful.

Work worth doing really is a wonderful thing, but so are lives worth living—so get out there and enjoy the best of both.

Tessa Hultz, RCE, CAE, is the CEO of the Raleigh Regional Assoc. of REALTORS® and Triangle MLS in N.C. Reach her at TessaH@RRAR.com or 919-229-4953.

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