Find your balance

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – When I first found out about writing this article I figured I’d write about something I’ve been trying to achieve for some time and people talk about often: Work life balance.

I believe there are many people across the Air Force that are struggling to get their jobs done to the best of their abilities, give ample time and attention to their loved ones and take care of themselves.

Conveniently enough, I’m currently on temporary duty for the next month at Gunter Annex, Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, for the Chief Leadership Course. Today is day one and it’s 26 days until I get home to my family for the Fourth of July weekend. I’m not complaining though. We sign up to go places and do things, and in the grand scheme of things, a month is really nothing. So far, it seems like it’s going to be a pretty decent course, but yet another example of time spent away from my family. Time spent thinking about work, life balance.

Interestingly enough, our first guest speaker was Dr. Matthew Stafford, Air University Vice President of Academic Affairs. Among other things he conveniently spent part of his brief talking about work life balance and how he saw it as unachievable.

When most people (myself included) think about work life balance, we think of it as two categories. Work and life. But, Stafford put it a different way. He said that work is a part of life, so to strike a balance as two separate parts doesn’t make much sense. Work is part of life, so we need to approach it as a whole, and find out what makes us happy.

I’ve read more than a few articles on the subject and the course of action mentioned first and most often is to prioritize. If you want balance, you have to force yourself to edit yourself personally and professionally. Some people are happy with working 12 to 14 hours a day, and that’s just fine. Some of us would be much happier working nine to 10 hours, and spending time at home with the family, and that’s fine too.

Consider all the things that compete for your time and decide what to keep and what to discard. Focus on the things that are important to you and don’t do the extraneous stuff. It’s a discipline that doesn’t come too naturally to most of us. Many of us try to personally complete 100 percent of the tasks 100 percent of the time. That is just not possible.

There are a million balance suggestions that are just a Google search away. A work suggestion: We need to unplug. Leave the work cell turned off for a while, stop continually checking emails. A home suggestion: It’s OK to miss your kid’s baseball practice from time to time. We just need to get past the feeling of needing to be there 100 percent of the time for everyone else.

If you’re like me, this is a constant battle. With the current manning across the Air Force, there are far too many demands pulling us all in too many directions at work. Then we’ve got our home life to challenge us as well. We need to continue the search for balance. An Airman that’s not happy at home will not be happy at work, and an Airman that’s not happy at work will not be happy at home.