Finding Work-Life Balance Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony. Thomas Merton
I have personally found that work-life balance is difficult to achieve. If I work too much, I feel like I am not devoting enough time to my family. If I spend a lot of time pursuing activities I enjoy, I feel like my work is suffering. Everyone has a different optimal work-life balance. When the demands on your time are lopsided, this creates dissatisfaction and frustration. This is when you need to step back and try to find that balance between your personal life and work or school.
Dr. Donald Super was one of the pioneers in the field of career guidance and counselling, and he established his career development theory from 1960 to 1990. Dr. Super felt that there was a need to expand theories that strike a balance between people’s personal and professional life because he found that people had trouble maintaining balance. Dr. Super’s theory has become known as the `Life Career Rainbow’ model, and it is still employed in evaluating life and career patterns today.
What is This Theory All About?
The Life Career Rainbow helps people to think about different roles that they have to play at different times in their lives. The consensus and feedback about this theory are that most people find it to be extremely suitable for maintaining a healthy balance between their work and personal life.
Before the theory can be understood, it is important for people to know the eight different life roles as explained by Dr. Donald Super.
Eight Life Roles
1. Child – A child spends much of his or her energy and time in the relationship with the parents. This role starts at birth and continues as long as the parents are alive. The role often decreases slightly when the parents grow in age.
2. Student – This role begins when a person starts going to school and continues until he or she graduates from a university.
3. Leisurite – This term was coined by Dr. Super to explain the time people spend on their leisure activities. People tend to spend comparatively more time on leisure when they are going through childhood and adolescence. They come back to a leisurely life style once again during mid-life and retirement.
4. Citizen – This period covers the time spent working for the neighborhood and the community, mostly as volunteers. People often get into these `citizenry’ duties as their kids get older as they have more time on their hands.
5. Worker – This is the time that people spend in paid employment or their business, and this covers a major portion of their lives.
6. Parent – This role is covering the time that is spent bringing up children and nurturing them. The parental part is considerably important until children finish their higher education or leave home as adults. The role continues even after the children get married, although to a reduced level.
7. Spouse – This role covers the energy and time spent in a relationship. It also involves activities that keep the family going.
8. Home-Maker – With this role, people are spending their time on the upkeep and maintenance of their home and family life which involves cooking, cleaning, shopping, and helping children with their homework and activities.
Five Life Stages
Dr. Super developed the model of life span and career development defining five different life stages. It is important to consider each stage because they often fit the patterns in everyone’s life. The age for these stages may vary slightly depending upon the person, and there has been an increased interest in overlapping several stages in recent years.
1. Growth (Age 14 and under) – This stage focuses on growing physically and forming ideas about the importance of self-worth. People begin to discover their main interests and special abilities.
2. Exploration (Age 15–25) – This period is where people begin to learn about work and different choices that are available to them. People start figuring out ways of finding success in different careers.
3. Establishment (Age 26–45) – This period begins when people start settling down in their selected career or business and become responsible and productive citizens. Responsibilities increase during this period, and so does the personal satisfaction from work and earnings.
4. Maintenance (Age 46–65) – During this period, people maintain their jobs and their career. They take part in activities to develop their career in order to make their future financially secure.
5. Disengagement (Age 65 and over) – This is the period when a person typically retires from active work. The emphasis can shift from paid work to consultancy and other part time benefits. People can also begin to concentrate on other types of roles that can overlap leisurite, home-maker and citizenry phases.
Using the Theory of Life Career Rainbow to strike Better Work/Life Balance
This theory of career development can be used throughout life as a process as it will be influenced by several other areas in life. There is no short-cut formula to develop one’s career, and an important part of planning a career is to search for that ideal balance between work time and your personal life. Dr. Super’s Life Career Rainbow model will help you to identify where your life is out of balance. The Life Career Rainbow theory can be used in cycles of five-year periods. It is helpful to use the theory in the form of pie charts as a graphic medium. A chart can depict your current work/life balance, and the other chart could plot where a person would like to be in the next five years. The main purpose of using pie charts is to discern the imbalance between the current and the desired pie charts. This imbalance could then be addressed by means of development of goals to help move to that desired position.
How am I Spending my Time?
Many of us want a more balanced life. However, we are not exactly sure how we are spending all of our time – except for the most obvious tasks such as working and sleeping. In order to obtain a better understanding of how we are spending our lives, take a moment to write down how you are filling your time during one week. Examples of tasks
1) Weekly necessities
Grooming (showering, dressing, personal care)
Cleaning the house
Full or part time job
Other work-relating activities
Reading to learn a new topic or subject
Educational T.V. or computer time
Studying and homework
Other learning activities
Television, game or computer time
Socializing Time with family, spouse, or significant other
Reading for pleasure
Other leisure or play activities
After you have recorded how you spend your time, add the total number of hours that you have spent per week on necessities, work, learning and play. This will help you to understand how your life is currently being spent, and how you may change your work-life balance.
Once you are aware of how you are spending your time, it will be easier to create a more desirable work/life balance. You can balance your weekly necessities, work, leisure and learning on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis – whatever works best for you.
You are the creator of your life. No matter how much of your life seems to be controlled by exterior influences, there is always a part that you have control over. You can also increase the amount of control that you have over your life, and decrease the external forces that seem to control your time. This will be accomplished by creating clarity over how you currently spend your time and how you would like to spend your time. This clarity will you to find focus, and not allow you to be seduced by meaningless activities. This is your life – and you deserve to control it. Spend the time how you desire!