Have you achieved a good work life balance? Or are you just about keeping you head above water with both?
‘Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) and "lifestyle" (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). This is related to the idea of lifestyle choice.’
So… have you managed to achieve that seemingly ever elusive work life balance? Do you give equal time to both? Are you 100% engaged when you’re working and the same for your personal/home life? Or are you constantly thinking of work when you’re home and home when you’re at work? Are you happy, contented and at ease with how much time you give to your work and how much time you give to your ‘lifestyle’ choices?
Having lost my mojo and my motivation over the past few weeks it’s made me question how I manage both my work and personal life and whether or not I’m giving both what they need and deserve. In order to be successful and happy in both I need to make sure I’m being effective and efficient in both and I’m not running myself ragged trying to do it all at the same time. Whilst I do believe it can be harder to achieve the best balance, being self-employed and working mainly from home, I’ve also not been great at achieving it whilst in full time paid employment. I would often bring work home with me and I would, on occasion, have to fit in ‘home’ responsibilities into my work life such as attending my daughters’ school events and appointments. I would feel guilty for working and not being there as much I would have liked to have been for my children, and I would feel guilty for not being able to give as much to my work as I felt it required.
Even though my daughters’ are now grown up and living their own lives I still experience this ‘guilt’ trip ‘thing’ especially as I do work mainly from home I feel that it’s felt that I don’t have a ‘proper’ job as such and I’m available at all times – partly my fault as I’ve probably allowed it to happen to a degree. This is the part that I have control over and that I should be working on so that when I am working I make it clear that I am not available yet I do also give time to family and friends so it’s a win win situation.
How do you know that you’ve not got a good balance?
If you feel like you’re constantly juggling things and not getting anything done properly then there could be an issue. I feel like I’m forever chasing my tail and not often completing things to a level that I’m happy with, I feel like I have a lot of unfinished jobs, work projects on the go, things around the house to be done, an endless list that seems to grow and grow.
You’re always saying you’re too busy – whenever you get asked to lunch, to dinner, on a night out are you frequently saying you’re too busy? Is there a part of you that really wants to go but you find yourself putting other things first? You’re not giving yourself time out for you.
You always seem to be working – this can be tied into the ‘too busy’ scenario as well. Yes it is important to work, especially if you haven’t got anyone else supporting you and you have bills to pay! However, this cannot be what your whole life is about as eventually it will have a detrimental effect on your health and well-being. We do seem to live in a culture that encourages longer hours of work and, the more hours that you work for some reason, the better person you are, which is definitely not the case.
You’re scared of failing and not achieving – there is huge pressure these days to be successful, to have a lot of money, to have a lot of material possessions, to be seen to be living a wonderful happy life, so much so that people think that they need to keep working, working, working in order to achieve this.
You’re spending too much time dithering, surfing the net, scrolling through your phone – time spent on the internet can often be time that’s wasted and could be time spent better elsewhere. I have been guilty of this and I recognise that I need to be using it more effectively and efficiently in order to achieve a better balance in my life.
You’re always feeling stressed and/or worried – your mind seems to be in overdrive permanently, you wake up feeling like you a million and one things to do, you spend your day trying to get these million and one things done and you go to bed worried that you haven’t got them done. It’s like a never ending cycle.
You over react to things that, if you were relaxed and chilled and had a good balance in your life, you’d let just wash over you or you’d be able to manage in a calm manner. You’re hyper sensitive and take things to heart more than is normal.
You’re overdoing it on say caffeine or anything that initially gives you a kick/buzz but then leaves you deflated not long after – in order to sustain something that is not meant to be sustained we often turn to stimulants to keep us going, like caffeine, alcohol, drugs, but the problem with doing this is we need to take more and more to keep going and then eventually we just burn out and we’re in a worse position than when we started.
You’ve lost confidence in your ability to get things done – you’ve not kept up a healthy work life balance and eventually it will take its toll. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t got the ability to do things but the effects of over working, being tired, constant stress will eventually lead to a drop in your confidence levels and you believe that you’re not able to do things that you could quite happily and easily do before.
Benefits of having a balanced life
Better productivity in all areas, you’ll work well, you’ll relax well, you’ll play well, you’ll socialise well.
Reduced stress and anxiety and who doesn’t want this?! Yes there will still be stress and anxiety in your life but it will be more manageable and you will be better able to deal with it.
Improved health – if you have a more balanced approach to life and work your health can only but improve, your energy levels will increase, your ability to sleep better will improve, your relationships with others will be more rewarding and you will find you have more time and energy to give to and to help others.
Less likely to experience burnout – too much of anything can lead to decreased ability to function and eventually burnout which is detrimental to health and well-being.
What can you do to attain a better balance?
Establish what your priorities are in both areas – identify what you want/need from your work life and from your personal life. Clarify the work that needs doing, the people you want to see, the activities you want to do and so on.
Keep a diary of how you’re spending your time – sometimes we don’t actually realise the hours we’re putting into something until we start writing down the times we’re doing it. Keeping a log of hours of the different things you are doing will enable you to get a realistic picture of where you’re currently at. Compare this to what your priorities are – do they match?
Focus, focus, focus – when you are doing something try to be fully engaged in it. I’m currently reading The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz and it’s reinforced to me the damage that is done, albeit gradually and often without us being fully aware at the time, of not being fully engaged or fully present when we’re doing something. It shows how much energy we waste by not being fully engaged and how unproductive we become. One of my previous blogs talked about focus, something we all need to do to get things done - http://www.pangaeatraining.com/pangaea-training-blog/579/forget-the-new-year-resolutions-it's-time-to-get-focused.aspx
Have time for you on a regular basis and, if possible, have time away. Schedule time for you and just you into your life, it may be an hour a day to read, it could be a trip away but time for you is as important, if not more so, than the time you give to your work and to others.
Look to getting yourself mentored, coached – I am currently being mentored by Jill Coleman of www.jillfit.com as part of the Best of You Programme (BOY) that she runs, alongside a group of other wonderful women from all over the World who want to be the best that they can be in whatever they are doing. I have been so inspired and motivated by all of them and I am already making changes and the way that I’m thinking and developing is evolving all the time. I have always looked to others for guidance to help me along my path as I am always wanting to learn and improve and I think it’s something that is so invaluable that everyone should, in some way, shape or form, do the same.
Make sure you are living a healthy lifestyle – eating, drinking and exercising right for you will help you to be more productive in all areas of life and will contribute to achieving a better balance. Avoid the slippery path into excessive consumption of rubbish or the temptation not to eat much and rely on stimulants to keep you going.
Allocate the same importance to your personal life as you would to your work life – if people don’t do this, it really bugs me! Of course there are times when both overlap but … don’t prioritise your work life over your personal life, your child’s parent’s evening is just as important, if not more so, than that so called emergency meeting about performance reviews.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – I’ve often found that a lot of my worry and anxiety has come from not finding it easy to ask for help when I’ve needed to do so. I would know that help was needed, I, more often than not, knew where I needed to go to get that help but I would hate asking for it – I would feel like it was failing on my part in some way to acknowledge that I needed help. I felt like I should be able to manage on my own but this only led to more stress. So, if you know you need help then ask before it’s too late to do so.
Establish boundaries for what is acceptable in your working and in your personal life – have a schedule, like I’ve mentioned in previous blogs I was introduced to Wayne Cotton’s how to ‘colour-code your life to success’ (http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/color-code-your-life-success) – this encourages you to ‘colour code’ your days using four colours – blue, red, green and yellow – to clarify what your days are for, personal days off, education and admin, strategic planning, revenue production. By using something like this you will, hopefully, stay on track and be engaged in each thing that you do – it’s a ‘great start to begin tapping into your full potential’. Make people aware as well when you can’t be disturbed and when you are available so that you don’t get distracted when you’re working and you can be completely ‘there and present’ when with family and friends.
Don’t be afraid to say no – whereas you don’t want to ostracise yourself from friends and family you do need to be selective to whom you give your time to and when and what for. I have found myself saying yes to things just for the sake of it when really it would have served me better to have said no. Make sure that you are spending time with people that you want to spend time with and who are there for you in a positive, fulfilling and supportive way. I have spent far too much of my life with, and given too much to, people who just do not have my best interests at heart. It has been a hard lesson to learn and, at times, quite upsetting, but I have learnt that I can’t make people like me/spend time with me and I have to be prepared to let them go and to be with those who do want to be a part of my life and I a part of theirs.
Don’t be afraid to switch off from technology – constant use of technology and social media gradually crept up on me over the past few years and it also gradually started to have a detrimental effect on my life. Constantly checking in distracts you from your life and what you want/need to get done. When I lived in Lanzarote I didn’t have a smart phone and internet access wasn’t always the best so I actually wasn’t able to keep logging on which was, looking back, a blessing in disguise. Yes I need it for my business and to keep in contact with people but I have had to train myself to switch off from it as it can so easily take over, especially when we have such easy access to it at all times. Another gradual process, all part of the learning curve!
Regularly review how your work life balance is going – check in on yourself regularly, do a diary, say monthly, as to where you are actually spending your time and how you’re spending it. This will help you to identify if anything needs to change and, if so, where changes need to be made.
Acknowledge that you don’t have to do everything all at once – you have the rest of your life to do this. What I have now done is make a plan as to how I want my life to be and then I’ve worked backwards to put into place the steps that I need to take in order to achieve this. This also applies to the type of person that I am and want to be – doing this saves me being side tracked and led down paths that will not lead me to where and whom I want to be.
Whereas I have tended to focus on the work life balance being out of sync mainly because of overworking it can also be the other way – as crazy as it sounds too much rest and relaxation can also be detrimental to the body and mind. We all need stimulus to keep progressing and to be active, healthy and as fit as we can as we go through life so what we’re looking for is a good balance between work rest and play!
Now I’ve shared part of my story with you let me hear yours. Have you managed to achieve a work life balance that works for you? Tell me more, how you achieved this, how you made it work and the benefits you’ve gained from doing so.
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