The concept of Work/life balance comes up often, when exploring personal & workforce well-being.
The topic gets mixed opinions. Those who feel (albeit maybe fleetingly) in the driving seat of their work/life balance and those who tut, shrug or brush it off as an unattainable fiction.
Life is never transient, and I respect the fact that a work/life balance can often be an eb & flow with many (including myself) having teetered on the “wrong side” of ideal.
It's easy to feel like this work/life concept is a concrete, tangible thing. To assume once mastered, stays the same. That perhaps, if persistently repeated the outcome will be consistently effective.
This is where work/life balance practices get simplified and become too linear or accessible for our current lifestyles.
This concrete thinking may lead to your work/life balance strategy being a little flimsy.
Life is never the same.
What turns work/life balance from myth to mastery is the ownership. The capability for review, awareness and action. (Johari’s window is a great exercise to use on this).
Less flimsy, more flexible is my mantra.
When speaking with people about their work/life pressures the following themes seems common with feelings of being on the edge & risking burnout – something that we ideally would all like to avoid.
Lack of clarity – In the haze of life in it’s easy to lose sight of purpose and identity. There are lots of opportunities out there to intrigue you. Suddenly you find yourself juggling plates and spinning balls. Take time to connect with your purpose. This isn’t defined by the things you do or have more a sense of congruence within.
Comparison – comparing your capability to someone else isn’t helpful in mastering work/life balance. Trying to be like “9 to 5 John” or “ 8 to 8 Janet” (when your not wired for working that way) is just going to leave you frustrated and unproductive. In turn, sitting in the day dream life of Linda in accounts whose on her second cruise of the year or Brian in marketing who is going Kayaking with the extended family- when your weekend looks like an 8 hour stint on Netflicks avoiding the dishes or a weekend of fractious interactions with your teenager is going to leave your cupboard feeling pretty bare! Create your own worth & celebrate the good stuff in your life, noting the things that ( if changed) would enhance your happiness. (Netflicks and dirty dishes might be just the kindness & acceptance your mind needs for yourself right now!)
Breaking your own rules – “breaking your own rules” about life habits/ideals can really grate on peoples well-being over time. I remember in a past career I would prep these amazing salads, put them in a pretentious jam jar and pop it in the office fridge… only to rush off to a meeting, forget said beautiful salad and end up sitting in the pasty crumbs of a garage grab&go whilst hurtling down the 606. I often hear people say things like “ I want to live a healthy, happy life” and then find themselves working late and feeling too tired to go out for that run they promised themselves. What rules do you often break from your own rule book?
Compromising your values – we all have innate values which form our identity and beliefs. They influence the way in which we behave. Our subconscious is great at giving us a sign if we are mis-aligned ( through emotional or physical distress). The majority of clients, who come to me with work/life balance issues, learn that a compromised value is often at the cause of their emotional well-being issue. Valuing family and then working over-time & over tired for family stuff- that’s going to grind over time. Valuing fairness and then witnessing yourself get consistently picked for tasks over equally skilled colleagues…. may result in less satisfaction of those opportunities. A client in a workplace well-being workshop once asked me this question. “I really value my family but I am spending all my time doing-up the house and I feel bad?” I asked him what doing-up his house meant for him. The response “ we have a nice house to live in that means my family and I can enjoy and use the space together better” I responded “ so you value your family and this temporary task gives you a means to that value”… smiles all round. Trust your moral compass to keep you well. Ask yourself, are my actions a means to my core values?
Forgive yourself – Ok deep breath, this one can feel raw. With compromised values, broken rules, lack of clarity and comparison. It is easy to see how you may experience guilt, shame and regret ( and embarrassment) about the imbalances in your life. No one is perfect and at any given time we are doing the best we can in the situation, with the resources we had at that moment. Holding on to guilt, shame or regret creates burden, a distraction and will impact your well-being in some way. Take ownership, learn from the opportunity it offers and evolve. Do things differently, plan new strategies and set new “parameters” that help keep your moral compass more aligned to your vision of a harmonious work/life living. Remind yourself I am free to learn from this.
Here are 10 ways you can turn work/life balance from myth to mastery.
1. Create routine – urgh borrringggg...turned off my repetitive & time bound structure. It may be as simple as knowing when you work best at focused work, diarising your lunch breaks, making time for hobbies and down-time or simply deciding how frequent you wish to feel great.
2. Remember you can be in control “Either you run the day, or the day runs you” – (Jim Rohn, Motivational Speaker) Embrace the freedom of change. If something isn’t working pause, review and take action.
3. Connection is a super-power- positive and valued interactions with great people in your life are an important part of well-being. Recognise what & who works best for you in keeping well. Segregate toxic relationships. “A career is wonderful, but you can’t curl up with it on a cold night” (Marylin Monroe) Remember solitude is also a valuable connection, so keep space for Self too.
4. Know your values – write down 10-20 things you value in life. Check in with these from time to time to ensure what you are doing & how you are feelings align with your truest values. If not TAKE ACTION.
5. Know your limits – and set a pre-limit-threshold. Your well-being limit may be in the danger zone, consider the earlier more subtle warning signs that things are going in an unhealthy direction and take proactive action.
6. Ask for help or explore resources – if every day feels like it is just too much take time to call for back up, seek support and recognise the strength you gain from additional resources.
7. Be realistic with your “to do” list “The key is not to prioritise your schedule, but to schedule your priorities” (Stephen Covey) – saying no is a powerful skill to learn, being unrealistic with ambitions is a sure fire way to disappointment & burn-out.
8. “Strive not for success, rather for value” Albert Einstein Value the life you have and the choices you make. Ask yourself if the actions you are taking align to your sense of purpose.
9. Happiness is your compass “You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be successful” (Andrew Wilkinson). Wherever the path takes you, make sure you find yourself in a place of happiness at some point on the journey.
10. Get some rest! Everyone needs to recoup, make this a priority, and reap the benefits of a well-resourced mind and body.
Set great foundations of your work/life mastery. Embrace the freedom and need for fluidity in mastering well-being. Positive state of mind and body will come through surviving and thriving hardship at times, let’s be honest! Feeling in control of your life will also help to reduce unhealthy spikes & dips in adrenaline and reduce stress hormones like cortisol. Prioritise habits that top up your sense of peace, satisfaction, and accomplishment. Being mindful to check-in when things begin to feel depleted.
Being active through hobbies increases movement that will benefit your body’s healthy too.
And in times of imbalance, focus on the hope and wisdom to make change happen.