We all want it, but few of us have found it…the elusive work-life balance. You’ve probably heard this expression mentioned a lot, especially in terms of coaching or therapy, but what does it really mean?
Wikipedia says this:
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.
The work–leisure dichotomy was invented in the mid-1801s. Paul Krassner remarked that anthropologists use a definition of happiness that is to have as little separation as possible “between your work and your play”.
So how does this affect you?
It’s a sad fact of life but if we don’t work, we don’t earn money. And if we don’t earn money, we struggle to live the life we want. So it stands to reason that many of us struggle to find the balance between dedicating time to our job (which for most people amounts to where they spent 70% of their waking hours) and ensuring we still have the time and energy to spend with the ones we love, and doing the things we love to do.
In a Harvard Business School Survey (as reported by Forbes magazine), it was discovered that “a whopping 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week”. With the introduction of technology making it easier for us to be accessible 24hrs a day (and making it harder for us to escape) and thanks to the worldwide recession adding uncertainty in the workplace, it’s no surprise that people are struggling to not only find the time to stop working, but also to not feel guilty when enjoying themselves out of working hours.
So what can you do to find that inner peace?
We all have 24 hours in a day – so how can you best utilise your time?
1. Look after yourself:
Your busy life may feel like you are lurching from one emergency to another, a perpetual cycle of ticking things off your To Do lists, but to keep that lifestyle sustainable you need a healthy mind and body. So as much as the adrenaline of a hectic schedule may be giving your short bursts of energy and a buzzy high…the reality is that you will come crashing down or worse, get seriously ill and burn out, if you don’t look after yourself.
How can you do that?
Drink lots of water and less alcohol and coffee (which in the short-term may calm or speed you up, but too much of either won’t help in the long-run).
Eat well and eat slowly, make time for your meals and add them to your schedule.
Go to the gym or to exercise classes, or even a short run every morning. Not only is keeping fit important, but it clears your mind and floods your brain with feel-good endorphins.
Rest your mind. Aim for 7-8 hours sleep a night and practice mindfulness – whether it’s ten minutes of deep breathing and visualisation each morning, or a guided mediation session a few times a week, your mind needs to rest sometimes too.
2. Don’t expect perfection:
One of the biggest obstacles to getting through your work day, and the reason that many people stay on at work beyond their contracted hours, is because they want everything they do to be perfect. Stop!
Executive coach Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, author of The Office Survival Guide, says, “The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism. As life gets more expanded it’s very hard, both neurologically and psychologically, to keep that habit of perfection going.”
Puder-York adds, “ the healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence.”
Technology has made our lives easier…but it’s also ensuring we stay ‘on’ at all times. Have you ever found yourself checking work emails at a friend’s wedding? Or scrolling through Facebook, locked in the toilet, while the kids are outside asking for you? Maybe you can’t even go for a meal with a loved one without leaving your phone on the dinner table. This constant need to be connected to everyone, at all times, means that we struggle to be present doing the important stuff. It also means that our attention spans are affected, making it harder for us to focus on the job in hand.
So in order to get full satisfaction from whatever it is you are doing – disconnect from technology! Leave your phone turned off and enjoy the people you are with, really live in the moment. By departmentalising your life you will benefit a lot more from every aspect of your day.
4. Stop wasting time:
If you are struggling to get all your work completed within the allocated hours, are you really concentrating 100% on your job or are you wasting time?
Focus on the people that reward you most. If you don’t want to spend your evening at after work drinks, don’t…go home and rest, or spend it with the family. Likewise don’t arrange meetings with people that don’t fit your life goals if your time is better spent elsewhere, you will only come away feeling frustrated and pulled in too many directions.
5. Change your life structure:
If your day is too stressful and you don’t know how you are going to manage to get it all done – step back and look at how you structure your day. Making one small change, like having a shorter lunch or turning off notifications at certain times, can free up your time and help you prioritise the areas of your life that you feel are lacking. Reorganise, prioritise, delegate and ask for help.
The perfect work-life balance may be elusive but it is attainable.
Visit Koach.net to discover how our coaches can help you find clarity at work and at home, and can lead you to a more successful and fulfilled you.
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