18 Jul It’s All About Balance
Work/life balance means something different to everyone and at times is at best an elusive ideal and at worst a complete myth. We all live busy lives. Whether you work for a small company, a large corporate or are running solo.
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 in a Harvard Business School survey. By making considered choices about which opportunities you pursue and which you decline, rather than simply reacting to emergencies, you can find try to find some balance in meaningfully engaging with work, family, and community. And you know what, give yourself a break – you can’t do everything, nor should you try
No matter what work/life balance means for you, here are some useful tips that might help!
Build Real Support Networks
No matter who you talk to, whatever their role or family situation you will hear that managing family and professional life well and with balance requires a strong network of behind-the-scenes supporters.
Emotional support is just as important as practical help. Everyone occasionally need to vent when they’re dealing with something crazy or irritating at work, and friends and family are a safer audience than colleagues. And if, as increasingly is the case, you work solo then that emotional support or a place to go with the frustration is even more essential.
Let go of perfectionism
A lot of overachievers cultivate perfectionist tendencies at a young age when demands on their time are limited to school, pastimes and maybe an after-school job. It’s easier to maintain that perfectionist habit as a kid, but as you grow up, life gets more complicated. As you climb the ladder at work and as your family expands, your responsibilities grow. Perfectionism becomes out of reach, and if that habit is left unchecked, it can become damaging.
The key to avoid burning out is to let go of perfectionism and the healthier option is to strive not for perfection, but for excellence. I have a lovely phrase we use a lot which is “progress not perfection” – works well in both our home and business lives!
This one is big for me. We regularly completely unplug. Technology has helped our lives in many ways. And I am a big fan. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end. So you know what, there are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment. Take a day, a whole weekend even to be technology free and see what a difference it makes to the balance.
Phone and computer ‘bings’ with notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don’t text at your kid’s football game and don’t send work emails while you’re spending time with family. By not reacting to the updates from ‘work’, you will be developing a stronger habit of resilience and resilient people feel a greater sense of control over their lives, and are less prone to stress.
Exercise and meditate
My daughter has this right. She’s 15 and holds her commitment to her weekly yoga sessions close. I can see the difference in her when she doesn’t attend and for her this escape for just two hours a week, to her space and her peace, is vital.
Even when we’re busy, we can make time for the crucial things in life; we eat; we go to the bathroom and mostly we sleep. And yet one of our most crucial needs – exercise – is often the first thing to go when our calendars fill up. Exercise is an effective stress reducer as is so obvious with my daughter. It pumps feel-good endorphins through your body. It helps lift your mood and when it’s something holistic like yoga it can even serve a one-two punch by also putting you in a meditative state.
Dedicate chunks of time each week to self-care, whether it’s exercise, yoga or meditation. If you’re really pressed for time, start small with deep breathing exercises during your commute, a quick five-minute meditation session morning and night, or replacing drinking alcohol with a healthier form of stress reduction. Over time you’ll start to notice the difference it makes.
Limit time-wasting activities and people
I’ve recently read and re-read Sarah Knight’s The Life Changing Magic of not Giving a Fuck. Bought for me by my teenager. Now it’s not as crass as it might seem, and when re-read it’s a fairly basic way, albeit with lots of the ‘fuck’ word, to help you identify what’s most important in your life. This list will be different for everyone, so make sure it truly reflects your priorities, not someone else’s. Once you’ve worked out what matters, draw firm boundaries so you can devote quality time to those that are high-priority for you. Not for anyone else. You.
If you can take a practical approach to the thinking, it becomes so much easier to determine what needs to be trimmed from your schedule or commitments. Cornered every morning by the office chatterbox? Politely excuse yourself. Invited to a friend of a friend’s child’s naming ceremony who you’ve never met and will likely never meet again, politely bow out and get a good night sleep. Focus on the people and activities that reward you the most. As Sarah writes in the book, establish ‘personal policies’ and stick to them. It’s not harsh, it’s not mean, it’s about making the time you do spend on the things and people that matter, mean the most and ensuring you look after you too.
It’s that whole airplane metaphor. If you have a child, you put the oxygen mask on yourself first, not on the child. When it comes to being a good friend, spouse, parent or worker, the better you are yourself, the better you are going to be in all those areas as well.
Make them wait
One way to avoid being incessantly available is to make it clear that you reply to emails within 24 or 48 hours. Make this a rule and stick to it. You also need to make it clear that you are not endlessly available for work queries outside of ‘normal’ working hours. Admittedly both of these, with the technology at our finger tips, is easier said that done.
Start small. Build from there.
Don’t try and make drastic changes to your work/life balance all at once. If you are always absent from family dinners and you vow to begin attending meals every night you’re soon going to fail. Start small. Start with one evening a week and when you’ve got that commitment to one night every single week without fail, work it up and before you know it you’ll be at 3 nights a week, then 4 and finally all. If you go for full-on change all at once it is, put simple, a recipe for failure.
We hope these simple tips help bring you some healthy work life balance and if you still need some help, check out our 6 Business Rules to Live By or give us a call and see how we might able to bring back some balance to your working life with some virtual ‘hands-on’ support. And if you need some further perspective on balance, check out Issue 10 of The Happy Newspaper – a whole issue dedicated to balance!
Alison is the owner and Director of Serenity VA providing marketing and business support services to clients across the globe. For more information see www.serenityva.co.uk Or give us a call! We are always happy to discuss how we can support your business!