Work life balance juggling act
I’ll admit it I got caught out in 2016. Despite my best efforts work overtook my life. Understandable as I was repositioning my speaking career which sounds easy but wasn’t. I was literally living, breathing work 7 days a week and my social life disappeared. On the seesaw that was work life balance, work was the heavyweight partner.
However, one of the positives I always take from what happened to me is that I am always aware. I am attuned to instinctively know when things are not balanced right and, though I may be unable to address it straight away, the nagging thought is with me continuously. Life changing events can have that effect on you- your self-awareness is heightened.
How to restore your work life balance
This past festive period I deliberately walked away from my office. I spent 10 days reassessing my work life balance and working out what I could do about it to bring it back into balance. Upon turning my PC back on in the New Year I saw a Ted talk that seemed to have hit my inbox just at the right time: Laura Vanderkam: How to Gain Control of Your Free Time
And the upshot?
I have completely re-jigged my diary. I refuse to work at the weekends so I can concentrate on restoring my personal life – even when my brain is saying ‘oh but if you did a few hours you’d be ahead of the game’. I have taken up meditation which has had a marked effect on reducing my stress levels. I am looking into taking up an evening class in something that has nothing to do with work. When looking at my working week I allow myself to work like a Trojan for 3 days the other 2 are still work but at a much easier pace (I am actually getting more done!).
How do you know when your work life balance is out of kilter?
The problem for many entrepreneurs and business owners is that their work IS their life. They do not see the disconnect between undefined boundaries between the two and their own good health. In the UK, especially there is something known as the Protestant work ethic.
The Protestant Work Ethic…is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes that hard work, discipline and frugality.. are a result of a person’s subscription to the values espoused by the Protestant faith, particularly Calvinism.
When it comes to accumulating profit, what could be more perfect than hard work, self-denial, plus the threat of eternal damnation for the lazy?
Somehow, we have grown up believing that to take time off is procrastination, lazy, to be frowned upon. This is especially true if you are self-employed; after all, if you don’t work nothing will happen, will it? So, we slog away getting more and more tired, stressed, frustrated, and unproductive.
Human beings have a natural circadian rhythm and our bodies were not designed to work 24/7. They require down time; refuelling pit stops to function properly. Instinctively we know that but intellectually we have become conditioned to think that time off is self-indulgent. Or, we “allow” ourselves a two-week holiday once a year and spend most of it too ill to enjoy it, or anxious about what is happening at work in our absence.
Progressive smart employers consider work life balance crucial
Some companies are aware of how a poor work life balance can affect their staffing levels and proactively work with their employees to promote a healthy amount of relaxation. They have non-uniform work days; health checks; social occasions; counselling; a whole range of supportive services to ensure their staff stay happy, positive, motivated and avoid burnout.
If you feel that maybe, just maybe, your life is out of kilter, then step back from it and take a long hard look at how you view work. Time is infinite and yet limited. There are only 24 hours in a day and how you use them is under your control. If you always feel like you never have enough time, then try keeping a time diary and then reflecting on how you spent your time. Time is a choice, even when you have a full-time job and family there are still anything up to 52 hours a week that are under your control.
I discovered that Laura is right, by adopting the attitudes she covers in her TED talk and remembering what she says about the division of time, the days do seem to have more hours in them and I am covering much more ground than I would have thought possible.
Perhaps a valuable lesson for anyone who works is to say to yourself; “There IS time, it is my choice how I spend it.” Your work life balance is yours so straighten that seesaw.