21 May 2019
If you love your work, do you need to worry about work/life balance?
This week I was asked to run a mini-workshop on achieving a good work/life balance for the Small Business Connected network in Colchester.
The business owners in the network are passionate about their work and it’s a large part of who they are. So it wasn’t a surprise to find that work was a hugely important part of their lives and that the lines between what was ‘life’ and what was ‘work’ were somewhat blurred. So I suggested it was more about working out how to achieve work/life integration rather than having to view work and life as separate entities. At the same time, even those people who were passionate about their businesses, admitted that there was also more to a well-rounded and fulfilled life than just work alone, and so were able to reflect on what else was important to them.
What is work/life balance?
Work/life balance is the amount of time, energy and focus you give to your work compared with other elements of your life, such as family, relationships, leisure activities etc. But it’s not as simple as saying my life should be 50% work 50% life or some other exacting proportion. Work/life balance means different things to different people, and at different times. For example, if you’re relentlessly putting long hours into a job, you might wish to make the balance tip more towards your personal life. If you’re excited about starting your own business, at this point you may need to dedicate most of your focus on that.
Work/life balance is an important consideration because it affects so many different parts of our lives: our physical and mental health, our relationships, as well as the quality of our work and personal lives – a happy home life will often lead to a happier and better work life.
What makes a good work/life balance?
As it comes down to the individual, it’s about knowing what a good work/life balance looks like for you. It’s about understanding and recognising what is important to you and how you want to live your life.
Consider what and why certain things make life work well for you. How happy do you feel overall, are you fulfilled, do you have time for all the different parts of your life? Also think about when you feel your life is out of balance, for example, if your work is causing you stress and ill health, or it’s putting strains on your relationships. If you’re throwing yourself into work, why is that? Is because you’re determined to succeed, or you genuinely love what you do, or is it to distract you from something more difficult in your life that you’re trying to avoid?
How can we improve our work/life balance?
When I work with coaching clients, I like to use my A,B,C,D approach to achieving a happy and healthy work/life balance:
Awareness is everything. It’s about having an awareness of how we spent our time and energy, and whether that feels right. It’s also being aware of the risks and consequences of spending more time in one area over another. It’s also important to notice and be aware of any physical or emotional symptoms that might indicate things are out of balance. Work and life are always going to be changing and moving, but be aware of what’s happening.
Start to know where your limits are. Prevention is better than cure, so when you notice warning signs, pay attention to them and act. Ringfence time to all the different areas in your life that are important to you. Accept that you’re human and there’s only so much you can do at once, so go easy on yourself.
It’s your life, so it’s important you have the ability to make choices about where you are going to allocate your time and energy and why you’re doing it. The more you can feel in control and be clear about what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do, the more likely you'll succeed in creating a healthy work/life balance.
Develop your own work/life balance
Experiment with different ways to find your own happy medium. Keep a record or journal of how you’re spending your time and adjust as necessary. Make use of different tools to help you, such as time management grids and priority lists. Develop healthy habits and activities to promote physical and mental wellbeing, such as scheduling breaks, having time for yourself, exercising, socialising, eating well and getting enough sleep.
Don’t be afraid to tackle whatever’s stopping you from achieving your ideal work/life balance. Ask questions such as, what do I need to stop doing or start doing? And don’t be afraid to ask for help. Speak to friends, family or colleagues. Working with a coach can help you identify and resolve any issues that may be getting in your way, and they help you to create and maintain the best work/life balance for you.