Work-Life Balance – Should we be aiming for it?

I remember years ago my go to excuse for feeling rubbish was – Work-Life Balance.  It wasn’t right (whatever right was) and it was making me miserable, feel stressed and unwell.  The more I strived for it the more it seems to get further and further away and the worse I felt.   In the end I just gave up, I admitted defeat and decided that maybe as a single parent, running my own business and juggling everything myself – I was just not destined for this ‘mythical utopian’ idea of Work-Life Balance. 

What was interesting though was the very act of giving up on it allowed me to explore the kind of balance that was right for me.  What surprised me was it wasn’t work-life balance at all – it went deeper than that.

By labeling it work-life balance it suggests that these are two very separate parts of an existence that shouldn’t meet.  Like the sun and the moon – they should not really be seen together when the reality is very different.  I’m in the fortunate position that I LOVE my work, and whilst there are days that are more challenging than others, and there are parts of it that I would prefer I didn’t have to do,  on the whole I genuinely enjoy my job.  Equally, I enjoy my life, for the most part (I mean…who really does enjoy cleaning, ironing & taking the bins out?) and I like to think I make the most of my ‘non-work’ time by making sure it is heavily sprinkled with the things and people I love.

To break this down even further – when people talk about work – in relation to work-life balance, it’s generally in a negative context.  The describe all the things they have to/need to do before a deadline or to please someone else, to keep a customer happy, the relentless busyness etc.  There seems to be a sense of resentment that it is somehow interfering with their ‘life’ – especially when having to respond to emails at home etc.  And the truth is it might be.  It is worth asking yourself though – if your brain is telling you that work is a ‘bad’ thing… will you ever achieve work life balance?  On average – most people spend 40 hours a week at work – or more… if you are spending 40 hours a week doing something you consider a negative experience then that’s going to exhaust you and potentially consume your thoughts even when not there.  Hence – no balance.

My approach to this may not work for everyone but I challenge you all to give it a try.  Rather than seeking work-life balance… I now just seek balance.  I guess if I had to give it more of a label I would call it Energy Balance.  In order to keep myself as energised and charged as possible I need to make sure both my positive and negative experiences are balanced.  Here’s how:-

  • Take a category in your life (let’s take work) and look at it in detail
  • Break it down and identify elements of it that you love (I like to do this in a visual format like a mind map) eg:
    • Physically teaching people in groups/1:1
    • Seeing an individual ‘get it’
    • Creating new products
    • Brain storming/problem solving
  • Break down and identify elements that you really don’t like eg:
    • Accounts
    • Selling
    • When I have to work late etc
  • Do the same with your ‘out of work’ life – I personally it to the mind maps above – so I end up with a Positive and a Negative mind map
  • Once you have done this exercise look at your results and then instead of thinking of Work-Life Balance, I just look at Positive-Negative balance. If there is a day when I know I have to do some of the things on the negative side – I make sure to prioritise something on the positive side in order to balance things out.  Ideally in the same day or at least the same week.

In case you are still struggling with this concept – here are some really simple things I’ve changed to help with this:

  • When ironing – I put on a comedy programme or film to keep me entertained whilst getting it done
  • When doing my accounts – I plan a reward for every time I complete a specific accounting task as well as playing my favourite music whilst I do it
  • When I know I have a busy week coming up – I book something in the diary (usually a dance event or a pampering session) for afterwards – this was all pre-covid but I now have covid safe options too!

If you want to learn more about ways to get Balance back into your life – get in touch.