Can You Really Have a Work-life Balance?
More often than not, self help books, lifestyle advice and guru tips often point towards the importance, if not necessity, of informing us exactly what we need to do in order to live a successful confident, happy and balanced life. Yet whilst I highly respect self help books and advice, the question has to be asked; is it possible that you could end up drowning in a sea of counterproductive and unrealistic lifestyle expectations.
One popular example of lifestyle advice is that we should aim to have an equal work life balance. So what does this mean and what is the impact of this advice? Often I encounter people, clients (or at times even myself) trying too hard to compartmentalise their lives into career, leisure, down-time, relationships, family and so on.. They then continue to focus on one aspect of their life rather than the other which in turn is unrealistic and unsustainable as everything which happens in our lives and career etc is intertwined and impacted by the other. By trying to follow fixed rules, and sometimes unrealistic expectations, many people not only encounter stress but also set themselves up for failure as they try to live up to what’s considered the ‘right way to live’.
However, in today’s busy (if not chaotic) world how feasible is it to really split your life up? Is it feasible? Or is it even necessary? And if it is, how can you start to really create a sustainable holistic work life dynamic which really works for you?
Myth 1: Your life is needs to be equally balanced.
Every part of your life is undeniably intertwined and will both influence and impact.
For some people, splitting up the different areas of their lives helps them to efficiently focus and to stay on track. Whilst for others, this can cause even more anxiety as the thought of adding one more lifestyle task to the ‘to do list’ triggers alarm bells and unrealistic expectations.
It’s important to assess or reassess, to understand and to acknowledge what your priorities are in the day and to then work with and around these priorities.
Myth 2: Work Hard Play Hard.
Have you ever heard the saying ‘Work hard play hard?’ If so, then it’s time to ask does this work for you? Does your work really dictate how much personal time you afford yourself? Do you treat yourself only when you’ve put in a good day’s work or accomplished something? If so, consider how productive this is for you? Does work dictate your sense of value? and is this effective for you?
However, If you find yourself trying to grip every spare moment and you find your life is unbalanced no matter how hard you try, then consider how you can incorporate a little bit of pleasure whilst you’re working and vice versa. First of all, why not start to reframe the phrase ‘Work hard play hard’ to ‘Work when you play, and play when you work’?
Yes, I know a lot of people might be screaming at me now in disbelief, but hear me out. Not everyone’s needs are the same. For example, if you can’t get away from work to experience some down-time, or you can’t leave your family to go to work, why not try stretching or meditating where you are for 5-10 minutes? If you are working, why not have a nourishing drink and play some calming music in the background. Or if you’re at home perhaps wrap up warm, light a candle and play a non-distracting but calm film in the background? The same can be done if you have children. Why not set up their own work/ desk play area near to you with their own activities so that you’re both experiencing quality time together, whilst you can (hopefully) work. Or if you’re with your partner why not try working together?
Myth 3: Rebalancing your life takes time, effort and money.
Rebalancing your life does not need to take huge amounts of time, effort or money. Why not start making smaller changes which compliment your current routine? For example ask yourself: What one thing a day can you do to help you to feel a little bit more balanced? Are there any free activities or quality ways to unwind which do not cost anything? Also remember, if rebalancing takes huge amounts of time and effort to get used to then perhaps it is not realistic and sustainable? Consider ways in which you can start to work and enjoy down time in simple, accessible, realistic and creative ways which will compliment your current schedule.
Myth 4: You need the perfect lifestyle in order to be happy
Remember that no one has a perfect balanced lifestyle. If you strive for perfection then you’ll find you’ve been taken hostage and you’ll never be happy. Simply ask yourself what needs to change in order to feel that you are accomplishing ‘good enough!’ and in return how will this help you to feel happier, more content and productive? If ‘good enough’ doesn’t make you happy then ask yourself what you are striving for? Is it realistic and attainable and will it realistically make you happy?
Myth 5: There is only one way to balance your life
There are multiple ways to balance your life and priorities. Therefore, it’s really important to create the choices which are right for you. Lifestyle advice speaks to many people and so the advice given may or may not work for everyone. Therefore, it’s important to be creative and to take the advice, which might be right for you, and to leave the rest behind.
Myth 6: Everything in your life needs to be reorganized.
Not every part of your life needs to be so neatly split and balanced. Ask yourself what in particular is or is not working at the moment? Life is chaotic but if you can find out what is or isn’t working right now, perhaps it’s only this particular point that you need to focus on?
For instance, your sleep patterns determine your energy levels, your mood, efficiency, performance etc. However, your sleep patterns or quality of sleep may be impacted and determined by many personal situations- work or family stress, mental health, your nutrition, anxiety/ stress, diary management etc. It may be a mix of these things or perhaps one particular reason.
Remember, by focusing on one or two important aspects of your day, you split larger goals up into smaller steps, which in turn can lead to more effective sustainable results.
If the root cause is deeper such as anxiety or stress, then it’s time to really value yourself enough to explore with a friend, therapist or coach, what triggers this, why it’s happening and how you can effectively heal or manage it in the short and long term so that it doesn’t impact your work and life.
Also remember to be creative and to have fun! You’re creating a consistent effective and sustainable lifestyle which is tailored to your needs.