A prospect once said to me, “I want to have 50:50 work-life balance.” But what did she actually mean by 50:50?
We all have 24hrs a day. Did she mean working for 12 hours and leaving the other 12 hours for sleeping and everything else? Did she mean sleeping for say eight hours and splitting the remaining hours into eight hours for work and eight hours for her personal life? Was that seven days per week or five days per week?
You get the gist. There are lots of different ways of slicing and dicing this. Plus, these are mathematical calculations and what actually happens in real life may be very different.
‘Balance’ is a relative term and I believe it’s about understanding what’s best for you. The first step to creating the right mixture of work and personal life is to define what that looks like for you.
Define what the right blend of work and personal life is for you
Here are a few questions to help you with figuring this out for yourself:
♦ What will make you feel like you’re making the most out of your life?
♦ What would be happening on a daily, weekly, monthly and ad-hoc basis to give you the sense that your life is not just about work? For example, would you be spending 15 minutes of ‘me time’ every day, would you be exercising four times every week, would you be having a long weekend with your partner every other month?
♦ What would having the right balance of work and personal life mean to you? What will it enable you to experience?
Don’t overcommit yourself
What’s your approach to managing your commitments? Do you use a paper or electronic diary? What about the various tasks and projects you’re working on? Do they make it to your diary, if you have one, or do you work off long to-do lists?
One of the most common things that I come across with my clients is that they’re over-committing to more than they can handle in a single day.
More often than not, we underestimate how long things actually take to complete. I won’t claim that I’m immune to that, but having it in mind and building in buffer time and more compassion towards ourselves will help manage this aspect 🙂
Also, remember not to overbook yourself. Leave breathing space in your diary to allow for spontaneity in your life and those last-minute opportunities that come up (e.g. that friend you haven’t seen in ages coming to town at short notice and inviting you to catch up for dinner).
A great way to do this is to look at what you can say ‘No’ to or ‘Not right now but later’ and space it out. This applies to both personal and work commitments.
Proactively make space for what’s important
My key advice here is to become more proactive with the things you listed that are important to happen in your life, so that you can feel that you have more balance.
Plan and schedule the type of activities or events that you want to have more of in your life. If, for example, you’ve said you want to go to more art galleries and exhibitions, have a look at what’s coming up 2-3 months ahead and book some time for it.
Perhaps you feel like you’re not spending enough quality time with your partner because both of you are constantly busy with your own work or personal commitments not leaving you much time just for the two of you.
What works particularly well for my husband and I is to synchronise our schedules every month. We go through what we have coming up and we both note it down in our diaries. When one of us has is scheduling a new meeting we try, whenever possible, to schedule it when the other one already has something else on, which means that we have more time to spend with each other.
Many of my clients usually don’t leave space for themselves in their hectic schedules because they tend to put their clients and their families ahead of their self-care. However, as the saying goes ‘You can’t pour from an empty cup‘, so start with filling up your own. Dedicating time first thing in the morning to yourself, even if it’s just 10-15 mins before work and other aspects of life have got in the way, will ensure your cup is full.
Create better boundaries
“My life feels very ‘worky’,” said one of my clients. It turned out that she, like many of my clients, was taking calls from clients at all times of the day and night. She’d wake up and jump straight on her laptop to answer emails.
Do you instantly respond as soon as you receive a work email, even when you’ve supposedly switched off for the day? Or perhaps you think, I’ve got to do this one more thing and then another and before you know it, it’s 11pm or midnight.
Sometimes it’s simply coming to terms with the fact that there will always be work-related things to do. What you may find helpful is to say “This is enough for today, I will carry on tomorrow. Right now I need to make time for (insert something important to you) to allow me to be at my best tomorrow.”
Turn work into life
When you run your own business, work and personal life tend to intertwine a lot more.
A couple of my close friends started off as business connections. Nowadays, we catch up over dinner or have a picnic in the park instead of in a café. When we meet up, we tend to talk more about what’s going on in our personal lives rather than solely about our businesses. We still catch up on what’s going on regarding the business side but it’s no longer the main focus of the conversation.
Over to you
What are your main challenges with balancing work and personal life? Do you struggle to switch off at night? Do you find yourself checking your phone for work-related email when you’re with family or friends?
I’d love to know – comment below and I’ll personally respond.
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