Achieving work-life balance can look impossible. And, frankly, it seems like it’s getting harder. In the modern world you are getting 25 hours of to-do’s thrown at you every 24 hours. Thinking that if you spend enough time you will “get everything done” is an illusion. It is unlikely that you will ever be “done.” Research shows the happiest people are busy – but don’t feel rushed. Anxiety is reduced by a feeling of control. Research into work-life balance reveals the consistent message that a feeling of control is key.
When it comes to the never ending list of things to do you have to draw a line. You must decide what is important and what isn’t. This can be achieved by asking yourself one simple question a few times a day: “What’s The Most Important Thing For Me To Do Right Now?”
Learning to say “No” is an essential tool for achieving balance. Saying no isn’t necessarily selfish. When you say no to a new commitment you are honouring your existing obligations and ensuring that you’ll be able to devote high quality time to them whilst also leaving time for your own self-care which means that you’ll have the energy and drive to put in tomorrow. Plus, always saying yes isn’t healthy. When you’re overcommitted and under too much stress you’re more likely to feel rundown and increase the chance of getting sick.
The main problem people have is they try to do it all and treat everything as important. You can’t do it all and everything is not equally important. Focus on the things that only you and no one else can do. Delegate, outsource or neglect the rest where possible. Just because something is urgent doesn’t mean it’s important. And being important doesn’t necessarily mean it’s urgent.
Often we put off important family time for “urgent” work deadlines. Work might be urgent but not important while family is both important and urgent. Work can take more and more of your time. It is our job to create boundaries so that we don’t neglect our loved ones. If things aren’t working for you and your family/household, work out alternatives. Who’s doing the school pick up today and who’s making dinner tomorrow? Negotiate at work and at home. Checking in with each other regularly will keep your family unit strong and prevent feelings like resentment from breeding. Clear communication is key. Work-life balance isn’t only about juggling your job and family commitments. It is also about working out what other activities you might enjoy doing and then making time for them – whether it’s cycling, cooking, reading or taking a bath. In addition to ‘physical’ time, allow ‘spiritual’ time as well. This might mean yoga, meditation, breathing, prayer, walking, spirituality is personal, so do whatever works for you. These are all anchors that will help you connect with life, unwind and recharge.
Here are some key ideas to help you to implement your own work-life balance:
- Everything is not equally important. Do fewer things and do them well.
- Decide what your values are and which ones take precedence.
- Do the things that get disproportionate results. i.e. less input that equals greater output.
- Focus on the things only you can do.
- Do the important things which must be done now.
- Learn to say “No” and be okay with it.
- Negotiate with your partner/household to share household duties whilst also scheduling enjoyable time together.
- Learn to communicate your needs clearly and listen to others needs.
- Set aside time to do things you enjoy, including time that allows for developing or nurturing a spiritual component to your life.
- Like any positive life change, necessary changes to achieve work-life balance aren’t likely to take place overnight, but with perseverance and practice it is possible to achieve a healthy balance.
Take home message: You can do anything once you stop trying to do everything.
“Before we can create peace among nations, we have to