Understanding Work-Life Balance
We live in a digital world that never sleeps and as a result, our lives are faster paced than ever and there is an
expectation for us to be always switched on. This has led to less balance in our lives. Over the past five years,
Ireland has fallen from 9th to 17th place in the OECD’s better life index which ranks countries achieving a good work-life balance.
Finding a good work-life balance is challenging for all workers, particularly working parents.
Working parents are struggling to juggle work, our personal lives and family life (and all of the 250 activities that
come along with it!!) Sometimes it can feel like we’re being pulled in all directions! Creating a good work-life
balance is not about creating an equal balance between all three. It simply means making sure that work doesn’t
get in the way of you living the life you want and that life doesn’t get in the way of you having the career you really want.
As a working mum, I can relate to the ongoing challenge of trying to achieve a good work-life balance. Since setting up my own business, I have to admit it has been even more of a challenge. Working from home or setting up your own business sounds like a dream come true; working your own hours, having more time to spend with friends and family and the freedom of having no boss. When you are living your dream and feel so excited and fulfilled by your work or business, the challenge for many is finding time for everything else.
As a Life and Career coach, work-life balance is a challenge that many of my clients are presenting with. I too have worked with my own professional coach on creating a better balance. It is something I work on continuously. Although it’s still not perfect, I now have a much better understanding of what will work for myself and my family.
Here are a few tips that have helped me…
1. Follow a Schedule
When creating a schedule, it’s important to include not only work but also things like family time, social time, time for yourself. For example, if you have scheduled in a date night or a family day out in advance, they will be much more likely to happen.
If your schedule is too full, try to delegate or outsource where possible. This could mean asking family members to take on more household chores, outsourcing your ironing or even ordering your groceries online. The more time you save on tasks like these, the more time you will have available to spend with your friends and family. Often, we have unrealistic demands placed on ourselves. Ask yourself are all of these tasks absolutely necessary or is there anything you could get rid of?
2. Unplug when you’re not working
Scheduling blocks of ‘technology breaks’ will give you the headspace to think clearly. Taking that time to unwind means you will be more focused and productive when you’re on the clock. Switching off notifications, turning off your phone at night and even having technology free days can really help.
3. Setting boundaries.
Learn how to say no – every time you say yes to something, ask yourself what are you saying no to? Once you are aware of this, you will learn how to say no to the energy zappers. I can relate to this because in the past I have taken on too much work, now I try to pause and ask myself the simple question before committing, ‘Is this serving me’?
This, in my opinion is perhaps the most important step of all! While work is important, so too are other things in life, such as getting enough sleep, relaxation and spending time with friends and family. You’ve heard of the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’. Sometimes, we just need to slow it all down. Self-care is not indulgent, it is absolutely necessary to gain the energy you need to face the demands of life and work.
My favourite form of self-care is to walk along my local beach while listening to my favourite music. At times I tell myself I’m too busy to go walking and that I haven’t got time to go but I have learned that even a 10-15 minute walk helps so there is no excuse! Walking helps me to declutter my mind which leads to me being more productive, motivated and focused afterward so it’s a win-win; this is when some of my best and most creative ideas happen!
It’s important to remember though that what works for you may be different. Whether this means meditating, going to the gym, attending yoga, reading a book, taking a bath, getting enough sleep or whatever works to reduce stress for you is really important to build into your daily self-care practice.
The main thing to remember when working on your own work-life balance is not to strive for the ‘perfect’ schedule, instead create a realistic plan that will work for you.
Some days, you might focus more on work, while other days your focus may be more on spending time with your family or friends. What works for you this week, may not work so well next week so it’s important to have the flexibility to change and adapt your schedule to whatever life throws at you.
We are all so different and so too are our needs, wants and priorities and so a one size fits all approach doesn’t work.