Work-Life Balance

Creating your Work Life balance

The first step to creating your perfect work Life balance is to accept that there are only 24 hours in a day, however hard you wish there were more. The second step is to accept that, however wonderful you are, you are not a comic-book superhero and so cannot defeat time and space.

The foundation of a good work-life balance is rest, nutritious food and exercise. These have a direct impact on your health and your ability to function at your best. They are vital to ensure your batteries are fully charged, but it’s so easy to skip them if you don’t recognise how important they are to your ability to do everything else in your life. The key to getting rest, nutritious food and exercise right is to be truthful with yourself about how things are now and then start to make appropriate and realistic changes a small step at a time.

With your foundation activities in place you can then consider all your roles and responsibilities AND the activities that you enjoy, and look at how these can fit into the time you have left.  Remember, you can’t do more than there are hours in the day. So, identify the things that you REALLY have to do and see if they can be done more efficiently or even delegated. Next, look at the things you enjoy doing and plan in some of those; why? – because these will keep your batteries charged. Then look at everything else.

Use your feelings to examine your work-life balance

A good work-life balance will leave you feeling content with your lot. That’s not to say that everything you do will be enjoyable but that, when you reflect at the end of the day or week or month, you will feel in control, satisfied and happy.

You can use your feelings during the day to help you understand what contributes to your work-life balance, and from here make changes to improve it. Notice and enjoy your positive feelings; how can these be part of more activities? Notice your negative feelings; can you change the activity or how you react to it, or is it best just to accept that this activity as it is?

To help you, I’ve put together a list of some feelings below but there are many more:

  • In control or stressed
  • Confident or unsure
  • Engaged or bored
  • Appreciated or undervalued
  • Comfortable or unsettled
  • Full of energy or tired
  • Respected or undermined
  • Satisfied or discontented
  • Calm or agitated
  • Optimistic or pessimistic

Use Boundaries for Work-Life balance

Setting boundaries, both for yourself and others, is a key part of creating your good work-life balance. Setting boundaries puts you in control of how you use your time and so helps you to maintain your own wellbeing.

Before you can enforce your boundaries you first need to clearly define them along with your justification.  For example, if you set yourself the boundary ‘I will take a 45-minute lunch break’, the justifications could be that it is good for your health and you will be more productive in the afternoon.

It can also be a good idea to pre-plan how you will enforce boundaries if you or someone else tries to cross over them. Taking the previous example, you could set an alarm for the start and end of your lunch break, and you could tell anyone trying to intrude into your lunch break that you will get back to them after your lunch. It’s a lot easier to be consistent if you know why you are doing something, how to do it and how to overcome any obstacles beforehand.

You can set your boundaries to be fixed or semi-flexible. Taking the lunch break boundary example, you may decide that this is a fixed boundary and you will always have a 45-minute break. Or you many decide that this is a semi-flexible boundary and there are certain situations where you will not enforce it. Once again, make sure you clearly define the situations and your justifications for breaking your boundary. Also, decide what action you will take when the boundary is broken, for example, you could take the break later in the day or you may decide that you will forgo you break but will not do this more than twice in a week.

Take time to plan your boundaries carefully and be prepared to adapt them as you go along and they will help you create a good work-life balance.

Saying no means yes to good work life balance

By saying ‘no’ to one thing you are saying ‘yes’ to something else. This can be a useful thought to change your perspective of the negativity of the word ‘no’. For example, if you say ‘no’ to working late you are saying ‘yes’ to spending time with family or friends or pursuing your hobbies or relaxing.  

There are only so many hours in the day, and you can create good work-life balance for yourself by prioritising and planning your activities to fit comfortably into these hours. To do this successfully, you will inevitably, at times, have to say ‘no’ to either yourself or to others. But by remembering that by saying ‘no’ to something you are actually saying ‘yes’ to something that is more important for creating good work-life balance will help.

Check and tweak

So you’ve put together a plan for your perfect work-life balance. You’ve considered your priorities and the time you have available. You’ve defined your boundaries and decided when and how to say ‘no’. Now’s the time to test drive it for a week or a month and then, at the end of this time, look at how your work-life balance is bearing up and decide if it would benefit from some tweaks or even a major overhaul.

Look at

  • the priorities – were they right? How will your priorities be different next week or month?
  • the time spent on you, your family, friends and work? – was the balance right? How will you change it next week or month?
  • the good stuff – how can you incorporate more of this next week or month?
  • the not-so-good-stuff – how can you make it better next week or month either by making practical changes or changing your attitude to the task, for example ‘I don’t like this task but it needs doing because …….’
  • anything that particularly wound you up. Decide to ‘put it to bed’ so that it doesn’t affect your feelings of good work-life balance. Find a way to get it out your system, for example by having a 10-minute whinge to a friend or writing it down, and then make a conscious effort to move on by doing something enjoyable and not allowing yourself to go back to it.

Keep a regular check on your work-life balance and make tweaks as you need them. This way you will continue to have control of it and make it the best it can be.