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How to find work-life balance

By October 24, 2022June 29th, 2023No Comments
There’s lots of talk about how work-life balance doesn’t exist.  And in lots of ways it’s true, if we think about balance as a very precise and absolutely equal state – then no, work-life balance doesn’t exist.

It’s simply not realistic for most of us to experience this – nor would we want to – it would surely mean that there wouldn’t be a lot of variety or flexibility in our work or our personal lives.

Is work-life balance a gender issue?

And often, work life balance is seen as something that women should aspire to achieve – and that we simply aren’t efficient enough if we don’t achieve it. It’s another thing that is “our fault” if we can’t perfectly balance work/home/kids/hobbies/managing a household – the list goes on.

Indeed, work-life balance IS a gender issue – far fewer men than women are reported to have concerns about work life balance (although this does appear to be slowly shifting)

And yet the majority of women I speak to, across different industries and at a range of career levels – from just starting out up to CEO – are all needing and wanting more balance. 

So what do we mean when we say we want more “work-life balance”?

The key is really getting clear about what this means to you as an individual – as it will be different for us all.
For the women I work with, it usually distills down to variations of the following –
  • Being able to leave work at work – eg not being expected to answer emails over the weekend and being able to mentally switch off from work
  • Having time to do the things that keep us well – eg sleep, exercise, hobbies, social connection etc
  • Having flexibility and autonomy over our time
  • Doing work that has meaning and purpose (even if it doesn’t feel like our own personal purpose)
Some of these things are dependent on the industry and culture within which you work – for example when I was a junior doctor I worked a lot of shifts including night shifts. I had no autonomy or flexibility regarding this and it was tricky to fit in all the things that kept me physically well simply because of the number of hours that I worked.

This wasn’t something that I had a lot of control over and it was seen and accepted as part of the job.  There are lots of other examples of this inbuilt lack of work-life balance across all sectors, not just in medicine.

But some parts of work-life balance ARE in our personal control

These often relates to our own habits, boundaries and intentions for ourselves regarding what we want our work-life balance to look like.  These topics can bring up some uncomfortable feelings initially.

My 1-1 work in relation to this supports the development of boundaries and building self belief, so that my clients feel supported to put actually put this into practice and create a work life balance that works for them.

And if you are in a leadership position yourself – identifying what your work-life balance looks like and putting this into practice gives your team the invaluable permission to do this for themselves.
The thing about balance is that it’s never truly equal.  Sometimes we will need to concentrate more of our energy on our home and personal responsibilities, sometimes a big project at work will mean that more of our attention is needed there. And then the balance shifts again.
It’s about having some fluidity and acceptance of this ever changing flow, whilst at the same time being clear on what our minimum “baseline” is.

Work-life harmony?

I’ve seen some people refer instead to “work life harmony”, “work- life integration” and “work-life fit” – maybe you could choose to use one of these terms if this suits you better?

 

CURATING YOUR PERSONAL WORK-LIFE BALANCE

1.  What number would you give your current work life balance on a scale of 0-10  (0 being awful, 10 being amazing)?

2.  What does your ideal 10/10 work-life balance look like?  

  • What would be your working hours?
  • Where would you work?
  • What flexibility would you have?
  • Would you have a lunch break?  What would you do on this break?
  • Where would you find connection with others?
  • How would you manage your e-mail etc in the evenings?

3.  What changes could you make to take your current work life balance score up 1-2 points (eg if it is a 5/10, what would make it a 7/10

4.  What would you like to change first? 

  • What do you need to put in place to make this happen?
  • What conversations do you need to have?
  • What support do you need to do this?

5.  What else is important here, if anything?  

Even the act of getting clear about where we are and what we personally need can be so powerful.  And for lots of us, it isn’t always about making big career changes (unless that’s what you want) but is instead more about making smaller intentional changes, step by step.

I’d love to hear what came up for you in relation to this.  If you have any questions at all about work-life balance, then feel free to contact me here