Updated: Jan 22
Work-life balance. A phrase we hear all too often, and in my opinion it sends completely the wrong message.
It implies that some kind of balance is actually possible, when in reality we all know that achieving a work-life balance is like trying to smell the colour nine. Yet it's a goal that clients often tell me they want to achieve.
The trouble with the phrase is that word balance. The dictionary definition of balance is 'an even distribution of weight or a situation where elements are equal'.
Now I don't know about you, but I don't think I know a single person who spends an equal amount of their daily time working and not working. At least, not unless you include the time they are asleep too. Then it may be close.
Most of us need to work and we often work hard. In 2019, full time workers in the UK worked an average of 42.5 hours a week, which is more than the European average.
If you include the time we spend preparing for work and travelling to and from work (although possibly not an issue for some at the moment), then chances are you are left with a few hours in the evening and maybe one in the morning, depending on your time demands. To me, this implies it is virtually impossible to 'balance' your work-life with your non-work life.
I think we need to dig a bit deeper and understand what it is we actually desire when we talk about wanting a better work-life balance.
Is it more time for self-care? Time to spend with friends or family? To have time to do the things we love or to be spontaneous without always feeling like you are rushing back to the next task?
Or maybe, like many people, what you actually mean is that you don't like your job and want to spend less time doing it!
When we're searching for balance, we should examine all the roles we play in our lives.
You are unlikely to be able to balance your work role with everything else in your life without making some big changes, so let's put that to one side for now.
Instead, write a list of all the roles you play in your life outside of work. This might be friend, parent, daughter, partner, responsible pet owner; just remember to put yourself down as a role too! You'd be amazed at how many people forget.
Now think about and write down how much time you spend in those roles each week. Which one stands out? How do you feel about that?
If you're anything like my clients, you probably spend the majority of your time outside of work in your role as a parent or supportive partner and very little time on yourself.
This is quite typical, but if left unaddressed can lead to resentment, anger and frustration.
The problem we often find though, especially with mum's, is that as soon as you make time to do something for yourself, the dreaded guilt sets in and you can't really enjoy yourself!
This is something that positive psychology coaching can help with, as it requires a shift in mindset to overcome your automatic negative thoughts. (Book a free 30min call here if you're interested in finding out more.)
Chances are, that instead of changing your work-life, you could make a significant improvement to your overall satisfaction in life by making some positive changes to the time you spend in each of your life roles. Let's call it creating a life-balance instead.
I often find it more helpful to think about whether I feel centred in my life, rather than whether I feel balanced.
To me, feeling centred means I have my priorities straight. I know what truly matters to me and my family and I make sure that those things take centre stage when planning my time.
Being organised is a big part of that. As is the understanding that flexibility is necessary from time to time; for all members of the family.
Whilst I try to balance my time between all the roles I play in my life, I'm not perfect and there are times I have to sacrifice doing what I love for someone else. But I also ask other people to make sacrifices so I can do what I love too. After all there's a reason they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others...
Here are some actions to take to reflect on your personal 'life-balance':
Work out if being unhappy in your job is the underlying problem by writing down the good, the bad and the boring parts. Arrange a coaching call to discuss your results if you want support, or check out my coaching program 'Is This It?' which is designed to help you find your life's purpose and passion.
Write out all the roles you have in your life outside of work.
Write down how many hours you spend a week in those roles.
Write down how many hours a week you would prefer to spend in those roles.
Visualise what that would look like. What needs to change?
Create a plan to help you achieve it, communicate it and put it into place for a month.
Reflect on your plans effectiveness and tweak if necessary.
Remember, communication is key to achieving change in relationships.
As I discuss in my article 'Why Coaching Works', coaching is a powerful tool to help you build a strong mindset and develop effective behaviours and habits to underpin positive change.
So please reach out if you think making these changes will be challenging. I would be delighted to support and encourage you as you take these life-changing steps.
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