Achieving Work-Life Balance
Life is all about balance. There is so much to take care of - such as family, career, health and friendships. And then, what about time for self? When you’re on a roll, things are kept in perspective - perhaps we enjoy life, and flourish. But we can all get to that place where stress gets the better of us, and life is heavy, lack-lustre and going nowhere special.
I started a new job nearly six months ago. One of the main requirements I gave to my recruitment consultant was that usual fly away comment that I wanted a good “work/life balance”. Like most working mothers, I strive to obtain that perfect “balance” of being able to go to work and earn a living...yet also be at home to take care of my children.
This got me thinking about what is the right balance in life? You need time for your family (my number one priority), time to see your friends, and time for yourself, which must all be fitted around your working hours. I must confess that the “time for yourself” is the one I find most unachievable and always gets pushed to the bottom of the pile.
You can do anything...
but not everything
Achieving balance is really about not being pulled in any one direction too hard and dedicating the ‘right’ amount (this doesn’t mean always having to be equal) time to what’s important to you in order to stay calm and grounded, yet also motivated and clear-headed…and of course happy!
Finding the right balance for you, as an individual, is the hard part. I was reading up on this and came across a very interesting article which spoke about how the various elements in your life that require the most balancing can be divided into two categories – external (practical living such as work, relationships and extra-curricular activities) and internal (what is going on inside your heart and mind). In many cases, you’ll find people focus on more of one of these elements than the other. While both ends of each spectrum are actually positive, if either side is taken to an extreme, something that is intended to be positive can end up being detrimental.
For example, if you spend more time on the internal elements you may find you are being so self-reflective that you actually miss out on the experience of living. If you were to exercise too much and not take time to rest and replenish, you would injure yourself. If you read, or do a disproportionate amount of mental work, your body would lack proper circulation and fitness level. If you spend an enormous amount of time relaxing, your brain waves slow down and you lack mental agility. As Aristotle said: "Moderation in all things” – whenever you overdo it in any aspect of your life, you are more likely to lose perspective and balance.
Balance is not something you find – it is something you create!
So how can you ensure that you have (and maintain) the right balance for you? It’s helpful to check in with yourself to see if you feel balanced. Here are a few thoughts:
Look after yourself: It’s very easy in this day and age to think you can burn the candle at both ends, however, this is never sustainable. The bottom line is that you cannot accomplish anything if you are unhealthy. Try to set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, whether it is a gym workout or yoga, taking a long walk or jogging, listening to music or reading. Know yourself and how much rest, food and exercise you need to function at your best.
Determine what your priorities are: You need to examine your values and decide what is important to you. These can be moving goalposts. For example, you may be in the process of starting university, embarking on a new career or starting a family. Therefore, depending on what particular stage you are at in your life, your focus and energy will be different. The key is to try not to juggle too many big projects in your life at any one time, like that saying goes “do not bite off more than you can chew”.
Plan ahead and be organised: Make a to-do list or keep a calendar for those important dates to remember and strive towards. Take time at the beginning of each week to assess what needs to be done. We all have busy lives, it is how we choose to spend our time that dictates how we make the best use of our time.
Do what you can within your control: We all know and have experienced the unexpected. You get stuck in traffic, your computer crashes or your child falls ill on the day of that important work meeting. If you learn to accept that anything can happen at any time, then it is less likely to throw you off your stride when it does. The ability to adjust your game plan accordingly is a must. We cannot control everything in our lives, so the best approach to take is to manage what is within our gift to change and influence.
Be optimistic. Look at life from a glass half full, rather than a glass half empty perspective. By maintaining a positive mental attitude, it helps you deal with adversity, unforeseen events and uncertainty. Once you've done everything you can within your control, let your life unfold. Be prepared for the future, but don't worry about it.
Life does not have to be perfect. As Albert Einstein once said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”. If things happen that weren’t your choice or preference, don’t let them hold you back from happiness and positivity. If you need to feel sad, or share that you are upset with someone, do it and then move on. Holding onto feelings, or bottling up resentments, will only serve to affect your inner health and vitality.
Take care of what you are responsible for. Try not to depend on external objects and persons for happiness. Do your best to offer unconditional love, be a loyal friend, a trustworthy employee, and adopt a patient approach to others. You might not get the same back, but at least you can be content that you tried to be helpful and kind.
Nav is London based Lawyer, who also writes about balance and fulfilled living, as part of a life coaching approach. She is a family woman, and offers insights into managing the stresses and strains of modern life.