The Elusive Work/Life Balance

Let’s face it, we live in an age of an increasingly demanding work culture.  There is often an expectation from both customers and employers that you will be available to deal with customers’ or clients’ queries whenever they arise.  Even if you are not in the office, the chances are you’ll be available out of hours on your mobile, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, LinkedIn…  the list goes on.

How many times have you just settled down with your well earned glass of vino to watch Poldark, whilst simultaneously responding to a message of an evening?  We all find it difficult to reward ourselves with ‘me time’ – despite our best intentions.

The same is true whether you are the boss trying to run the business, or the junior trying to make a good impression.  But how does this 24 hour work culture fit with the buzz phrase of the moment: Work/Life Balance?

Well to me, it’s simple.  The work/life balance is about questioning every activity you undertake, and asking yourself a few simple questions.  ‘Am I enjoying this?’  ‘Am I achieving something here?’  ‘Why am I doing this?’  And finally:  ‘Is it worth it?’ But of course these questions can only ever be answered subjectively.

The work/life balance is a very personal thing.  It’s also a very flexible thing.  What you enjoy and are seeking to achieve today, may be very different tomorrow.  Your priorities and values change as you go through the various life stages:  single to married; having children; embarking on a new career or heading down the path of retirement.

Recent Health and Safety Executive statistics show that 9.9 million working days a year are lost through employees suffering from stress, depression and/or anxiety, and it is estimated that 3 in 10 employees will experience mental health problems in any one year.

As a professional in the health and wellbeing industry, this tells me that we’re a long way from getting the balance right, and work related stress is currently winning the battle. Of course, the body is designed to cope with stress – it’s a natural and indeed important response to various stimuli.  But when it’s continuous and comes without relief or relaxation it can have some serious negative effects on the body.  And without a balance in your life, you could find yourself heading down the wrong road.

So how do we seek to get the balance right?  And what, exactly, is ‘right’?  I guess it’s whatever is right for YOU.  If you’re enjoying life, and believe that the rewards of what you do are worth the sacrifices, and you’re not suffering any unwanted effects, then keep on doing whatever it is you’re doing.  If not, and work is beginning to take you over, here are a few tips to help you get it under control again.

  1. Factor in relaxation time – and stick to it.   I tend to go for a walk with the dogs to give me thinking time and help me relax.  (Most of my best ideas come to me when I’m walking the dogs!)  And maybe if you’re in a relationship, why not agree to have a date night every month?
  2. Drop those energy sapping activities. If you’re locked into wasting time on activities that simply sap your energy and give you nothing in return, drop them.    Only concentrate on the positive tasks that enhance your life (either personal or professional) or your well-being.
  3. Delegate.  This is a difficult one for me, because I’m a perfectionist at heart.  But I’ve learned that if somebody else can do a job for you, for a reasonable fee, then let it go.  Why multi-task in areas you’re not strong in?  Let it go, so you can stop beating yourself up about the fact that it’s not done.  It might not be done to your exacting standards, but it will be done.  And ticked off your list.
  4. Take some exercise.  A cliché, but an important one.  It lifts the mood, helps you concentrate better, and you become more productive.
  5. Take tiny steps – how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…  Make small changes at first.  Leave the office on time one day a week.  Allow yourself one evening a week where you do something for yourself – go for a swim, meet some friends, take up yoga – whatever floats your boat (and maybe that’s it!)  Do it – and do it for yourself.  And give yourself a cut off time – after which you ignore the phone, emails etc.  Unless they’re life and death, they can wait till tomorrow for an answer.

If you’re struggling with your work/life balance, and would like some professional help, give me a call.  Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees and just don’t know where to start.  Let me help you steer your life in a positive direction again by working out what’s really important to you, and where your values lie, so that you can concentrate on the things that you need to give attention to, and phase out the rest.  You deserve it.

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Please accept this blog in the spirit in which it is offered.  I am intending only to give you some light hearted food for thought here – not reams of indigestible facts that you can find elsewhere all over the internet.  If any of the suggestions ring a bell for you – great.  This is a simplified version to give you a taster, so if your problem is more serious, and you feel you need more in-depth professional help, please contact me.  I can help you identify any underlying issues that may be holding you back, and allow you to kick-start the process of moving you forward again.  And of course, if you feel the need to visit your GP please go straight away.  NLP, hypnotherapy and counselling are not a substitute for professional medical advice, but a complementary therapy.  Thank you for reading this, and I hope to meet you soon.