Why Your Definition of Work-Life Balance is Uniquely You (And The Strategies to Achieve It)
If you’ve ever set yourself a goal, thrown all your energy into achieving it, only to arrive at the goalposts feeling exhausted and completely underwhelmed… you know what it’s like not to have a work-life balance.
Most of us think of work-life balance as another thing to add to our to-do list. But it’s actually far more fluid than that. As we grow and evolve, our work-life balance does too. What we need changes, and so do the strategies we use to achieve it.
Yet we’ll still ask our friends what they’re doing. We’ll still browse the internet looking for the magic checklist that’ll give us the answer to our work-life balance woes.
But, what we actually need to do is find our own version of work-life balance. A version that’s so uniquely you, nobody can copy it. Because it’s 100% your own.
The work-life balance definition
Work-life balance is how you divide your time between work and “life”, or leisure activities. Ideally, these two areas should sit in equilibrium, giving you adequate time to invest in each.
However, rather than thinking of work-life balance as the time you spend in each area of your life, I like to look at it as how you divide your energy between them.
If you’re spending all your time at work but your mental energy is always at home, worrying about your significant other, your children and everything that’s going on in your house? You’re going to feel exhausted and totally out of balance.
So, when you’re reviewing your work-life balance, try to ask yourself “where is the bulk of my energy going?”. And remember, this can change from year to year.
Why is your work-life balance important?
A good work-life balance is what enables you to feel consistently inspired, energised and motivated in all aspects of your life. A bad work-life balance? That can cause stress, overwhelm and burnout. All of which can lead to anxiety and mental health challenges.
It’s important to remember that every area of your life needs a healthy dose of attention for it to thrive. Otherwise… you can feel the need to make a drastic change.
I see this with my private coaching clients, who come to me thinking they need a major life overhaul. But, actually, what they often end up doing is simply overhauling their work-life balance. It was simply the fact that everything felt so out of sync that had them thinking about that big career change!
Work-life balance and the pandemic
Of course, work-life balance has never been more important than it is today. Before the pandemic, work-life balance was typically a case of leaving work and “switching” into parent or spouse mode upon arriving home.
But now? That’s simply not possible. When you’re working from home, the boundaries are far more blurred. In fact, it’s become so challenging that the UK’s NHS has even created a work from home guide to help with mental health challenges. We all need to think strategically about how to achieve our own version of work-life balance.
How to achieve work-life balance
Before you can start planning how to achieve your work-life balance, you need to get clarity on what a good work-life balance looks and feels like for you.
So how do you do that? The Wheel of Life is about to become your best friend! I use this exercise with almost every client. Here’s a brief overview.
The idea behind the Wheel of Life is to take a bird’s eye view of your life to see what’s looking out of sync. On a blank piece of paper, draw a circle with eight segments. In those eight segments, write down the areas of your life that are most important to you from the list below:
Fun & Leisure
Travel & Adventure
Then, rate each of those areas out of 10 based on how you feel about them right now. Draw a line to represent your rating on the wheel, with the higher scores going nearer the edge of the circle, as shown below:
Take a look at how balanced the wheel is currently looking. Are some areas scoring lower than others? This is your signal that something is out of balance.
Work-life balance strategies to get you back on track
Now that you know which areas of your life need a little more attention, you can use these work-life balance strategies to help you get back on track.
Remember, you don’t have to use them all! Simply choose 2-3 work-life balance strategies that you feel will help you find balance in your specific area. Once you’ve given them a try, you can come back to this list and choose another strategy to experiment with.
- Set clear work hours and days, so you know when you’re “on” and when you’re “off”
- If you can, physically close the door on your work at the end of the day to mark your transition into personal time
- Book in time to hang out with friends and family, so that you actually do it and don’t tell yourself “I’m too busy to socialise”. Remember, your brain needs some time to rest
- Write down your boundaries, both work and personal, and keep them somewhere you’ll see every day
- Find a manageable exercise routine to let out some of that excess energy and tension
- Delegate the tasks that you don’t excel at to other people (knowing your weaknesses is just as important as knowing your strengths)
- Create a support network of people you can relate to, so you can learn and grow together. This could be work-related, a parenting group or anything else that’ll help
- Learn when and where you work best, so you can use your time and energy as productively as possible
- Ask for help when you need it, whether it’s from your spouse, a friend or a coach
- Be mindful of how you spend your time, is it having a real impact or can you cut some tasks out? Try using a time tracker like Toggl to see where your energy is going
- Practice saying “no” to things that don’t serve you
- Find hobbies that help you switch off from work, ideally away from screens and digital devices
- Take vacations and book them into your diary just like you do your meetings
- Get outside every day (even if you don’t think you have the time)
This list of work-life balance strategies isn’t exhaustive, so feel free to experiment and add on your own as you find your own version of work-life balance.
Remember, finding balance is something you need to practice. So try to see work-life balance as a constant process, rather than something to achieve just the once.
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