Work-life balance is about finding and establishing the right prioritisation between our work and non-work responsibilities and activities. Too often, I hear people getting frustrated because they can’t get equal balance. For them, it is too unpredictable as one week it is all work while the next week they get overwhelmed with family responsibilities. They are searching for an unachievable ‘equal’ balance.
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Workplace culture feeds into this. In the UK, workplace cultures are becoming more demanding and seem to be asking us for more time and commitment. Even when the company we work for does not explicitly request this. In fact, most will have very clear work-life balance and well-being at work policies.
However, workplace culture aside, we are all susceptible to slipping into the poor work-life balance trap. We frequently lose sight of the important things in life like family, friends, loved ones, exercise and socialising.
The one thing we need to remember is that work-life balance is not about achieving equal time for both work and non-work activities. It is about avoiding spending too many hours working and making sure there are high quality leisure and social activities to help us relax and unwind.
Work-Life Balance: its not easy
As a business owner, I have had to be particularly careful about finding the right work-life balance and committing to it. It is not easy. There are so many things calling for our attention with devices pinging as messages come through, social media, emails to check/compose etc. Suddenly, the evening has slipped away, the children are in bed and there is little time left for meaningful conversation with my wife.
My Personal Approach to Finding Work-Life Balance
“On their deathbed, no-one ever said ‘I wish I spent more time at the office’”
This statement was said to me in a conversation one day. As a husband and father to four beautiful, fun and very interesting daughters, it struck a chord. Our children are all at wonderful stages in life and are full of stories, hugs and laughs. I needed to spend more time with these wonderful people and, since I found my balance, my life has been richer and more fulfilling.
Here are some of the things I personally do for work-life balance:
This one is important. Just getting up early while the rest of the house and neighbourhood is still asleep sets me up for the day. I have had time for a relaxed breakfast and to prepare for the working day. I also get started work early. When the evening time arrives, I can be relaxed about closing down work for the day – I will be up and at it again early tomorrow.
Stagger children’s bedtimes
We stumbled upon this one recently. Until then, all our children went to bed at the same time and we split the bedtime duties, with me doing weekends. The problem with this arrangement was midweek. When everyone disappeared upstairs my laptop went on.
Now, we stagger bedtimes starting with the youngest. This stretches bedtimes out slightly but also gives me time to relax with my children each evening. We share supper and chat. When our eldest daughter goes to bed, the evening has slipped on and it seems late to be opening my laptop. Because I start early, I can relax about that knowing I will have a head start on the day tomorrow.
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Feed the ducks
An obvious one here – everyone should feed ducks as a work-life balance strategy!! Only joking of course. This one is about having time in your weekly schedule to do fun things with your family, friends and loved ones. For me, this usually involves family activities. It doesn’t matter what it is, just enjoy something with people who are close to you.
Time to go solo and breathe in my surroundings
We happen to live in a beautiful rural area with mountains on our doorstep. A good brisk walk alone does wonders for the mind and body. Walking in the mountains helps me exercise, take in beautiful scenery, and refresh my mind away from the pressures of business. The world is a very different place sipping hot coffee from a flask on a mountain peak.
Family outdoor time (whatever the weather)
For us, it is great just to get outdoors whatever the weather. Get away from screens and temptation to check my emails and social media. So, we make family use of the beautiful area we live and make sure we take our children to the forest parks, mountains and beaches close to us (all within 12 miles so there are no excuses). We tend not to get extreme weather, so raincoats, warm clothes and wellingtons are usually all we need.
Definite and non-negotiable ‘no work, no device’ day
Finally, this usually coincides with family outdoor time. One day each weekend is a defined ‘no work, no device’ day. My smartphone is set aside and work related conversation is off the agenda (I will get told off by our children if I break the rule!) We spend time as a family doing fun activities and all is well with the world.
These are just some changes I personally made to my own life in order to restore work-life balance. It is not an even split of time and I still work hard. These are examples of changes we can all make.
Remember, we are all human. Some weeks I do get this wrong and allow work to overtake my best intentions. It happens. The key thing is not to be too downhearted about this, realise work-life balance has slipped and aim to get back on track.
The big difference for me as a result of improving my work-life balance is clarity of mind, feeling rested and quality of work.