“It’s all about quality of life and finding a happy balance between work and friends and family.” – Philip Green
According to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), work related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days a year. But the cost to mental health has wider and more severe ramifications. According to a recent MHF survey, the more hours a week you work, the more hours outside work you are likely to spend thinking or worrying about it. Plus, as your weekly hours at work increase, so do your feelings of unhappiness.
As the holidays approach, this brings an even more complicated aspect to work/life balance. As employees, we have a responsibility to our organisation and can’t take time off whenever we want it. If we lead others, we need to balance our own needs with the demands of every team member – tricky if everyone wants time off at the same moment.
For those of us with younger children, we need to arrange childcare while we are at work. And even if you work for yourself, with the Holy Grail of flexibility that can bring, then you still need to work hard to keep your customers happy and continue with business as usual.
What happens if you don’t have balance in your life?
“I have a theory about the human mind. A brain is a lot like a computer. It will only take so many facts, and then it will go on overload and blow up.” – Erma Bombeck
When we feel pulled in all directions, it can feel like everybody gets a say in what you do apart from you. It’s easy to forget that you have a right – and it’s a necessity – to think about what YOU want.
Much like a car which is never serviced, unbalanced lives have a habit of leading to breakdown. Gradually you start getting less and less effective and eventually things just go very wrong. But it doesn’t need to be like this.
What do you need to balance?
“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles.” – Zig Ziglar
Before finding a better work/life balance, it’s important to think about the different areas of your life that need to be in balance. First of all, write them all down in a list like this.
- Work / career
- Relationship with your spouse / partner
- Family and friends
- Physical environment
- Fun and recreation
- Ongoing learning / development/personal growth
Then, think about how satisfied you are in each of these areas, and score them out of 10. You’ll quickly be able to see which are going well, and which need more of your focus.
You don’t need to be a Superhero
“I had such high expectations of myself. I was going to be the best mother, the best housewife, the best entertainer, the best nurse, you know – what it was, I was going to be the best. And I could never live up to my expectations”. – Ann Richards, Former Governor of Texas
Sad that all your scores aren’t 9 or 10? That’s life, I’m afraid. Many of us spend much of our lives trying to be superhuman, and to do everything brilliantly. But I’m here to tell you that it’s time give yourself a break!
Don’t try to be superhuman when it comes to thinking about the balance in your life. It’s unrealistic to try to fix everything at once. So if you scored low in more than half the areas, don’t panic. Just pick the one that jumps out at you as being most unsatisfactory. What one thing can you do THIS WEEK to improve your score in that area?
Let’s say your lowest score is for family and friends. Perhaps you are so busy that you just don’t make enough time to see or speak to important people in your life. In this case, you can make one phone call to someone you haven’t spoken to this year, or make one visit to a parent or other relative that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Or perhaps your low score is for health. What would help to increase your score THIS WEEK? Do you need to make that overdue appointment to see the doctor, dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist …? Do you need to get a bit more active by going out for a walk or run? Or improve your diet by committing to one healthy meal a day?
The first step is the hardest
As someone who has always struggled to maintain a sensible weight, I know from bitter experience that starting a diet is really hard. The prospect of seeing the desired results just seems such a long way off. But once I’ve got the first week out of the way, it’s easier to keep going.
So – on your journey to a more balanced life – just get started! The one thing that you do this week may not seem to make any difference to your work/life balance but it’s the first step.
Next week you can move on to the next low scoring area and do the same there. Or if you were lucky enough to only score low in one area, find a second action for the same area that will push your score even higher.