Work Life Balance...it's the holy grail of the modern professional. Home and Work in perfect harmony.
Sounds great doesn't it.... Are you working hard to achieve it?
Now this may sound controversial and even contradictory for a wellbeing coach to say but I believe that the active pursuit of work life balance can actually lead to less wellbeing and motivation not more.
What Does Work Life Balance Really Mean??
Is it about reclaiming time away from the office, re-establishing work boundaries or maybe it's about reducing your commitments outside of work?
Perhaps it's all three. But at it's heart the term "work life balance" seems to suggest that there is to be a trade off, as one area of your life improves the other reduces.
Spend less time in the office and more time at home with family...sounds great. But the reality of this is that in many workplaces the work you didn't finish today is still waiting on your desk when you return and if you have managed to switch off your phone have you been able to switch off that nagging feeling of a job unfinished as you try to be present with your family?
Resetting work boundaries sounds like a good option, but it's key to remember that is a two way conversation and you need agreement with the powers that be. No employer is going to take kindly to ultimatum style boundary setting. Balancing the needs and requirements of the business with your own needs and hope that your employer doesn't think they are too dissimilar can be stressful.
Can you reduce your commitments outside of work? Today as we live longer working women can often find themselves carers for not only the young of the family but also the elderly. Researchers found that working women also spent three times as long on domestic chores, such as cooking, cleaning and washing, as their husbands or partners. It seems that our commitments are extending not reducing.
Part of the problem with all three of these approaches to try to achieve work life balance is that they tend to end up actually creating more guilt, pressure and ultimately a definite lack of wellbeing and motivation.
So What is the Answer?
1. Start Accepting Your Work Life Choices
In these precarious economic times when job security is low and the cost of living is high the pressure is on to keep afloat, there is no denying that. But that doesn't mean that we don't have a choice. We always have a choice. Its just sometimes we don't like the choices we are faced with. Accept the choices you make and you lift the burden of guilt that so often goes with them. Just let that go. Guilt is the most toxic of emotions, its serves no one.
2. Start Defining Success For Yourself
How are you currently measuring your success?
Ask yourself the question "Why am I working in this way"? If you could fast forward in life 5 or 10 years what would you want your legacy to be, what would you really have wanted to achieve? Is your current pattern of working helping or hindering your ability to achieve these things? Is your success intrinsically tied to your work? Or are there other areas of you life you want to be successful in?
3. Start Creating New Healthy Habits
One of the areas of life that so often gets put right to the bottom of the To Do List is personal health. Lack of time and energy are the two biggest reasons we hear at The Body Retreat about why women are not taking care of themselves. But actually again it's a choice about how we use our time.
So imagine you were given the gift of an extra 15/30/60 minutes a day but only on the condition that you used it for yourself...what would you do? So here's the last question...why wait? Why not start today and carve out that time for yourself. Yes you will potentially need to adjust your day, get up a little earlier, say no to a request or invitation but is that so bad, to be able to give yourself the gift of time for you?
4. Use Your Network
No woman is an island and it's pretty insane to think that you have to achieve everything on the ever expanding To Do List alone. It's time to let others help out. Partners, family, friends, colleagues, peers who do you know in your network who could help to lighten the load right now? The most obvious place to start is at home, can you share out household duties with your partner and family or perhaps its time to pay someone to take on some chores.
At the end of the day, this is only my opinion because the there is no one right way to achieve this sense of balance, and wellbeing in your life....only you can decide that for yourself.
So perhaps it is timely for you to spend a little time working out what balance, success and wellbeing look like for you and then own it. You may be amazed at how much balance that simple act of acceptance and ownership can bring.