“Having it all is the worst. No matter how much we all have and how grateful we are for what we have, no one has it all, because we all make trade-offs every single day, every single minute.” - Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook:
Ms Sandberg raises a valid point – we could argue that “having it all” is not all it’s cracked up to be. Each day brings new challenges, opportunities and issues, and a whole lot of “things” you need to try and make time for. It’s understandable that some days you will have to prioritise and make sacrifices to fit everything in.
What is Work-Life Balance?
This concept is used to describe the way you split your time and effort between work and the other important things in your life. Life is often a delicate balancing act. What with climbing the career ladder, looking after family matters, taking care of yourself and the home, and trying to save a sliver of time for a social life, it’s no wonder the tower topples from time to time. Should you beat yourself up for this? Berate yourself for not being organised/savvy/quick or thoughtful enough? No, of course you shouldn’t – you’re doing your best under difficult circumstances, the least you can do is be kind to yourself!
How Do We Define the Perfect Work-Life Balance?
Your vision of what constitutes work, rest and play might be very different to that of someone else, and that’s why the perfect work-life balance is so difficult to define.
For some it’s about the amount of time they allocate to work activities versus the time spent on their personal life, for others it’s all about their goals and pinpointing what’s important e.g. they may want to allocate time to volunteer for a charity close to their heart or they might be part of a football team and are therefore committed to training and matches on a weekly basis. Or it could be that achieving the right work-life balance is based upon their emotional state and the way in which they can engage in both their work-life and personal-life.
In a nutshell, some can work out the best way to share their time between work and personal business, but others prefer to draw a distinct line between the two, so they can enjoy their personal time without thoughts of work encroaching. A 2014 study on work-life balance policies in the workplace by Diana Benito-Osorio, Cristina Villar and Laura Muñoz-Aguado, explores this in more detail.
Why Is There Sometimes an Imbalance?
Your career can have a direct impact on the rest of your life, especially if you’re working lots of additional hours in a bid to climb the ladder, or if you have a very demanding job e.g. a surgeon with a full list or a lawyer with a heavy caseload. However, many jobs are less demanding, but we still find ourselves being drawn into thinking about things outside of normal working hours.
Some struggle to separate their working life from everything else, and they find themselves mulling over problems and working on projects at home (even when they should be enjoying a spot of family time around the dining table). This means they are less likely to engage fully with friends and family or get involved with activities that are going on outside of work.
How Do I Achieve a Healthy Work-Life Balance?
It’s essential you carve time out for yourself and those who are important to you, but we appreciate this can be easier said than done. There are a few things you can do to help yourself:
You can’t do everything at the same time, so start by identifying tasks that are both urgent and important – these should be right at the top of your hit list.
Delegate and Seek Help
If the ironing pile is looking insurmountable, and you hate ironing or are too busy with other things to tackle it, cut yourself some slack and ship a couple of bags off to your local ironing shop.
Similarly, if you’ve a lot on a work you can enlist some help – not confident with spreadsheets but found yourself with a complex data table to produce? Ask a tech-savvy colleague to lend a hand.
Set Your Work Hours
This can be tricky depending on what you do for a living, but starting mega early every day (and leaving mega late) is not conducive to a functional work-life balance. It might not be possible to leave on time every day, but aim to be away at a reasonable time whenever possible. If you can do it, force a Friday rule whereby you start on time and finish on time (you could even go out for lunch) – the perfect start to your weekend.
Manage Your Time
Organization is key when you’re trying to establish a good work-life balance. Allocate time to deal with certain jobs e.g. check emails once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and deal with them straight away – reply, action, archive or delete. Keep meetings on track and consider conference calls over travel if possible. Keep your desk (and home) as clutter free as possible so you don’t waste precious time searching for things you need.
Establishing Your Own Work-Life Balance
Whether you find it easy to compartmentalise work, rest, and play or find the lines between the three to be a little blurry, it’s essential you find a way to carve out your ideal work-life balance.
Finding a happy medium can help you to feel more content and provide you with a sense of control. You can reduce stress levels, and might even find you are more productive at work.
Perhaps the time has come to stop concerning yourself with having it all, and focus instead on having what you need.