Work/life balance – a pipe dream or achievable?

All of us have heard this term, all of us want to achieve it, however very few do!

What does work/life balance actually mean? If we strip back the jargon and psycho babble, we are really talking about managing stress in such a way that we feel we are in control.

Where is all this stress coming from? Often work, sometimes from our out of work activities (kids, their schooling) or from ‘duties’ you feel you have from volunteering.

I have found that giving yourself more downtime, having more holidays or exercising more will give temporary relief from stress, however the moment your nose is back to the grind stone, the stress returns. So what can we do to get a better balance?

Prioritise what you want
What is it that you really want to do? What do you really desire? Reduce or eliminate stress by closing the gap between what you actually do and what you want to do. Easier said than done, however start by recognising where your priorities really lie and making sure that you behave in line with those priorities. Sometimes it is as easy as diarising your life – if you want to exercise twice a week, book time in your diary (write it in pen not pencil) and stick to it!

Your diary can be your solution
Use your diary for work as well as personal activities and make sure that you synchronise it with your significant other. If they need to be at a work dinner, you might need to look after the kids – so diarise it. Include everything you can think of, from exercise to going out for drinks and seeing friends, and book things in early. Most of us make 6 monthly appointments to see the dentist, get the car serviced or the cat de-flea-d, book them in the diary, so there are no last minute surprises (and the accompanying stress..).

Look at the output, not the time spent
Measure your success in goals and objectives rather than the hours you put in. Those who think they have had a good day because they have spent hours doing something will be less fulfilled than those that achieve specific goals. Setting goal based targets rather than time spent also motivates people to find more efficient ways of getting things done so they can do them quicker.

Keeping up with the Jones’
We live in a society where we constantly compare ourselves to others – who has a new car or nicer house, whose kids achieve better results at school. Peer pressure, peer pressure. Don’t let anyone else decide what you should be achieving. Focus on achieving your own objectives in your career, your work and your private life.

Leave some space to just ‘be’
To obtain work/life balance doesn’t mean both sides of the equation need to be packed with activity. Achieving good work/life balance means doing both in moderation and minimising the stress in your life. Activities outside of the workplace can be equally stressful, especially if you feel duty-bound by them.

If you want to change your workaholic tendencies, it will require a bit of effort, and letting go of some things. But the benefits could be far reaching, including freeing up some time to progress your career.