It’s time to stop looking for a work life balance
I’ve been thinking a lot about Work Life Balance. A concept that many of us seem to be chasing and yet few feel they manage to achieve. A concept that is also so closely aligned to flexible working. As I reflect over the many clients that have come struggling with the issue of balance I notice that many of them deemed it a myth. That after years of struggling to achieve it they simply believed that it did not exist. A theory which I challenged with each of them. Because I believe that we have simply been looking in the wrong places and for the wrong thing.
Work life balance
The term itself is hugely misleading.
First of all it bemuses me that we can distinguish work from life? That we can see it as separate. Surely we are all building and living lives and a part of this rich, colourful, crazy rollercoaster ride are our work choices. To suggest even for one moment that work is not a part of life, of living, is part of the problem. It starts to set markers in our brains perhaps that whilst we are working we are not living. That we are missing out. That we need to get back to the real stuff. That we should be somewhere else. When actually we can meet wonderful people, experience things that excite and stretch us and feel accomplishment, pride and a sense of purpose if we make the right choices.
The second deception is the notion of balance. A word that conjures up thoughts of equilibrium, of fairness, of equal amounts. Perhaps our subconscious mind sees a seesaw or weighing scales, perfectly balanced with equal amounts of work stuff on one side and life stuff on the other. Or perhaps we see very separate buckets of tasks and experiences that never mix or run into each other, perfectly contained. No wonder we feel so far away from this utopia when we compare it to real life. And yet if we change the language a little and tweak the mental imagery then we can quite quickly feel differently about what we are already achieving.
Because surely this is not about balance. It is about integrating all the different aspects of our life. Blending the parts in a way that serves us. Being agile with our time so that we give and get the best out of it whether we are at home or in a workplace.
For me this concept of blending does three things.
It accepts that there will be movement. That sometimes work will need more of our time and other times family or friends will and that is natural. That we can adapt to these peaks and troughs without feeling guilty or as if we are failing because they are not equal.
It allows us to stop compartmentalising and gives us permission to see the whole picture. To blur the edges between our different roles in order to make the best of the time we have. All too often we see shaming of the parent standing in the park on their phone whilst their child plays. But if they are able to be in the park enjoying time together, or make the school sports day, rather than tied up in a meeting ’til 6pm then is that 10 minute call not a great example of blending?
Personally, I choose to work whilst I’m at the hairdressers. If I apply the old thinking of work life balance then I could argue that not being able to just have that as me time is work getting in the way of life. But when I think of it as blending, there is no compromise, just a great way to satisfy two parts of my life together – win win! And if you don’t like this term then Jeff Bezos has another option for you. He refers to work-life harmony saying “I prefer the word ‘harmony’ to the word ‘balance’ because balance tends to imply a strict tradeoff.”
I also remind clients that at the end of the day this all comes down to choices. What we are looking to achieve (inherent in the original term) is a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in our lives. A sense that we have used our time well and that we have prioritised the people and things that are important to us. Many of us can be blinkered when it comes to recognising the choices that we are already making. How often I hear a client bemoan the fact that evenings are spent on the laptop forgetting the choice they made to be there for after school time with the kids. If both working and that family time are important then they have blended beautifully and used their time cleverly. The fall-guy becomes the evening you didn’t get watching TV on the sofa. Back to choices. What do you want and how can you use your time to get it?
Things to check
If you’re reading this and still not feeling that you’re close to where you want to be then its worth a quick check in on the following:
Have you actually identified how you want to be spending your time, intentionally and on purpose? Doing this allows you to start making more conscious choices and creating boundaries. Plus if you know what you are striving for then you’ll know when you achieve it!
Are you using the time you do have wisely or are you getting distracted (social media rabbit hole anyone?!) or interrupted (WhatsApps and emails are a killer for this). Being honest about the focus you apply to different pockets of time can gain you masses back to play with
How much of your guilt or dissatisfaction comes from the stories your inner voice is telling you? Do you need to change the self-talk and give yourself a break?
How good are you at saying no? Each of us have 24 hours in a day. The people who seem to have it nailed are usually the ones who have worked out that every time you say yes to someone else you are essentially saying no to yourself so be purposeful about where you commit your time
Have you accepted life is chaotic, messy, inconsiderate, unpredictable and demanding much of the time. Or are you still waiting for it all calm down to be happy? Embracing the crazy is a huge step towards the inner calm we ultimately seek
And finally, as you continue the wonderful juggle that we call life, I want to leave you with one of my favourite concepts, courtesy of Gary Keller
Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered”
So there we go, back to not all things being equal again.
Happy blending – it really is possible.
Bio – Emma Jefferys
Emma is our That Works For Me Business Coach. Having spent over 20 years devising marketing and growth strategies for big brands Emma then became a Professional Coach and Licensed Practitioner of NLP so that she can now help the business owners grow as much as their business. She says ‘so many business owners are so entrenched in the business that they find it hard to step out to work on it. My role as coach is to hold that space for them, to get them to see their business with fresh eyes, to revaluate where they are against their goals, to understand where there are blocks, to re-energise and importantly to create strategies and action that result in meaningful change’’. Emma’s direct yet warm approach means she’s fun to do business with but won’t let you off the hook – accountability is everything!
Book a free coaching session with Emma now when you register with That Works For Me