There is only so much juggling you can do – The importance of work-life balance
There is a lot to be said for something as simple as taking some time now and again to switch off. Perhaps a long weekend where we laze around at a hotel spa doing not very much at all, or maybe a week on the beach somewhere is more your style. We read a few books, drink a few glasses of wine perhaps, watch the world go by and above all, forget work and just relax.
A balanced life
It’s great to get a break, but don’t allow yourself to be fooled into thinking that this is all you need to maintain a healthy work-life balance because it simply isn’t. It is a much-needed rest, but work-life balance is more than a few days off.
When we talk about having a balanced life, we are basically saying that no part of our world is swamping the other. By far the most common imbalance is working too hard and not leaving enough time for family – although anyone who has ever had to manage an employee where their home life is swamping work will tell you, it is just as destructive the other way around.
Everything in harmony
Essentially work-life balance is exactly what it sounds like; it is the process of getting the demands of work, family and leisure in harmony. Each of them should have a place in your life that leads to a general sense that things are working. Your world should be meshing together and ticking over like a well-oiled machine.
How many of you just thought ‘Yeah, right!’?
The concept of balance is easy, but actually achieving it isn’t. Maintaining balance when one child is suddenly off school ill, you have an important work event, the car won’t start, it’s bucketing down and you feel a cold coming on, is pretty much off the table right there and then, but it will pass so it is not too much of a problem. Where the issues can start is when work starts to take over. This happens very easily and is even easier now because things like smart phones mean we tend to carry the workload around with us. The more connected we become, the less we can switch off from work.
Is it just a pipe dream?
So is work-life balance something we should just see as an impossible pipe dream? No, it certainly is not because some very serious issues develop when it is not there. Much like a juggler trying to keep multiple balls in the air at once, everything is fine as long as it is all working well. Introduce another ball, and they may cope for a while but keep introducing more and more, and eventually they all come crashing down. This is what happens when you allow your work-life balance to get out of sync. It isn’t just the one area that suffers, they all do. Too many work demands and we lose time with family and have less space for the leisure activities that help us relax. Without them, stress levels go up, and that will eventually take a toll on your health. In fact, over 10 million workdays a year are lost to stress-related illness.
Try this quick exercise
One simple way of either looking at your balance or getting to a stage where it is back in some semblance of order is to do the following quick exercise. From there you can work on strategies to reach a balanced (or at least semi-balanced and acceptable) life.
- Write down what would be the ideal balance in life for you, but be realistic
- Make a list of where you are not achieving your goals
- Now list ways you could achieve them
Don’t lose sight
It is very important that we all know where we are going, and what it is we want, or we cannot attain it. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of your work-life balance being out of kilter is that you tend to lose sight of the very things you actually go to work for. A career, your family and friends, and some leisure time just for you, are not things that can be swapped one for the other. All three are important to keep yourself in good working order