Getting that balance on the scales…
Let me start by saying that the work/life balance is not something I’ve 100% perfected. However, quite frankly, I don’t think there’s one person out there that can say they have. Life constantly ebbs and flows and what areas in your life are important to you right now, may not be so important in a few months time.
This can be the same for the work/life balance. Work may require some concentration right now (perhaps a big project, a spur in challenging yourself). However, what you want to ensure that your energy is not always going towards your work. You want to make sure that your life is also getting a bit of TLC also.
It’s taken me a long time to ensure that I get this balance just right. For five years ago I put my life on hold for the promise that the effort I was putting into my job would pay off in the end with what I desired. In the end, it took getting eloped and realising that those promises weren’t going to happen. That if I wanted the life that I wanted, I would have to steer that course myself. Remembering that the life I wanted not only focused on my dream career path and that this also included paying attention to my life outside of my job as well.
It’s been almost two years since I changed jobs and since then, my life has gone leaps and bounds. I’ve managed to put in place certain changes that ensure I’m level in both my career and personal life. And sure, the scale sometimes tips slightly more one way than the other. But 9/10 it always meets back up in the middle.
Here are my tips for helping you towards achieving that work/life balance…
CREATE A SCHEDULE THAT WORKS FOR YOU.
You’re the only person who knows how to best manage your time. You also know what takes priority. I love a good schedule but it took me a long time for me to get the balance just right. To ensure you get that perfect schedule for your life, study how you actually manage your time for about two weeks. Is there time being wasted that could be used towards driving your passion project forward? Perhaps you’re dedicating too much time on it and need to give an hour back for some TLC?
I work 9:00 am- 5:00 pm Monday- Friday so I know that’s my fixed time on my job. Commuting two and from work is between 30- 40 minutes depending on traffic. One thing I wanted to ensure during the weekday was that I got some form of exercise in but I was struggling to manage it and keep up with blog posts. However, what I found was that instead of doing two 45 min gym classes, it was easier to do five half-hour gym sessions in the evenings. It means not only do I get more time working out and keeping fit, but I’m not arriving home later and having no time to do anything else. A little bit of me-time and focusing on my health but also giving me an hour in the evenings to work on the blog.
Take your time in adjusting your schedule. The first pancake is not always the best one. The same goes for your schedule. It’s going to take some tweaks, but you’ll get there in the end.
COMMIT TO A SET LEAVING TIME.
Back in my old job, I would literally stay for hours after my shift finished, doing extra work. I thought it made me look important and dedicated to my job. The reality was, it sends a message that I couldn’t finish my work in time and had poor time management skills.
There is a culture of this need to stay and be the last out the door to be dedicated. Thankfully, the tide is turning and quite rightly so. To ensure you get your work/life balance right, set yourself a fixed leaving time and leave at that time. Trust in a colleague to march you out the door when the clock strikes. If your work is not finished, you have two options. A: accept that you have not managed your time correctly that day (we all do it) and find ways to better organise your time. Or B: you’re taking on too much work and you need to speak to your boss. Both are hard chats to have, but the key to ensuring that balance.
This also applies to your personal life. It’s okay to tell your friends that you’re not going to stay out late on your night out. Any decent friend will respect your wishes. And if they don’t. Well, they are not true friends if I’m honest.
COMMIT YOUR LIFE TO A DIARY.
One of my favourite things I’ve heard recently is to ensure that you book a date with yourself, physically. I could not agree with this more. For me, the gym is not something that I’m ever willing to do. It’s not a passion. However, it has to become part of my daily routine if I want to be fit and healthy and live to 100 as I plan. So I physically have to put those five gym sessions into my iCal. It means I get the push from Lee to go when I need it (we share calendars) but also that time is carved out physically and mentally for me to know where I need to be. It’s a simple but easy and effective trick.
So if there’s something that’s important to you, whether it be a coffee date with a friend or a bubble bath and mask time, put it in your calendar. You’ll also realise that you do have the time to slot in these dates with yourself and are more likely to commit to then rather than flake for more ‘important’ things.
LEARNING TO SAY NO.
No is such a powerful word that we are taught from an early stage is wrong. Saying no is not nice and selfish. And yes, no can be selfish but in a good way. There are months when I feel like my life is constant bookings of friend dates, blog events, etc. And for the longest time, I would just make excuses. This is because I am a people pleaser and hate letting friends or family down. However, what I’ve learnt is that those who love me always respect the no when given a valid reason. So if I’m saying no to brunch because I just need some me-time after a long week of work, my friends totally respect that. We just book in for another time.
Same with work, it’s okay to say no if it’s something you cannot do or don’t think you have the time to do. The trick with work is again to explain why and if you can, offer a solution. So saying to your manager ‘no, I can’t do this project because you’ve already given me X, Y and Z, but perhaps Jenny can do it or you can help me prioritise the tasks?’ is not going to end with your head rolling across the office floor. Any decent manager is either going to take up your offer going to Jenny or sit down with you and help with reorganising your priorities to the other tasks.
ASKING FOR HELP.
The most important tip I can give. Along the lines of the word no, asking for help is seen as a negative. We’re taught to just power through and work it out on our own. And in some ways, yes, it’s good for us. However, in most cases, it can trap us in a box of feeling overwhelmed and we can’t prise the lid off.
I’m the worst for asking for help. But slowly but surely, I’ve stretched out that helpline and every single time, someone has grabbed it and pulled me to shore. What I have found is not only are people incredibly nice and giving with their time, but connections are strengthened and my work is stronger. Colleagues are also more likely to ask you for help in their times of need, meaning everyone is a winner.
As with the theme of this post, it’s also important to ask for help in your personal life. Do you have a friend who’s amazing at organising? Get them over with the promise of cups of tea and cake to sort out some of those organising tasks you’ve been putting off. Trust me, they will jump at the chance to help. When my Granddad passed away last December, I found it hard to cope with the grief and getting through the emotions (I don’t like feeling sad). But by reaching out to my besties and asking for help, I found that just by them popping over for a chat or going out to brunch to take my mind off it was more than enough to get me through. So reach out and ask, because there will be someone in your life willing to jump in and help.
What are your top tips for the work/life balance?