How to achieve the work-life balance
Like many, I’m no stranger to failing miserably at the work-life balance.
But I’m glad, that after a lot of personal battles, I can say that I’m not that person anymore. I no longer wear the busy badge of honour and although putting my health / wellness was more down to necessity over choice, its a shift I’m happy to have made.
But I remember the burnout stage all too well…
The early starts fuelled by coffee, getting through the day on sugar because I wasn’t taking time to eat proper meals, exhausted in the evenings… maybe time for a quick bite to eat made by my husband and brought to my desk….. before working right up until it was time to go to bed. Going to sleep wired, waking up exhausted… and that was my life.
Maybe that’s your life right now too?
And I thought it was all ok because I was HUSTLING and that all the hard work was worth it. And most of the time, I wasn’t that bothered by it. I was HUNGRY for success.
I’d tell myself that the down-time I’d spend doing amazing things was worth it. But I started to realise that I wasn’t enjoying that down time as much anymore… and ultimately began to hate the business I built. I’d get ill the minute I’d take time off and so that time off was spoiled. I wasn’t able to enjoy the fruits of my labour and I knew something had to change.
It’s so easy for things to spiral out of control when you’re driven, ambitious and working towards incredible things. And you hear everyone around you saying you need to hustle to get to where you want to be – yet no one tells you what’s the “ok amount of hustle? You start to push through the unhappiness, thinking that it’s all part of the rite of passage to success. YES you should make sacrifices. But not long term, and not at the sake of your own health and happiness. Only YOU can set the boundaries though. Your body and mind might be able to tolerate the level that mine couldn’t. But don’t get me wrong, I LOVED what I was doing most of the time… but I realised that it was affecting my fun.
How to become more aware of an imbalance
So the first step for me, was an awareness that something was off. And it’s hard to listen to the signs to begin with.
So Daily journalling can really help with that awareness… asking yourself probing questions like…
“How much did I enjoy my day today?”
“What would I change about my working day?”
Or even as simple as asking yourself… “What one word would you use to describe your day?”. And start listening to yourself and how you feel over time. Are the words BUSY, PRESSURED, STRESSED. Appearing more and more often?
How to take action
The important part is to taking action on those thoughts, because it's harder to break old habits than to create new ones.
So start off with small actions, like finishing work at least 2 hours before you go to sleep – because that quality of sleep will make all the difference to your productivity the day after. Or scheduling in an hour away from your desk to do something you enjoy at least once a week, then twice a week… then every day. After all, you started your business to have a better quality of life so you need to make that a priority.
I’ve found in my own life that meditation is the key to enjoying those moments away from work. A daily practice of just 10 minutes when I feel myself getting busy is key. I’ve learned if I can find peace in those moments of work chaos, I gain back the control.
You need to run your day instead of your day running you. And when you do that you’ll realise that you also have the ability to take back control of your down time. But its not easy, and you’re likely never to get it perfect.
Don't aim for the perfect work-life balance
Instead of thinking of having to find the perfect balance itself, find ways to manage the never ending juggle.
Accepting that the juggle will always be there is far more realistic… because balance is such a difficult thing to achieve. And the energy it takes to manage a battle you’re never likely to win is tiresome.
Don’t put yourself under pressure to achieve perfection… just aim to improve a little bit every month.
So if you accept that the life and business balance is always going to be tipping one way or the other it gets easier to find ways to manage it. You have to find the small wins. Such as scheduling short bursts of time to do what you love – every day. And making your health and wellness your first priority of your day, so that even if your day runs away with itself you’ve taken care of you first. Maybe you’re sitting there thinking “I just don't have time for that” – but remember work expands to fill the time you assign to it. Meaning if you give yourself 6 hours to do a certain number tasks it will take you 6 hours, and if you give yourself 10 hours to do the same number of tasks it will take you 10 hours! That’s parkinson’s law!
So it makes no difference to the rest of your working day if you put YOU first, but it makes a whole lot of difference to your health and wellbeing long term.
And we all know that when we are at our best, we WORK at our best… and then we succeed.
But making this switch means you can maintain success and you’re going to be a much happier and fulfilled version of you as a result.
My top tip
So my best advice is today make a plan for tomorrow – a non-negotiable part of your day devoted to YOU. Whether that’s journalling, meditation, fitness or even reading a book. And do it during a part of your day you would usually never consider giving yourself a minute of down time. Note how you feel after that time to your self. And then repeat every day. And you’ll find over time you’ll find your own way of putting you first, and it doesn’t impact your business. In fact, you’ll have far more success.
Its just a tiny switch of priority to move towards living a far more balanced life. Although, maybe never perfect but that's ok!