Tuesday 17 April 2018

What to do when your work/life balance is non-existent

Ahh, the “work/life balance”, a phrase uttered by so many yet achieved by so few. A state of pure equilibrium or a mythical concept entirely? I’ll let you decide. But either way, it’s definitely something that we should be talking about.

With April being stress awareness month (so the internet tells me) I feel it’s a really apt time for me to open up this discussion and just share some thoughts around what a work/life balance means to me and what to do when you’re struggling.

In my opinion, having a successful relationship between your work and personal life means that the balance which exists enables you to mentally, physically and emotionally succeed in both areas without either one becoming negatively impacted. In short, neither one suffers at the expense of the other.

Sounds simple right? Well, with the rise of good ol’ technology, work is pretty much always at our fingertips these days even when we don’t bloody want it there. Try switching off when you know that all of your emails are just one simple click away, I mean yes you might be on holiday but while you’ve got Wi-Fi what’s the real harm in checking? The same thing goes for social media accounts, how many social media managers are there who have company accounts linked to personal phones and religiously check for updates out of hours and during holidays?

Just to clarify, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It certainly isn’t for me in my career at the minute because I enjoy having that responsibility and freedom to access stuff whenever I want, and I know when to call it a day (or at least I try), but I’ve been there when it all gets too much. I’ve had jobs where even coming in early and leaving late I still didn’t feel like I was giving enough, and then lunch breaks go out the window too because everything feels frantic and you’ve not got any time to take a proper break, without feeling guilty anyway. Evenings that used to be spent in the gym or going out for dinner with friends are a thing of the past because the only thing on your agenda when you get home is crashing out and putting some food in the microwave before getting into bed as early as possible because you know you need to start early again tomorrow. While I LOVE being busy and really do thrive on adrenaline in the workplace, burnout can hit you pretty quickly when you start to realise that you really have no time for yourself.

In the nicest possible way, we work to earn money to live a life that we desire. That’s not to say that we can’t have extremely fulfilling and exciting job roles that we are truly passionate about, but it’s important to remember that work should enable you to enrich your life, and if you’re too damn exhausted to even enjoy your hard earned wages at the end of the month then why the hell are you continuing to do this to yourself every day?

I can confidently say that I feel really positive about my work/life balance right now so I thought I would jot down a few of my tips in case you or someone you know might be stuck in a rut. These are just from my own personal experience and I am by no means an expert in time management/work/life or even balance, but you never know it might help someone! Let me know what you think in the comments...

- Find a company whose outlook aligns with your own. If you feel strongly about maintaining some personal time for yourself outside of work hours (and quite rightly so), then working for a company who have a very strong 24/7 work ethos and expect you to be accessible all round the clock just isn’t going to run smoothly. When you’re lucky enough to work for a place that is understanding about employees having a life outside of work, and also values family and personal time themselves, suddenly everything feels easier

- Plan your time and use it wisely. One of the reasons I’m feeling good about things at the minute is because I’m making a conscious effort to get organised and use my time in ways that I know will be beneficial to me. For example, on Sundays I really enjoy putting an hour aside to do lots of cooking and food prep my lunch for the week ahead. I don’t do enough cooking myself and it’s something I want to get better at so I actually find it really enjoyable and I don’t even need to think about my food at work for a whole week! Yes, it may sound a little sad, maybe even a lot sad, but I honestly find it so satisfying.

- Ask for help. This is a big one for me. I honestly think that the benefits of just asking for a hand sometimes are so underrated. Personally, I suck at life admin. You know when you’ve got a parcel you need to send and it’s so easy to do but also it just kind of sits there staring at you for a week niggling away as you continue to say yeah I’ll do it tomorrow but realistically you know it’s gonna be sat there for the next few weeks. Yeah, that.. My mum is a real help to me with things like this and I’m very lucky that she won’t mind just popping into the post office and getting rid of a parcel on her way to shopping or when she’s out and about, and I know not everyone has their mum close by to help out like this but even just sharing your stresses or to-do list with a partner or friend can relieve the burden just the same. They might even offer to help you with something and then it’s another thing crossed off your list.

- Eat well, sleep well, and exercise often. No matter what different directions you’re being pulled in it’s vital that you’re looking after yourself, even more so in testing times as you don’t want your immune system to let you down when you need it most! I usually get about 8 hours of sleep a night (I sleep like a baby and my bed is my favourite place in the world) and I wake up with a fresh fruit and spinach smoothie every single day just cuz it makes me feel good. Takes me about 1 minute to chuck a load of stuff in the blender and if I’m running late then I just pour into a bottle and have it at work. I also think that the power of exercise is vastly underrated in terms of the ability it has to affect your mindset and make you feel more energised, motivated and powerful. I go to a couple of gym classes a week straight after work and although I come out looking like a sweaty red, panting mess I also feel so much stronger and healthier for making the effort. Basically, just make time to look after yourself because you’ll perform better and achieve more in the long run.

Hope these have helped and get in touch if you want any more suggestions! x

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  1. Such an important post. I remember a few years ago, when I was signed off from my 'day job' with anxiety and depression, almost imploding with guilt about a blog event I was supposed to go to the same evening. My doctor told me something similar to what you said above: that being in a position where I was only able to cope with my job and had to put everything else aside was wrong. I had to be able to have a life as well.

    Work-life balance is something I feel extremely strongly about, even as it will always be a work in progress. Being able to drop to four days employed, and one day (ish) self-employed, a week, leaving me with weekends, has been an absolute godsend.

    Lis / last year's girl x

    1. Yes exactly! Unfortunately I think so many people would feel guilt in similar situations, it's almost as if you shouldn't even expect to have your own time or freedom outside of work in some places. So glad that you have now found a set up that works a lot better for you! xx