The term ‘work-life balance’ has become overused and I often cringe when I hear it thrown around. It’s generally used by those who seek to place the different elements of their lives into silos or boxes. I’m not sure that’s possible, or even desirable, in our current society. We bring our whole self to work and it is very difficult to separate all the elements of our lives and our persona.
Work-life balance also implies there needs to be a trade-off; that if we adjust one side of the lever we lose out on the other side.
For me it’s more about knowing your values and priorities, then setting boundaries to ensure time allocated to those priorities is protected. There will be a bit of give and take but it’s important to ensure you are not ‘giving’ too often or too much on those high priority activities. And your blend of life activities will naturally be different to another person’s, just as our values and priorities differ and continue to evolve through different life stages.
I’ll just briefly mention the enabling and intrusive nature of technological advances. The ability, desire or requirement to be ‘always on’ has changed the way we view work time compared to personal time.
Many of us love the flexibility technology brings to the way we work.
We may choose to leave the office at 3 pm, collect up the kids and head home for the rituals of homework, dinner, baths and bed, then log back in when it suits us to follow up on emails, etc. Or we may choose to take care of a few personal tasks while at work, knowing we are happy to stay in the office a little later that day. When this is our choice and the way we prefer to structure our days, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Isn’t that the whole goal of flexible working?
So how do you find your blend when things feel like they are out of control and the pressure of keeping all the balls in the air is too much?
About those balls – drop some! Not the ones that are important to you of course but sometimes we find ourselves working towards other people’s priorities and undertaking irrelevant tasks when our time should be spent on our own stuff. Spend some time thinking about what is really important to you. When you look back over your week, your month, your life, what don’t you want to have missed and where do you want to have spent your time? Reflecting on your personal goals around work, family, friends, wellness, community and spirituality will enable you to identify your priorities. Your values and goals will help you to remove the white noise and understand where your time needs to be spent.
If you have gone through this process, or if you already had a pretty good handle on it, you then need to ensure you are maintaining boundaries.
If your goal is to leave at 3 pm you need to stick to it. Educate your team and your clients so that they understand why this is your priority. If you plan to spend an hour during your work day on your studies, then let people know you don’t want to be disturbed during this time and why. Look at the best way to structure your role and your tasks to maintain your boundaries and protect your priorities. Do you need to delegate some tasks or work more closely with a colleague so you can jointly support each other’s flexibility goals? Where do you have the flexibility to ensure focus on your priorities?
I feel we should be considering a personalised blend of work-life priorities, not a one size fits all work-life balance. Our own special blend of secret herbs and spices. Only you know what’s important to you and how you prefer to blend all areas for a successful, fulfilling life.
After all, they want the best person for the job. You just have to convince them that person is you!
About Caroline McGuire
Caroline is a qualified and certified human resources specialist and coach, with a broad background across industries and organisations. She brings her extensive experience in the areas of coaching, mentoring and human resources to your unique situation.
Caroline approaches coaching from a neuroscience perspective and incorporates a range of coaching methodologies.
FlexCareers offers a free 30-min chemistry session with our coaches. You can connect with Caroline here.