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Why There’s No Such Thing as Work-Life Balance

We considered whether this is the ultimate personal conflict for many Business Leaders: Work too hard, and your relationships and/or your health will suffer. But allow yourself a private life, and you stand to lose your competitive edge. But is this what we should be aiming for?

Is this ‘balance’ that everyone talks about still relevant in today’s working world?

The notion of having a ‘work-life balance’ implies that the two can co-exist in a harmonious mix. And somehow having both is seen as some kind of defining goal – it’s the ‘having it all’. The Nirvana. Something that, to most people, feels out of reach.

1. Forget the balancing act

Instead of pursuing this unattainable balance, let’s switch perspective. It’s possible to re-calibrate our mindset and consider the integration of work and private lives as a moving target.

Because truth be told, our work and personal realities are never the same at any one time. They rarely run a neat parallel course. Naturally, there will always be times when one dimension requires more attention, time or energy than another.

How comfortably all our responsibilities fit together (or not) is going to be completely different for each person and will inevitably change through the passing of time and phases of life. The dynamics and logistics of having a young family change as children grow and their needs evolve, for example. And the same often happens through our career.

If this balance – this goal post – is always moving, then going after it becomes almost immaterial. Because what we consider to be balance today may no longer be working in 6 months’ time.

2. Leverage technology

For most leaders today, the work environment is defined by business streams and people spread out over different locations and time zones. While technology gives us the opportunity to break down distance and time barriers, it also plays a critical part in controlling the intensity of work demands on home life.

With countless tools to support remote collaboration, information sharing, and real-time decision making, use technology to your advantage. Allow it to keep (and not dictate) the pace and help you prioritise. The right tools to save time and allow you to achieve more without having to physically go anywhere.

To ensure that work doesn’t intrude into your private life to the point of causing overwhelm or burnout, put clear boundaries in place. Be firm around what you will do and when (and crucially, when you won’t) and be open to the idea of delegating tasks when you can see that doing them yourself isn’t the best use of your time.

3. Be selfish

Protect the time you carve out for personal activities and looking after yourself. In other words, plan and prioritise holidays, regular exercise, relaxation, mental recharging, and other activities you deem important to you and for you. Put that time in the diary and mark it as busy. Without exceptions.

Here’s what Kate Weiler CEO DRINKmaple says:

“No matter what, make time to work out or meditate. I like to get up early, before the day starts going and other things can interrupt that special shut-off time. If you say you are going to do it later, it always will get pushed off.”

And if it works for a six-time Ironman triathlon finisher, we can confidently take her word for it.

4. Remove artificial barriers

Fact: taking time out from tough work schedules to enjoy private time increases your ability to perform and contribute to your fullest. And yet so many of us, under pressure with both work and home demands, don’t take enough time out.

Traditional approaches to taking holidays can be considered counter-productive. We tend to force time off to fit around other people or the demands of the business, when taking time on your terms or your family’s agenda should surely be the priority. Lead by example. Don’t let work dictate when you take it – the decision is yours.

As a leader, look for ways to break down these outmoded policies in your organisation. Prioritising your private life can (and should) become a part of your firm’s DNA. And if you personally have the power to make it happen, why not change the rules?

For more ideas on how to manage holidays with a stretched professional life, head over to our blog post “What’s your holiday strategy?”.

5. Get outside help

When you’re overworked, it’s easy to be consumed by the dramas of your own world and forget what’s happening outside work. Personal to-do lists stagnate for weeks (months or years even). Priorities keep shifting, and things don’t get done. And yet, there is a distracting background hum created by every one of the things on a private to-do list.

To take away the heat, outsource and delegate the things you’re never getting to. And use any time you free up in meaningful and valuable ways. (Here’s how Consider it Done can help.)

6. Have an accountability buddy

This could be a colleague, friend, or even a coach. An accountability buddy is someone who holds you to the personal commitments you made. Why do you need one? Because they allow you to be disciplined and non-negotiable about being on time for your daughter’s award giving, your son’s concert, or date night with your partner.

Use an accountability buddy to help you remember not to over-commit but be fully present for all of the things that you signed up for.

As an added bonus, there’s a mutual agreement with your buddy. When accountability works both ways, the same commitments become sacrosanct for them too, and by empowering them, you reinforce the same values for yourself.

7. Re-define your ‘have it all’

In the same way that no one size fits all in making work and private lives fit together, there is no single definition of having successfully achieved it. The first step is to identify what ‘having it all’ means to you. Review your values regularly – and decide what’s important to you and where your priorities lie.

Don’t let anyone tell you that ‘you can’t have it all’ – that your successful career means you have to sacrifice special moments with your children, partner, or at home. Define the concept for yourself and actively create a personal and professional support system that allows you to make it all happen.

Success doesn’t happen by chance. If you need any help with making it a reality, feel free to get in touch.

www.consider-it-done.co.uk

#worklifeintegration #havingitall #strategiesforsuccess #intelligentdelegation

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