Work life balance is that delicate seesaw of career and home life, of work involvement and family commitment, teetering on the pivot of your mental well-being.
We all end up facing stressful situations, day in, day out. It’s inevitable. The key – however – is how self-aware we are: how we manage each situation, and how we react to them, so we can keep a sense of proportion in all things.
That all sounds very logical, but so often life doesn’t work out that way. Whether we’re over-tired, over-worked, or under appreciated; so often the stressors that we should be able to shrug off, begin to pile on our metaphorical shoulders – and the demands of daily life overwhelm us. Whether its juggling the kids, meeting a deadline, or trying to do both at the same time, its all to easy to let you work and life load consume you.
Fundamentals to keep work life balance somewhat stable
1. Work really hard to keep work at work
This is obvious, but really hard to put into practice – especially with emails coming through to your phone, the constant buzz of social media, and the whole concept of ‘always being on’. You need to find the off button and use it. Be present in the moment. Make sure your loved ones know that when you’re with them, you’re really focused on them – it’ll pay off in spades, whether they’re adults or kids. Make sure you let your colleagues know when you’re offline. We’ve been trained to respond in real time, but you need to push back a little when you can. Reclaim time for you.
Identify the difference between the important and the urgent, and don’t let the latter overwhelm the really crucial stuff. Make a ‘to do’ list and stick to it. Sometimes even the act of writing it all down can relieve some of the stress. You can also enjoy a sense of achievement in marking things off as you’ve done them.
Avoid the temptation to check up on your social media accounts – its so easy to procrastinate and waste your most productive hours on Facebook or Pinterest. We all do it, but give yourself a social media time limit. And turn off the alerts on your phone – its all too distracting! (Check out our tips on breaking your smartphone addiction too – loads of great ideas over there)
3. Just say no
Once you’ve decided on your priorities, stick to them. Trying to do too much is a great way to build up stress, so don’t be afraid to say no every now and again, and again (if needed). It doesn’t matter if its a social thing or a work thing, more demands on your time just means more pressure, and less time for everything else.
4. Work your networks
Build connections with fellow parents who are in the same position as you when it comes to getting kids to sport, play dates, rehearsals etc. Take turns giving each other’s kids lifts and having kids over. Its not only a great way to build friendships, but it also helps buy you more time to get things done.
Take advantage at every opportunity – if your mother-in-law offers free babysitting, say yes! Even if you only spend the time catching up on last week’s paper and drinking a coffee whiles its hot – its time well spent.
Get your family more involved on the home front too. Allocate age-appropriate chores to the kids and work out a schedule for who is chauffeuring the kids around.
Family planners are great for managing everyone’s time, not just yours. Planning out your week also means you don’t miss anything important. Stick it on the fridge and stick to it.
5. Take care of yourself
Make sure you spend time taking care of yourself, along with everyone else. You’re a happier, stronger and more effective being if you eat well and exercise, and most importantly invest in some quality down-time so you can recharge you batteries once in a while.
Achieving that mystical work life balance is not actually about having a perfect house, perfect kids, a perfect career and a perfect romance. Its about survival. About knowing yourself, your limitations, and your tribe. Its about being able to let go and delegate when appropriate, and having the confidence to ask for help or to say no when necessary.
Its always going to be a juggle, and some balls will be dropped along the way, but all you can do is try your best and not be so hard on yourself.
Good luck with it all!