18-Dec-2018

How to find the perfect work-life balance

How to find the perfect work-life balance

The quest for the perfect work-life balance is often an elusive one. Many of us struggle in finding the right balance between a rewarding career and a meaningful personal life. The pressures of the modern-day lead many to think that shackling yourself to your office desk is what is required to bring purpose to one’s life, but doing this at the expense of a family and social life is not the path to take. If you feel like you are working too much, perhaps you might like to learn how you can achieve the perfect work-life balance. Discover below some top tips for creating the right equilibrium between the two, so that you can thrive in your rewarding airport sector job and in other top industries.

Look at the bigger picture

free person

For those in pursuit of a better work-life balance, it can truly help to look outside yourself and to try and see the bigger picture. This is the advice of Nick Hatter, a life coach who has expertise in helping clients obtain a harmonious work-life balance. Speaking to us about the subject, Nick advises:

“Practice spirituality daily and look at the bigger picture of life. By spirituality, I do not necessarily mean religion, but perhaps faith in something larger than yourself. Often times those with workaholism are operating out of fear: fear of being fired, fear of being 'found out', fear of financial insecurity.

Research shows that spiritual practice is linked with lower alcohol and drug abuse rates, and even positively affecting heart disease and blood pressure. The prominent Psychiatrist Carl Jung also said that when people expand themselves spiritually, often their neurosis disappears. Furthermore, one of the most common dying regrets is ‘I wish I hadn't worked so hard’. Make sure this isn't one of yours!”

Know when enough is enough

stressed woman

Kate Brodock from Women 2.0, a site dedicated to helping women enjoy rewarding and healthy careers, is open about her past troubles balancing work and personal life. Kate was able to get to a better place, however, and puts it down to realising that more work doesn’t necessarily mean better results:

“I'm a recovering workaholic. For me, the very first thing I had to do was realize that I didn't need to be working so much to be successful, and that, even more importantly, I was probably not working to my best potential when I wasn't allowing myself to break, rest, and give myself personal time.

“Only after I was able to understand this could I start on breaking my habits and stepping away. If you try to have a healthy work-life balance without truly understanding why it's healthy, it isn't going to work. I'm still working on it to be sure, but I'm significantly happier in both my work and personal lives.”

Nick Hatter also advises how important it is to know the point at which when you will see diminishing returns on your job performance so that you can figure out when there is simply no point depriving yourself of social and family life. He explains that there is a stage where you have worked too much, and your productivity will decrease:

“In our capitalistic culture, it can be easy to fall into the trap of ‘more is more’. But according to a study published by John Pencavel of Stanford University, output begins to drop after 50 hours of work per week and falls sharply after 55 hours per week.”

Figure out your priorities in life

Woman with child on beach

One of the keys to obtaining a finely tuned work-life balance is first deciding what it is that you want from life. What are your priorities? Are you entirely career minded? Do you want to start a family? Are you already a parent and want to spend more time at home? If you can figure out your own personal values hierarchy, you can then take the requisite action in manifesting your goals into reality.

Emily from the blog Happy Working Mum understands full well the importance of a healthy work-life balance and deems figuring out your priorities as a big step in the right direction: “Spending too many hours at the office can impact every area of your life; partners can feel unappreciated, healthy eating can give way to fast food and takeaways, getting home late makes exercise infrequent and the result can mean you are tired, sluggish and stressed.

“In contrast, someone who prioritises balance can enjoy feeling energised, fulfilled, creative and present. Knowing what’s important in your life (e.g. relationships, your health or work) and giving them an appropriate share of your time and energy, requires making choices and creating boundaries. Only you can decide what is truly important in your life and it may take some trial and error. However, any choice in a direction is better than drifting or allowing others to steer your ship.”

Life Coach Directory member Chris Cooper also advises the importance of identifying what’s important to you, telling us that it is essential for those wanting to achieve the right balance in life: “A good place to start is to come up with a list of the six most important areas of your life. This may include things like your career, family, friends, social life and your health. Rate each area out of '10' based on how satisfied you are right now. Notice what scores well and what doesn’t - and how this makes you feel. Recognising there is a problem is the first step to making changes.

“It’s really important that we get the balance right between work and all the other things we want to do with our time. Problems like stress or burnout often come up for people who spend too much time working, and don’t invest enough time elsewhere.”

Determine what’s right for you and your children

Emily, being a mum who has had to figure her own way around this issue, as well as being someone who has helped others on the path to balance, says that mothers must figure out what is the right move for them when balancing raising their children with having a career:

“Becoming a parent changes everything. Not only are you 100% responsible for another human being but the introduction of this new life changes the dynamics of your life, your perspective and your priorities. You may have decided to go back to work within six months and as the time approaches, feel panicked.

“Perhaps you decided to take a year off and then discovered you were feeling unfulfilled and craving work. There is no right or wrong, only what’s right for you. Listen to your heart, listen to your gut and then take action. Whatever feels right, is right, for you and your baby.”

Master time management

clock

Being able to organise your time and manage the resources you have available to you is essential to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. If you are disorganised and are unable to structure your day effectively, your workload will end up spilling into the evenings and weekends, thusly impacting your personal life. Joe Wedgwood at The Happiness Index – a platform that allows businesses to measure employee satisfaction – understands the importance of time management and has offered some top tips on mastering the art:

“Effective time management is a mixture of good behaviours and a learnable skill. Success in this area requires a balance of decisiveness, discipline and determination. Here at The Happiness Index we provide internal training on time-management, here are some of our learnings:

  • “Develop a positive addiction to getting important things done. Diary management tools like Trello and Asana will really help in this area. They create accountability for all tasks, especially when your diary is shared with the rest of the team. They also allow you to cross off tasks and gain an overwhelming sense of satisfaction!

  • “Set clear priorities. Recognising the difference between urgent and important is a key skill. It requires common sense and confidence. Just because someone clicks urgent when they email you doesn’t mean it’s urgent. By prioritising the most important tasks and being strict with your time - you and your people will work smarter and more effectively.

  • “Do the most important tasks first… even if they’re the most difficult! There’s a great book by Brian Tracy calledEat That Frog’ which is all about how you can stop procrastinating and just get the most difficult tasks done. Put your headphones in, focus on the task at hand and get yourself into ‘The Zone’.
  • “Work until completion. Here it is all about being action-orientated. You’ve done all the planning and prioritising, now is the time to get it done. We all lose focus, start conversations and switch between tasks. The problem is this breaks concentration and slows us down. If you need to take yourself away from people or switch off emails for an hour, then do it!”

Additionally, life coach Chris Cooper advises the following for those struggling with time management: “Spend a few minutes each week reflecting on what you most want to achieve in the next 7 days. This will help you to work out where to focus your energies first. From this, come up with a list of 3-4 things, which you categorise as your ‘most important tasks’. Schedule some time in your calendar for each one and don’t let other things that come up get in your way. Keep in mind that the things which shout loudest for your attention often aren’t the most important.”

Get your sleep

sleeping woman

Getting the appropriate amount of sleep is also essential in helping you to obtain a healthy work-life balance. Some may think that depriving yourself of time in bed in exchange for more office hours will get you further in life but, as Nick Hatter explains, this isn’t necessarily the case:

“Moderate sleep deprivation produces cognitive impairments equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication according to one study. If you are awake and alert, you will work much more effectively and productively. An extra hour of sleep is better than an extra hour of work. If you are having sleep difficulties, it may be worth speaking to your GP.”

Set boundaries

Nick’s next piece of advice for obtaining better work-life balance is in the realm of setting boundaries. Nick advises: “Stop being a people pleaser. If someone gives you extra work, try asking them ‘what would you like me to de-prioritise to focus on this?’ Every time you say ‘yes’, you're saying ‘no’ to something else, e.g. time with the family, time for yourself, etc.”

As Nick explains, learning to say no, or rather, not saying yes to everything can be a wonderful skill to master in life. Saying yes to everything will put you in an impossible situation as you are only one person and taking on more than you can handle can have detrimental effects not just on your work life but on your personal happiness.

Kate from Women 2.0 also says that being comfortable with putting work aside is vital for all the mothers out there: “One thing that really helped me is understanding how to be efficient and effective while working so that I would feel more comfortable walking away. This will partially depend on your work style, but I use tactics like time blocking, checking emails only three times a day (usually!), scheduling meetings only in certain time blocks, allowing large blocks of time for work.

“I also do goal-setting and prioritizing and, very importantly, learning when to say no according to those goals. If you have a significant other or friend who can hold you accountable for walking away, that also really helps.”

Consider working with a life coach

man in suit

Sometimes it’s hard to take a step back and change all that needs changing in our own lives. We are so close to the problem that the real issues impacting our work-life balance can become truly obfuscated. Therefore, it is never a bad idea to work with an independent third party, someone like a life coach who has expertise on the subject and who can help you to identify and address the specific areas of concern.

Life coach Nick Hatter says: “Studies show accountability appointments with someone you commit to provides up to 95% chance of achieving a goal. It can be very hard to change by yourselves and it’s easy to get caught up in the echo chamber of your mind. Having a coach can keep you accountable and challenge your thinking around work-life balance.”

Carve out personal time each day

If you are struggling to find time to spend with family or pursue the things you enjoy out of work, it may because you haven’t been strict and organised enough with your time. Instead of just hoping free time will appear and doing things with friends and family when you get the chance, try planning out space each day, at a specific time to do certain things.

For example, ‘I will sit down for dinner with my family each day between 6 pm and 7 pm’, ‘I will go to the gym at X o’clock’ etc. By committing yourself to plans like this and pushing yourself to follow through, you can help create that personal time that is so important to your health.

Advice for employers

office staff

As the Happiness Index is all about helping employers cultivate an enjoyable and happy work environment, Joe also has some top advice to offer on this front:

“Work-life balance is something that all businesses are taking more and more seriously. Business leaders are seeing the value in their workforce enjoying a healthy balance and never considering work as a chore! For organisations that want their people (and profits) to thrive, here are some strategies to improve work-life balance:

  • “Your people are your best resource. If you really want to help your people improve their work-life balance, then ask them what changes they want to see, instead of guessing! Who understands their ideas, innovations and concerns better than them? By communicating with your team, you will get valuable insight into the way they think, and you will be able to create processes and working practices that benefit everyone. Schedule regular talks or send out online surveys to facilitate these discussions. 

  • “Ensure everyone uses all their annual leave. Breaks from work are not a luxury… they are essential. They ensure that everyone has the chance to switch off, recuperate and recharge. This is key if you want to help your people feel happier, healthier and less stressed. An effective method to motivate everyone to use all their leave is to create a ‘use it or lose it’ system. This ensures any unused days will not be repaid or carried over into the next financial year.

  • “Lead by example. Business leaders’ behaviours and practices will be noticed by everyone. If you tell your people to leave at five, use all their annual leave, take a full hour for lunch etc, but you do the inverse – you are sending a very mixed message. You’re also inadvertently putting pressure on your people to copy your practices. Live and breathe your values and they will permeate throughout your business and create a culture that values wellness and work-life happiness… as well as high performance!”

How to create the perfect work-life balance?

  • Look at the bigger picture
  • Know when enough is enough
  • Figure out your priorities in life
  • Determine what’s right for you and your children
  • Master time management
  • Get your sleep
  • Set boundaries
  • Consider working with a life coach
  • Carve out personal time each day