I am hectic. I am stressed. I am tired. I am exhausted. These are phrases we often repeat to ourselves as we hunt for the enigma of work-life balance. Very few people do balance well and that’s OK. Many times, we are harder on ourselves than we need to be.
Cindy Norcott (CEO of Pro Talent) recently joined us at The Business Show event to discuss the concept of work-life balance and tips to bring balance into your life. She confesses to being a chronic optimist. Someone who often overestimates what they can do in a day and underestimates how long something takes. This can lead to serious disruptions in the day and stress. But we need to understand our relationship with time and what balance means. In this article, we will concentrate on work-life balance.
What is work-life balance?
How many of you saw a seesaw with work on one side and balance on the opposite side? This is often how we see it. And when we try to balance one side the other side lifts and when we balance the other side the first side lifts and we run back and forth and eventually reach burnout.
We need to reconsider work-life balance. Balance is not achieved in a short time. If you look at a single day. You may have paid more attention to work than to life or the opposite and feel like a failure in the area you didn’t focus on. But you evaluate your work-life balance over a week, a month, or a year, you may see that you are doing well, or you may see that yes you are truly out of balance and need to take some actions to get some balance into your life.
And why is it so hard to experience this balance?
Here are four reasons why we are struggling to get balance:
- The world is speeding up and becoming extremely complex.
- Many of us are still working remotely or we moved to hybrid work and when at home we have forgotten about the boundaries between work and life. This leads to a never-ending workday.
- There is an increase in technology. We have many apps and technologies to help cope us with our life, but the opposite may be happening. We are always available and always distracted. This can cause stress and some social media platforms and apps may take up our time doing activities that are not moving us forward to our goals. Also, remember that when you are multi-skilling you can become 10% less effective.
- The juggle is real. People are wearing many different hats. This leads us to juggle too many different balls, and this can be difficult.
In a recent survey, 94 working professionals reported working more than 50 hours a week. And a lot of people wear overworking as a badge of honour, but it has been acknowledged that after 50 hours of work, we become incredibly unproductive.
We need to accept that the perfect work-life balance is a fantasy and permit ourselves to be imperfect. Strive for progress, not perfection. In addition, stop stressing about the balance. Rather focus on your fulfilment. Focus on what you think constitutes a well-lived life. A well-lived life encompasses everything you do. Are you living a well-lived life or are you postponing happiness and joy for a later date when certain things will be in place? What can you control? What can you do or stop doing to start your journey to a well-lived life?
Here are six tips for working towards living a well-lived life.
1. Say “no”
Many of us, especially people pleasers, struggle to say “no”. We may even say “yes” to things we really don’t want to do. We need to get comfortable with disappointing people. We need to turn down those opportunities that don’t bring us closer to our goal. When we say “yes” to things that we truly don’t want to do, it can lead to tremendous despair and frustration. We need to identify the things and people we need to say “no” to. By saying ‘no”, we are also teaching people how to treat us.
In addition, some people may suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out), but if you are keen on something give it 24 hours and then depending on how you feel about the opportunity you can say “yes” or “no”.
Finally, remember this saying “Don’t put your urgency on my agenda”. Unless your work involves life and death situations like a paramedic or doctor then it is not urgent. Define your boundaries and stick to them.
2. Have a to-do list
Try to have one list for your life. You may have 50 things on your list but what is one, three or five things on your list that you can prioritise for the day. Try to do things that progress you to the next step on your way to your goals.
When reviewing your list, are there items on it that would be good if you had the perfect life? Try to move these items to a list for one day when I have time and when you review this list in six months or a year’s time you may see that some items have become irrelevant.
3. Stop rushing
There is a quote “I have so much to do, I might as well take my time”. Many individuals feel the need to work faster and faster, and not take breaks because that is the quickest way to get through work. But it is the fastest route to a breakdown.
So, take breaks. According to a study, you only have the capacity to focus for 90 minutes before you go into full mental fatigue. So, try to take a break after 90 minutes for 5-15 min. This involves moving away from your desk and going for a walk or doing a press up. Try to do something that will get your blood pumping.
Take a lunch break and take your leave even if you are an entrepreneur, delegate your tasks and take some leave. Look for the resources you can call on, and consider the task and if it is worth your hourly rate.
4. Love what you do
There is a Japanese term “Ikigai” which looks at the intersection of four concepts that define that which gives your life worth, meaning, or purpose. These concepts are:
- I do work that I love
- I do work that I am good at. I work to my strengths.
- The world needs what I have got
- The world is prepared to pay for it
You will struggle to become great by working on your weaknesses. You need to focus on your X-factor. What are you incredibly good at? What is the thing you do and time seems to fly when you are doing it? This is the space you should aim to work in.
5. Take a day off
Take a full 24-hour break. You are not a machine or a robot. Your body will thank you for taking a break. Look at your body’s cycles, when is your energy the highest. This is when you should do difficult and mentally-taxing tasks. Do the hardest tasks first.
Have you been procrastinating about something? Why?
- Is it because you don’t understand what to do? Ask someone to help or do research.
- Is it because you are scared you might fail? Do it anyway. Failure is just a lesson to do it better next time.
- Is it because you don’t like doing the action? If you can, delegate the task.
6. Get organised
Plan your week on a Sunday night. Look at the tasks for your week and decide which ones you can delegate and who you will delegate them to. You need to also try to remove distractions and interruptions. Have assertive conversations with colleagues or family members who interrupt you constantly throughout your day.
If you feel overwhelmed by everything you need to do, try to define your tasks according to the Eisenhower matrix. This matrix defines tasks as:
- Important and urgent: do it
- Important and not urgent: schedule it
- Not important and urgent: delegate it
- Not important and not urgent: delete it
Now that we have a clearer idea of how to live the well-lived work side of our life, we need to also look at the life side.
Five tips on how to get balance at home
1. Drop your standards
Many people hold themselves to high and unrealistic standards and think that perfectionism is an excellent quality but this is not true. Perfectionism can cause you to become stagnant because you are still waiting for something to be perfect before you move on. Many times, when we are doing general work, we want it to be 100% when 80% or 90% would be enough for us to move on. Look at the areas you are aiming for perfection and see if there are areas where it is good enough to move on (Getmo). We need to pace ourselves to do the best we can. Ask yourself does the action need to be perfect? And then why do you do the action so many times? And finally, why are you doing the action?
2. Stop the guilt
There is a quote that says, “Wherever you are be there.” Often the guilt we feel is our own voice in our head. We need to share responsibility with those in our family. And stop doing things for others if they can do it for themselves. This will help them to become independent and not rely on you too much. Host a family meeting where you look at the responsibilities of the household and how everyone can contribute. Consider how you would feel if you were in the other person’s shoes?
3. Stop comparing
Social media has made it easier to see what everyone is up to and to see the highlight reel of their lives. But you need to keep your eyes on your race. Everyone has their own race to run, and we are in different places in our race. Also, stop demonizing those people who have got the balance right or have created strong boundaries on their time and space.
4. Be kinder to yourself
Taking care of yourself is critical. But self-care isn’t necessarily about going to the spa or doing things you feel you should do. Rather it is doing the stuff you know you need and want to do to be the best you, you can be.
There is a quote that says, “Your day is your life in miniature”. Your daily habits create your life. Analyse your daily habits. How do you live your life? Is it working for you? If you have good habits, you will have a good life, but if you have bad habits, it’s going to ultimately lead to a bad life. Sometimes we don’t want the pain of discipline now, but do we want the pain of regret later?
Habits need to occur on a regular basis. To build a good life, here are eight habits to consider.
- Sleep: How much sleep are you getting? Could you go to bed earlier? Could you put your phone aside one hour before bedtime? Remember to let your priorities prevail first rather than the world’s.
- Move: Our bodies were built to move. Sitting has become the new smoking. Try to do one push up a day or go for a walk in your garden but move.
- Breathe: When last did you take five deep breaths? Breathing deeply will help you to think better. Try to schedule five periods in your day to breathe deeply five times.
- Hydrate: Some people think their body runs on coffee, but this is not true. Try to drink a lot of water in your day so that you don’t become dehydrated.
- Stretch: Many of us are crouched over our keyboards every day and then don’t stretch out those muscles. Try to do simple stretches every day. If you can, try to get a massage regularly.
- Grounding: Spend time in soil or sit on the grass barefoot. This helps to reduce inflammation and your anxiety levels.
- Mindfulness: Spend two minutes being mindful of where you are. Sit somewhere and say “I am sitting here. What do I feel? And what do I hear? Many people spend a lot of time in their heads. Use this to get out of your head and slow down. Experience your body.
- Play: Every day you should do something which makes you happy. Write a list of things that makes you happy. Walt Disney asked this question, “Would the child you were, be proud of the adult you have become?” Don’t forget about the things which brought you joy as a child.
Self-care is about smiling, laughing, and genuinely spending time with those people who make you feel happier.
5. Be grateful
In life, it is easy to focus on the shoulds and what we have to do, and this creates a heaviness in us. But what are you grateful for? Write it done, say it, journal it but keep your focus on the positive things in your life.
Perfect work-life balance is an enigma for everyone. But being mindful of the work-life balance may have you look at your life and see what you can change to create a healthy, happy and successful life.
Cindy Norcott is a motivational speaker, business coach and the CEO of the award winning recruitment agencies, Pro Appointments and Pro Talent. Cindy is also the founder and the chairperson of the
well-known charity, the Robin Hood Foundation. Cindy is the author of the best-selling business book, “How to be Unstoppable” and more recently, “How does she do it?”. Cindy has won many awards for her entrepreneurial abilities.