In our culture, we tend to value a quick fix. A pill to cure the ail. Something that will alleviate the problem immediately with minimum fuss and as little effort as possible.
And while not everyone is programmed that way, in Western cultures there is a strong sense of this approach, which is why I see so many people struggling with their work-life balance. But I’ve got news for you…there is no quick fix. Sorry!
For just as our lives, our work, our families and our personal interests evolve and develop, so does our work-life balance needs and capacities.
Getting used to checking in with yourself on a regular basis is essential. For some, this in itself is a monumental change, but one that is an absolute requirement if you want to get a handle on this stuff
Recognise the signs that your work-life balance needs attention before it’s too late.
As one client puts it, “when the water levels are rising”. What does that feel like for you? Are you snappy? Do you miss deadlines? Forget to eat? Skip your favourite yoga class or date night? Find out what that looks like for you.
Figure out the non-negotiables.
What are your priorities in life? What do you need to do in order to feel like you? For some clients it is exercise. For some, it is the chance to get their nails done. Others value family time that isn’t rushed.
Is there enough in your downtime that inspires you?
Think about learning, volunteering and being outside in nature. Increasingly studies show that these activities renew and replenish us, yet few of us find enough time to do them.
Talk to work about flexi-time or working from home.
More and more organisations are embracing this way of working and it is radically helping them in terms of staff retention. More staff members are reporting higher levels of morale. Check to see that the work you do interests and inspires you, at least for the most part.
Make sure you divvy up the family responsibilities fairly.
Does it always have to be Mum who goes home with a sick child? Or who collects the kids from creche? Do you think these minor things don’t affect your work-life balance? Come back to me when you are trying to play catch up with work demands in between mopping brows and washing sheets.
Are there things in your life that you are doing that no longer energise or empower you?
Have you learned the art of the firm “No thank you”? So many of my clients report that they are running around attending functions and events that they are not interested in, but that they feel they should attend. If that’s you too, stop it! You have a finite amount of time. Choose to spend it in places and with people who lift you up, not down.
Planning. Diaries. Schedules.
All the lovely things that we plan to do literally will not happen unless we identify them as priorities and schedule time to do them. This may be dinner with friends, your favourite gym class, or longer holiday breaks. Map them out in chunks so that you have regular breaks throughout the year.
When we were growing up, “self-care” was seen as selfish. Now we know better. We realise that in this incredibly fast-paced world of ours where mental health issues, in particular, are on the rise we need to take responsibility for ourselves. Slowing down and valuing rest are relatively new ideas but ones that are quite rightly gaining traction both in work and outside.
Leisha McGrath is a Work Psychologist and Coach. She has almost 20 years of experience supporting people and businesses to help them to be their best selves. You can find out more on www.lma.ie.