Attempting to balance the strains of both a career and a busy personal life is something that most working professionals can relate to. You want to feel accomplished in both aspects but how can you possibly give 100% to both? Even with the rise of flexible working, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Sometimes, it feels as though you’re being pulled in all directions. Meetings, parents’ evenings, lunches with friends, customer presentations, football matches – the list can seem never-ending. As someone with children and a high work ethic, I sometimes wonder whether I’m getting it right, am I spending enough time with the most important people in my life? I usually find myself thinking about work whilst I’m with my family and I think about my family whilst I’m at work. Despite this, I recognise that I am more than capable of doing both, and well.
Bustle suggests a number of ways that compartmentalising can help to create a better work-life balance. The first step is to redefine the word “compartmentalise” – it’s an integration rather than a balance.
Don’t think of it as work/life balance, it’s work/life integration. When you do that, all the pieces will naturally fall into place.Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient and Founder of The Girls’ Lounge
There’s a number of ways you can compartmentalise:
- Have separate areas for work and leisure, even if you work from home
- Set aside time for all parts of your life
- Set rules for yourself
- Leave work at work, don’t keep checking your emails at home
- Accept that some areas may occasionally overlap – and that’s OK
Something may seem urgent, but that doesn’t always mean that it is. An issue that has occurred at work may seem like it needs dealing with immediately but usually that’s not really the case. In most circumstances, it can usually wait until the morning.
One way to prioritise work is to write a list of all the jobs that you need to do, in order of how important they are. Then allocate a set amount of time to each task (although I often find it’s better to overestimate slightly to be on the safe side). If you start at the top of the list, completing each task before moving onto the next, you ensure that you are prioritising the most important tasks. And, by slightly overestimating, when you’ve finished one task and find that there’s ten minutes before your next meeting, you can complete a few of the tasks at the bottom of your list.
Most managers are pretty understanding. I’m lucky here that I have a great CEO who actively supports the staff, so if I need to work from home to look after one of my children whilst they’re ill, it’s not a problem. There is give and take, so If I’m at home with my children, I might take more breaks, but I will therefore end up working longer hours overall to ensure I complete all that I set out to.
Whilst I recognise that not all businesses are this flexible, I also think that we’re often too scared to ask. By communicating your needs, as well as learning the company’s policies on flexible working, you stand a much better chance of achieving a work-life balance that works for you and your family. If your business doesn’t have a policy in place, take charge - suggest that they look into this, offer to be a test case so they can evaluate the success. There is a lot of research to support higher productivity achieved by working remotely.
Changing your mindset
You can take many different actions to improve your work-life balance but the most important thing to address is your own mindset. You do need to be honest and reflect on what would work for you, in order to be successful in achieving the balance/integration. What are the best options available to you? What is best suited to your ability to successfully fulfil your role at work? How can these be successfully implemented? Personally, I believe the only person who can truly change something in my life, is me. Only I have that power. And that’s especially true when it comes to mindset.
Often a big part of trying to achieve a healthy work/life balance or integration, is defining what your idea of healthy is. It’s also important to remember that you might not be able to do it all at once and you might need to refine your formula over time. I know if I’ve had a really involved and productive week at work then I sometimes require some down time and rest when at home, quite frankly who cares if the housework hasn’t been done today? The occasional pizza and movie at home can be a fun night too, it doesn’t have to be all go all the time. Remember that sometimes it’s ok to say “no” and not feel guilty about it.
Originally Published 10/04/2018