Getting a good work/life balance is one of the eternal questions of all post Yuppie generations in the affluent West. We all want it. We know we all need it. And yet having it is a challenge for most. This weekend my taxi driver was one such hopeful Or rather stressful. Living in a busy city he is in full time education and then works nights and weekends to make the money he needs to live. The poor guy said himself” I am close to burning out” and I could tell that he was close to giving up his education dream. As we talked I asked him about what was it he wanted and how he would like his life to be different. And, because I am that sort of person, I suggested a few strategies that might help him.
Now my driver actually vocalized one of the main issues most people have with achieving a good work/life balance. Our perception. You see my driver told me, “When I do something. I want to do it all in.” So if he wanted train then it had to be full on. Or school. Or work. And this is the major issue people often have with getting things balanced. Simply by aiming for too much all at once.
If you want to really get your life in balance you need to change your perspective and focus on the path to getting there. As I said to my driver. “The goal is not to be in training. The goal is to start”. 10 minutes each day is better than none. Once you have the habit then carve out 5 mins more. Then 5 minutes more. Often it’s not actually that we don’t have enough time it is that we are assuming that we need a lot more time than we really do to do the things we want. And therefore we don’t do them. It feels like an achievable mountain to climb. And honestly becomes an excuse.
So we have this block we need to get past. However if you can be honest with yourself and use (I am sorry to say) a smidgen of realism the way to finding work life balance can be found by taking just 5 simple actions.
Press the STOP button
So if you are also feeling that close to burnout sensation then you have probably spent a lot of time obsessing over the issues and the problems. Well that just makes them even harder to deal with. When that happens imagine you pressing an imaginary big ready STOP button. Put the breaks on. If you concentrate on how hard it is it will be hard. You and only you can pull yourself out of this negative cycle. But when you do it will give you space to think more clearly and thus take the first step to work/life balance, simply because you will have the head space to be able to start addressing the challenge.
Know what you want
So once you have pushed the big stop button it is time to fill your head with new thoughts. Solution thoughts. Take a quite coffee break brainstorm and write out the ways you would like your life to be different. What is it you actually wish you had the time to do? Give yourself an idea of what you would like your balanced life to look like. Here you can dream big. This is the space where you are allowed to describe the mountain of desires you have for your life.
Throw in the realism
The busier your life is and generally the more roles you adopt in your life, Boss, Mum, Volunteer, Team member the less time you have. You have to accept that right now this moment you cannot do it all. You cannot do 3 times a week at the gym for 2 hours at a time, or take that holiday abroad every year when you still have student debts to pay of and you are unemployed is not realistic. Yet. Now I don’t mean to say you can’t have everything you want. I truly believe you can live the life you imagine for yourself. However, part of the fun is the journey. Have a look at what you want and choose 1, 2 or 3 desires to focus upon. Make sure its something your soul really needs and will feel energized from. Remind yourself you are not giving up on the rest just putting them on the back burner for the moment.
Find the first step
So right now you are still looking at the whole mountain. Now you need to work out how you are gonna get there. Look for the first baby step you can take. So for example, if you want to start training again, decide which part of your day you can start to do 10 mins of training a day. Want more you time. Where can you have 15 mins in the week and what exactly will you do in that time? What is the first step you need to take to reduce the never ending to do list. Carve out just a little time each week to take that first baby step. You only have 24 hours a day, you can afford 10- 15 mins. Choose a first step for your desire.
Now you know what that first step is you have to take it. You have to give this to yourself. If not you can slump back into the woe is me live is so hard hole (sorry to be blunt but that’s the truth). You can either do what you can to solve the issue or you can blame someone else and feel rubbish. What do you choose? Get started on your baby steps and after a period of 4 weeks try and up the time by 5 or 10 mins. The more you carve out the time you need the more of a habit it becomes. It makes the time fly by easier and you not only feel less stressed you will feel empowered by taking charge of your life.
Manage your time
For me the ultimate work/life balance tool, and I suppose step 6, is time management. Managing your time supports you immensely to balance what is important to yourself, create healthy boundaries and maintain both self care and personal growth. There are lots of time management articles on the blog. Try starting here if you want time management tips
And just remember the most important thing is to not overestimate what you are capable of doing in the time you have. Rather accepting the first steps, carrying them out, creating habits and then upping the bar. Slowly, slowly working your way to wards re balancing your life.
Have a great week <3