January, a time for reflection on the year that has passed and setting intentions for what is to come. 2022 was an unusual year, and a busy one. Many of us finding our feet and attempting to nurture our businesses back to their pre-pandemic health, with one or two obstacles to manoeuvre along the way. A very busy event business and a growing number of consultancy projects meant it was hardly a year to kick back and relax. And if you’re anything like me then there is never such a year. But as I finalised recording the audio book of my biography, Taylor Made, I reflected on my dedication to work – and the cost to my family, relationships, and well-being. That’s why in 2023 my goal is to find something better – and closer to finding a work life balance.
It sounds like such a simple thing but in reality, but finding a work life balance can be something evasive, out of reach. Particularly for self-confessed workaholics such as myself. Blessed and cursed with a mind that will never switch off. So, in an attempt to inspire myself and others, this blog is dedicated to uncovering just what finding that elusive work life balance can mean for both a business and personal life. Along with examining some ideas on how to achieve the perfect work life balance.
WHY WORK LIFE BALANCE IS IMPORTANT
Firstly, it’s useful to examine the question of why work life balance is important in order to fully understand how it can positively impact your life. It has farther reached consequences than to just ‘even up the scales’. With proper work life balance, you can fully enjoy the fruits of your labour.
Less stress, better mental health and increased levels of happiness are all reported benefits of a good work life balance.
Arguably, the most important thing about finding a good work life balance is – time. Time to do the things you love. To spend with those most important to you. If you can disconnect from work and really allow yourself to enjoy that time, it’s a priceless gift.
What most people don’t consider is that finding work life balance can actually have benefits for your career too. It can most certainly make you more productive at work. A well-rested mind and body is ready to tackle to do lists with renewed vigour. And it can boost creativity. More on that later.
As an employer it’s important as well. Reducing stress related illness and the risk of burnout. Inspiring an enthusiastic, loyal, and productive workforce. Encouraging staff to find work life balance can boost productivity and cut the cost of absenteeism to a business.
WORK LIFE BALANCE AND THE CREATIVE BRAIN
Anyone who runs their own business knows that it’s incredibly hard to clock off at the end of the business day. And, if you’re like me, you’re running a business where the main currency is ideas, it can be even more challenging to leave your business at the office. Worse still, if you have a mind like mine, which finds inspiration in the most mundane of places, switching off for the evening is nigh on impossible.
That’s the thing about creative brain. It is only when you take the focus away from the task in hand that the ideas begin to flow. A change of scenery can have a dramatic effect on the creative brain. Whether that’s in bed at 2am in the morning. While relaxing in a bubble bath. Pounding out the miles on the treadmill. The ideas come ready or not.
One gives rise to the other.
So how do you find a work life balance when you’re the creative side of your brain goes into overdrive every time you ‘switch off.’
Well, all you really need to do is be prepared for those ideas to come and find a way of putting a pin in them until you’re ready to do something about it. Notebooks help. I have them all over the house and office. Voice notes are even better. A way to offload your internal monologue until you can revisit it in a more productive setting.
Delaying getting started on a project/idea does take practise. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve sat at my laptop in the early hours of the morning researching and firing out emails because I just can’t wait to action a great idea. Work in progress, as they say.
However, there is something to be said for working when your brain is at it’s most productive. If for you, that’s past midnight then perhaps you should try to reconfigure your working day accordingly. Work at night but make sure you take back the hours during the official working day. A terrific way to achieve your own version of work life balance. Daytime hours are precious for those with young families especially. That’s all dependent on having an understanding boss who appreciates the benefits of flexible working of course.
IDEAS TO HELP YOU FIND WORK LIFE BALANCE
As I’ve mentioned previously work life balance is something I’m continually striving to achieve. So how do we achieve this seemingly unreachable utopia. Here are some ideas that I may try to put into practice this year, as with everything it’s about trial and error. Making small changes and finding what works for you.
FORM A ROUTINE
It could be that your last task of the day is always to write a to do list for the next morning – a fabulous way of getting everything out of your head and into a format that’s easy to tackle on the morrow. You may wash your cups and tidy your desk area. Or it could be that you clear down your inbox. All of these are brilliant signals to your brain that it’s the end of the day and time for the shift to ‘down time.’
Post pandemic the intention for many was to enjoy more work from home days and flexible hours, but the reality of home being the office is that it’s even more difficult to switch off.
If you do work from home, then you really do need to treat the working day like you are in the office. It’s easy for boundaries to merge but checking emails while trying to cook dinner and do the washing is not productive. In that scenario it’s also likely that BOTH tasks will take longer.
Focus on one or the other – have a dedicated time and space for work and the same for household chores and family time. If you have a physical office space it can really help you to, literally and metaphorically, shut the door on work to ease the transition.
Even if you don’t work from home (I am a fan of the office environment), boundaries are about not always being available. Some out of hours work can be expected in certain roles but being always on email or what’s app no matter the time of day can be detrimental to your work life balance.
USE THE COMMUTE
One remarkable thing about travelling to and from an office is that it allows you transition time to leave the working day behind. Walking, cycling, or running to and from work is a fantastic way to forget the highs and lows of the workday, but even a train or bus journey can have benefits – giving you a period of time to leave work behind. One tip is to read a book or listen to a podcast or some music that makes you happy – a welcome distraction to working on the move.
GO STRAIGHT TO EXERCISE
Personally, I like to start the working day with exercise but there is merit to doing your workout after work. Use those endorphins to shed the work stress and leave your workday behind.
WORK TO YOUR CYCLE
Don’t strive for schedule perfection. Instead work towards a reasonable and realistic schedule. Some days, work may take priority, while other days it might be better to focus your time and energy on hobbies or time with loved ones. Balance is achieved over weeks, months, and years. Not each day.
DO A JOB YOU LOVE
There’s argument to say that this could make you work even more hours, however if you truly have a passion for what you do then work feels less like a chore and more like a favourite pastime. And work life balance is as much about how you feel as it is about time dedicated to certain tasks.
HOW DO I FIND THE BALANCE?
In an ‘always on’ society, work life balance is something most of us need to get better at. Yes, I work hard, and I play hard – it comes with the territory. As I have mentioned finding balance in my life is something I’m striving towards. But there are certain things I do currently that help me to restore equilibrium. Exercise is daily, it’s my ‘me time’ and my way to manage stress and burnout.
I see and speak with my daughters and grandchildren daily – they’re my reason for working so hard, my world. I even now work alongside one of them.
Each year I dedicate a week to attending a yoga retreat. I switch everything off – phone, laptop, emails, messages. And I head to Portugal or Turkey to completely detox. Physically. Mentally. Digitally. I return a new person. Re-energised, revitalised, and full of ideas for new ways of doing things.
The 4-Hour Work Week by Time Ferris is a book for entrepreneurs. While that is certainly one of the groups who can benefit from it, it also packs in a lot of great, actionable information for anyone hoping to improve their work-life balance. The central premise of the book is pretty simple. “the perfect job is the one that takes the least time”. Quite ‘American’ in the jargon, but still I thought there was some great tips we could all use with strategies for getting more done in less time and goal of spending more time doing the things you love.
Have you had success finding a work life balance? Let us know on our social platforms below.