How do you create a healthy work/life balance? What is a healthy work/life balance anyway? I’ll answer the second question and then move on to the first. Firstly, I believe a healthy work/life balance is all about perspective. How do you see yourself? What other interests do you have outside of your work? Most of us are familiar with the “Live to Work or Work to Live” adage but how many of us are really honest about where we stand on that? The major problem we have is this: the lightning paced, technological arena that we live in makes it increasingly difficult to maintain our existing juggling act, let alone look at ways in which we can regain some control, a bit of balance between work, rest and play instead of what many of us experience as work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep. And even then, the work threatens to invade the other two activities. So, What is a healthy work/life balance? It is when you know you have a good balance of work and anything other than work – whatever that may be for you. Time to yourself, with others, time to think (wouldn’t that be a luxury!?), time to plan, time to truly unwind and recharge those batteries and be ready to get up and go again.
I lied about moving on to the How next. Before that, I need to share with you some of the reasons Why it is so very important. Check out these statistics and you will see what I mean:
Work is now the single biggest factor driving people to drink, drugs and depression
More than a third of people now say their job is the most stressful part of their lives
60% of people drink alcohol after work in order to cope; 14% drink during the day for the same reason
Job stress makes 7% of people consider suicide, with this rising to 10% in the 18-24 age group
Workers rarely feel they can talk to their bosses about their stress, so 10% turn to sleeping tablets instead
15% take anti-depressants and 28% smoke in order to cope with stress
Almost 20% have thrown a sickie over stress and 10% have resigned
Recent government reports on work-related stress calculate the total cost to the UK economy at approximately £3.5 billion.
Creating a healthy work/life balance does not have to be difficult; it is simply a case of matching your genuine priorities in life with the time you allocate in your calendar. I have a coaching client who said to me, “I know that what I need to do is make a list of all my ’emotional priorities’ and line them up against my ‘real priorities’ and see what discrepancies there are. That single exercise gave him the true picture of what his life consisted of in terms of time spent and when he truly decided to change it, so that he had time to be present with his family and not merely in the lounge with his laptop open, his life was transformed.
So, here are my Top Ten Tips for creating a healthy work/life balance. Take just one to begin with. Work out what you will need to do in order to see the desired result and then move on to the next one. Or, if you are really serious and you want to see some virtually instant results (because some of us want things to happen fast don’t we?) make a plan to attack all of the tips and see what happens!
1. Take control of your calendar so it can no longer take control of you.
2. Learn to say “No” to all non-essential, non-value items that people will gladly have you do. Don’t be afraid to move things out of your calendar in order to create space for you to focus on what you do best – whatever that may be.
3. Try to avoid taking work home with you, and never to bed with you!
4. Being effective or productive is not the same as simply being busy. What does that mean in your world of work?
5. Switch off your ‘life support machine’ aka mobile smart phone or at least put it down and on silent from time to time. Turn off the auto email collect option and/or flashing lights demanding your instant attention.
6. Focus on whatever is in front of you – the task at work, the friend on the phone, the child on your lap – and forget about trying to constantly ‘multi-task’ which in most cases, simply waters down the true value you bring to the current situation.
7. Don’t be so rigidly focussed on the ‘ladder to success’ that you forget to enjoy the view as well as the people along the way.
8. Healthy relationships are the foundation for everything that is good in your life, so protect and nurture them. Healthy relationships=Increased performance. We all spell love T.I.M.E. so make sure you invest it wisely into the people you care about most.
9. If work is all you ever do….discover something new.
10. Take time to get what I call a ‘helicopter perspective’ and survey the landscape of your life and see perhaps for the very first time, what is really possible if you make a plan and put your mind to it.