We’re supposed to be able to have it all, be in balance, not let work rule our life but continue to pursue a job with purpose and climb the corporate ladder. We’re told we can, and should, include kids, a partner, catching up with friends, holidays, fitness, self-improvement or professional development and study, hobbies, mindfulness, sleep and a job. And, it’s all supposed to be in balance. No wonder our stress levels are rising!
I’m here to tell you, work-life balance is not possible. It’s a futile pursuit. Just look the definition of balance – ‘an even distribution…’. Does anyone really think we should be evenly distributing our time and energy between each of the components of our life? Try telling your boss, or your partner, “sorry, I can only fit you in for 20 hours a week, because that’s what I’m able to evenly distribute”.
Add in the little communication device we have permanently fixed to our hands and the separation of your life into its neat little compartments get even messier.
In the real world, not everything needs an even amount. Sometimes we need to give more attention to work or to our family, or whatever urgently needs it at the time. That should be OK.
So what if we forget about balance? What if there was a better way to have it all? Like a good cup of tea, finding the right blend that works for you may be the way to approach it.
Introducing Work-Life Blend
To Blend is to ‘mix together so as to make a product of the desired quality’. It doesn’t suggest even amounts or separation but focuses on the quality of the outcome, as a whole. How do you mix in work with the rest of your life to make a good blend? How can you find time for it all and make yourself healthier, happier and altogether less stressed in the process?
It starts with setting rules for yourself. ‘Discipline equals freedom’ is a concept that I love that comes from Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal turned author. He asserts, and I’m buying it, that if you set rules and structure for the important, non-negotiables in your life, then that allows freedom for you to be footloose and fancy-free around that.
How do I find the right blend
I’m by no means smashing it and I’m always looking to improve the blend, but I’m pretty happy at a basic level. Here’s some simple discipline I’m trying;
- Switch off – I put my phone away as soon as I get home from work and don’t pick it up again until the kids are in bed. During this time we usually have dinner together and I have a good chat with my wife. After this, I will check emails, but stop looking by 9pm. I might continue checking out social media for a while longer.
I then leave my phone downstairs when I go up to bed. In the morning I’ll go through my routine of a short circuit of exercise, a short burst of mindfulness and gratitude and only then look at anything on the phone.
- Block out exercise time in my diary and just exercise when there’s no reason not to – As mentioned above I do a circuit of exercise and stretching most mornings. My other main source of exercise is running. I run home from work 2 or 3 times a week and go for a longer run once or twice on the weekends (first thing in the morning).
The morning circuit is locked in. I just do that. With the running I take the approach that I will run every day unless I have something on that prevents me from running. I’ve adopted this from another Jocko Willink idea, he doesn’t schedule rest days from working out because frequently things just come up that means you can’t stick to your plan. Such as travel for work, or an event after hours for work, or for the kids.
I’m fortunate, I’m happy to run by myself and find it quite good for mindfulness and unwinding. If this is not like you, then it can be great to make a plan to exercise with a friend or a group, so you don’t let them down.
- Be present – Don’t multitask with family and friends, ever. Give your kids, partner, parents, friends, pet your undivided attention. Emails can wait.
Mindfulness and the concept of ‘The Third Space’, by Dr Adam Fraser (do yourself a favour and check it out), are great for helping with being present.
- Reward yourself – If you work for a flexible employer, know when your peak performance time is for work. If you are a morning person (like me), go to work early and leave early. Get more done and reward yourself once in awhile.
- Don’t double book the weekends – Often the weekdays are hectic, so try and have a least one slower day on the weekend. And if you can’t every week, that’s OK, just do it when you can. We call them home days at our place. We just hang around and listen to some tunes, read, play some games and chill out.
I can’t promise that work will get any easier but try some or all of these tips and you might just be healthier, happier and a little less stressed. Time for a cup of tea.