Work-life. What’s the right balance?
Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our jobs that we forget how to live. We place so much emphasis on our work that it overwhelms everything else in our lives: family, friends, hobbies, vacations etc. This may work for a short period of time but not in the long term. If you are looking to find the right work-life balance, this article is for you.
Women, in particular, need to keep an eye on their physical and mental health, because if we’re scurrying to and from appointments and errands, we don’t have a lot of time to take care of ourselves. We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list.
During my coaching course, we had an exercise where we needed to draw a picture of the issue we wanted to solve. My picture was showing myself one headed but with many hands doing different stuff and from my head were popping up different thoughts and problems I needed to solve.
This was for the first time when I visualized the so called my “work-life balance” from a picture that I drew. When analyzing it I thought I was actually a superwoman and I was enjoying the fact that I could juggle with so many things and I had a great sense of utility.
Learn more: Are you suffering from Wonder Woman Syndrome?
In the same time in the long term, it wasn’t so healthy. For a long time, I didn’t do anything about my hobbies, or just sitting and not doing anything.
“Work-life balance” is a very present expression nowadays and it’s a quite debated theme. What does it mean for an employee, for a company or for a freelancer?
For me it’s hard to say now what’s work and what’s life, as taking care of a newborn is actually both .
In recent years, companies have begun investing in special workshops or counseling for employees, as it is well known that happier employees will generate more revenue.
Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.
In my first year as an employee
In my first year as an employee, being eager to learn as much as possible and show everybody that I was the right choice for the job I was employed in, I used to work late every day and also take work at home for the weekend to get things done. It was necessary as I was the only employee in the marketing department at that time and there was no one else to back me up.
It was going on for several months and it became something normal for me. At that time, I was already a wife and a mother and it was clear I didn’t spend much time with my family in this fight for success and recognition.
Luckily, after my husband had mentioned to me several times that what I was doing was not ok, I have taken the courage to ask my boss for at least one more employee in the department as it was impossible for one person to get all the things done within normal working hours. Quite soon I got a new colleague and things went smoothly from that point.
That was my first lesson about work-life balance. In the following years, every time I changed my role, no matter how important it was for me to learn and adapt, I wouldn’t let myself stay late more than in the first two months in each new role.
Apart from the benefit of spending more time with my family, I didn’t want to give a bad example to my team and moreover, I needed the energy to get results and be successful in the new role.
Of course, there were some exceptions with preparations for reviews or some very important and urgent tasks that were popping up. It was important to treat them as exceptions and not slip back to old habits.
Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.
During my extensive career, I met two types of employees.
The first type included employees for whom the job was their life and they could spend even 12 hours at work, even if it wasn’t necessary. This was giving them a sense of utility that they couldn’t find anywhere else.
The second type included employees who would stay at work from 9 to 5, no matter the amount of work and they would always respect their personal life.
It’s easy to judge any of them. In the same time in order to see what’s in it for each of the employees, we need to understand their needs.
If you have a work-life balance issue, try to find the source of it.
10 questions to help you find your work – life balance
I invite you to answer honestly the questions below and it will become clearer what brings you more value and makes you feel accomplished and you’ll figure out much easily which is the right path for you.
What makes you happy at work/at home?
What are the activities/things that give you energy?
What gives you a feeling of accomplishment?
What do you gain if you leave the work earlier?
What can you do in your spare time that would make you feel good?
How does this impact your performance at work? How does this impact the relationship with your family or friends?
How does this bring more value to your life?
What’s the most important thing in your life and how it is reflected in the daily schedule?
When someone is asked about you, what you would like to hear them say?
What’s the smallest thing that you can start doing today to feel a better work-life balance?
Choose your balance and don’t forget to play!
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We’d love to hear what you have to say.
How to achieve Work/Life Balance as a Busy Entrepreneur – 7 Tips –
Every entrepreneur knows that when managing and developing a business, something’s gotta give. And often times what gives is their personal and family life. And ultimately their happiness.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can have your cake and eat it too.
Here are 7 tips to achieve work/life balance even when you are a busy entrepreneur:
1. Prioritise your family life
Your family activities are as important as your business lunches and staff meetings. Taking part in your family’s activities such as your kids’ anniversaries, school events, dining out with your partner or going on vacation is beneficial for your business, not detrimental.
Here’s why according to Michael Cole, co-founder and CEO of Picniic:
- Your loved ones will encourage you when you face challenges;
- You don’t have to celebrate your accomplishments alone (which is quite depressing!), your family is there to celebrate with you;
- Talking to your partner can be helpful if you want to acquire new perspective on things or new ideas;
- Having many responsibilities at home as a spouse and/or parent will help you develop time management skills as an entrepreneur: “you become more competent in determining the best use of your time, and deciding what is worth your time, both at home and at work”;
- Because you can’t do everything yourself, you learn how to delegate tasks to people you trust: “Cooperation and support is what family is all about, and really the foundation of a great business”.
A start-up founder needs to make sacrifices, but having a family and a balanced family life doesn’t have to be one of those sacrifices. The trick is to find the right balance for you. For me, the balance was to use my family life as inspiration for my career.
If it’s not on your calendar, it won’t get done. So schedule your family activities like any other business task.
2. Put technology to good use
Technology is often seen as the biggest enemy of our modern lives. Dozens of emails received daily, hundreds of social media notifications etc. – we have to fight off so many distractions, which consume our time and attention.
Managing our time, both at work and at home has become something of an art. Not having enough time to accomplish all tasks at hand is one of top 3 challenges for entrepreneurs.
But there is hope! Read our article 5 time management tips & tricks for entrepreneurs.
Technology is only a tool, you have control over it: it’s up to you to put it to good use. There are a lot of good apps or programs that can help you schedule your time effectively. Read this article to discover a few options of such tools: TOP 10 Scheduling Tools to Propose Meeting Times 4x Faster.
3. Don’t take on more than you can carry
When you’re doing what you love, hours fly like minutes. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your projects and forget about the world outside your office. It’s very tempting to take on more than you can carry.
Your motivations behind this behaviour may be one of the following according to this article:
- You may feel pressured by investors, clients or partners;
- You have the desire to please others;
- You have a hero mentality;
- Lack of real understanding of the work involved during planning;
- Not taking individual availability/capacity into account;
- Lack of prioritization.
But you need to resist the urge to over deliver and overcommit because the end results are not what you hoped they would be:
- Lower quality of work;
- Lower overall productivity.
4. Set boundaries
If you feel a life-work balance is not a realistic goal, than setting work-life boundaries may be right up your alley.
Ellen Kossek, author of Managing Work-life Boundaries in the Digital Age, found there are 3 styles of boundary setting:
- Separation – where your time is segmented into certain hours of the day for work and certain hours for personal time;
- Integration – where you blend work and personal time throughout the day;
- Cycling – where you experience cycles of heavy work and heavy time off.
5. Don’t work when you’re sick
You may think this is obvious, but you won’t believe how many entrepreneurs keep working through sick days. If you count yourself among these entrepreneurs, it’s time to set yourself apart.
Pushing yourself to work as usual while sick is more damaging and it doesn’t help you. During sickness your body needs downtime to recover so going to work is just going to add more burden for your body.
Making decisions while trying to recover from a cold is not a good idea. Research has shown the common cold can affect attention, behaviour and cognitive function. So being sick influences your decision-making ability – don’t risk it!
6. Choose a flexible work environment
The working environment has changed a lot to accommodate employees’ needs and requirements. Many companies have already begun to steer away from the old 9 to 5 office time.
Today there are many work environment options the employer and employee can choose from such as unlimited vacation, results-only, remote work, job-sharing. You can read all about them in our article:
7. Place me time in your work calendar
Many busy entrepreneurs feel they need to keep themselves going at all times. Not doing “anything” business related just seems like a wasted time. But entrepreneurs are not machines, they are people. And people need a break from time to time.
The lack of time to yourself can cause you to build up resentments that can harm both you and your relationships. When you spend all your time filling other people’s cups, it’s likely yours will run empty.
Allowing yourself me time is good for your health as Fawne Hansen details in her article:
- You avoid the onset of stress, poor concentration, increased irritability, insomnia, mental fatigue etc.;
- Whether it’s reading a book, going for a run or listening to your favourite podcast, me time will refresh and re-energize you;
- It allows you to think more clearly and make better decisions;
- It builds your self-esteem over time, as you come to realize that you are important and deserve to have a little time to yourself.
Me time is mandatory if you want to keep your mental and physical health in check, be productive and inspired at work.