How many of you can honestly say you’ve mastered a work-life balance? If you’ve done it then I salute you. How would it be if you went after a life-work balance instead? Here’s how I did it.
I used to feel like I was constantly spinning plates, creating to-do lists that would never get done and go to bed feeling like I’d achieved a lot but got nothing done that I wanted to do. I would wake up in the night and think shit, I’ve forgotten to do ‘x’ and make a note to do it the next day.
I felt like I was constantly chasing my tail but never getting there. I was putting everything else first and continuously felt drained and my performances in running suffered, when I actually went for a run. I needed a coffee to get me started in the morning, usually followed by another one.
Then one day, I changed. I stopped chasing the work-life balance and went after a life-work balance instead. If you’ve ever felt that creating a work-life balance was like trying to tame a mythical beast then I have some good news for you!
I’ve never been convinced by the term “work-life balance” as it still places work first. We are naturally programmed to help everyone else first and so always put ourselves at the bottom of the pile. How many of you are at your most productive when you feel tired and worn out? Not many I suspect. How much more do you get done when you feel full of energy?
Creating a life-work balance isn’t actually that difficult and doesn’t mean ignoring the stuff you’re currently doing. It’s changing how we view and process things and getting the same amount of work done in much less time. In fact, it’s about getting more done in less time and feeling happy about it rather than stressed.
Are you up for giving it a go?
Here are 5 easy steps to create a life-work balance now:
1. Know What You Want
Let’s pause things and decide how you want your life to be instead. Do you want to continue being run ragged or would you like to get control back? Would you like to be able to do all the things you want AND do all the other things you need to do without neglecting either? I took the stand and decided I wanted to spend some more quality time with Allison, my wife, be able to do more things and enjoy my evenings and weekends rather than feel like I was saying no to doing certain things or constantly working then feeling guilty.
I now take weekends off apart from the one or two clients I would normally see. Anything that’s pressing will get done when it doesn’t impact on other things that we might do or when she’s watching Strictly!
|Task: Decide what you want instead. Write it down in great detail. All the things you want to be able to do, when you want to be able to do them and how you want to do them. Imagine now that you’re doing it all, how does it make you feel? How much better will your life be when you’re able to do all these things?|
2. Structure Your Day Better
You already know when you’ve got to be at work and what you need to do but let’s think about what needs done, in what order it needs to be done and how we’re going to do it. I used to refer to things on my to-do list just by “write blog post” or “update accounts” or “send training plans to clients”. Now, I know that if I don’t get the training plans sent before the end of the day I saw my clients, I will do it first thing in the morning.
I know when I want the blog post to be published so I have a reminder set on my phone to write it the day or two before. Doing things this way feels like I’m more proactive rather than reactive. When I’m trying to rush things to get them done then I’m most likely to make mistakes. I would imagine this to be the same for you?
|Task: Take 5 minutes and write down everything you need to do and in the order of importance. Think about what the first task will be, what specifically you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. Now repeat the process of each task and decide when they are best being done. Set reminders on your phone if you need to|
3. Move more
This is massive and helps so much. I started getting up earlier and going for a run. This gave me the space to think about my day ahead, the things I needed to get done and effectively helped me do the task above. When I got back, I wrote the tasks down and felt more relaxed at breakfast knowing what I was going to be doing that day. Of course, you don’t have to go for a run. You can go for a walk or do spend a few minutes doing some stretching exercises. Anything that allows your brain to switch off.
|Task: Make time for yourself, either get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning or take a little bit longer at lunchtime and get out for a walk, run or do some form of exercise. This will help your brain relax and think through things more logically and find solutions to problems.|
4. Know When To Switch Off
Hands up who finds themselves replying to emails at 11pm or checking social media messages etc? Yes, I used to do that to. If you can change this, everything changes! While we want to be prompt at replying to messages etc, nobody really expects us to be doing this late at night unless they already know that you do it. If we check messages late at night, we’re asking our brain to be active when we really want it to be relaxing and helping us sleep.
Emails, messages, social media late at night are not only keeping us awake, they will impact on our eating habits the next day as we crave energy to keep us going and our natural response will be to reach for something unhealthy. How often do you crave a salad when you’re tired and need a pick-me-up? Not only this, your body will be storing fat rather than burn it to keep you going.
|Task: Decide what time you need to get up in the morning then count back between 7 and 8 hours so you know what time you need to be asleep by. From there, count back at least 30 minutes and that’s the time you need to stop replying to emails/checking social media. Go read a book or listen to some music or do some meditation. This will ensure you sleep better and wake up feeling relaxed and energised rather than under pressure.|
5. Learn To Say No
We want to be able to help everyone but simply, we can’t. You and I are not superhuman as much as we like to think we are even without wearing our pants on top of our trousers. Sorry to burst your bubble! We always find ourselves under pressure and being stretched but there’s only so much we’re able to do. I used to do this and got to the point where I felt like I was spinning too many plates and not able to keep them all going.
|Task: You can either say no or give people an estimate of when you are able to do it. Remember, if you say yes to something, other things suffer because of it. Do you want that? Tell people you can do the task but it might be a few days/weeks for you to realistically do it. If they really want you to do it then they will be happy for you to do it when you can. Your time is valuable so consider your own value before agreeing to do anything.|
Following these steps has made a massive difference to my life. While I still say yes to a lot of things, I have set a criteria for what I say yes to. I now have a structure in place so I no longer feel like I’m spinning too many plates and know what I need to do and when to do it.
Getting out for a run has helped me a lot as I’m able to think about the things I need to do, in which order and how I’m going to do them. This means that tasks get done a lot more efficiently and it feels pretty good when I’m able to complete the tasks.
I wouldn’t say I’m doing it perfectly, I still make mistakes but I see these as learning opportunities and instantly know what I need to do in future to avoid a repeat of them. If we don’t make mistakes, we don’t learn.
I started with Steps 3 and 4. If I wanted to get a decent run early morning, I knew I needed a good night’s sleep and so worked on those two. Once I’d mastered that, I worked on Step 2 and that took some practice to get things in the right place so I could do them well. On one of my runs, Step 1 became clearer and as a result, Step 5 took care of itself without much effort. Once you know what you want, you can easily say no to things you used to agree to mostly to please other people.
Over to you now, which of these steps will you start with? Which do you think will be easy for you? Which do you think will be a challenge?
Can you create a better life-work balance? If I can do it, you can too
If you need help in creating a better life-work balance for you then let’s have a chat.
It could be the change you need to get back on track and become the best version of yourself.