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Have you achieved work-life balance?
Most people look shocked at such a question now and ask how that’s possible in the real world. The majority of us believe that a traditional 9-5 routine is outdated. So we need to explore our scope for flexibility, have clarity about how we work best and find an integrated approach that benefits our wellbeing, which in turn, benefits our performance.
Breaking down walls between the compartments in our lives, such as work and life, is useful and can reduce stress. Work is part of life. We need to be seen as whole human beings.
Tipping the Scales: Putting Everything into One Pot
So instead of separating work and life to find a balance (it’s never that simple!), work-life integration aims to bring them together. You give equal time and attention to all areas of your life without having to label them as work time and personal time. It removes the sense of competition and guilt.
Avoiding a Mess
The technological and physical ease with which we are now enabled to switch between work, family, household jobs and so on can leave our brain in a state of overwhelm.
We need to be aware that the blurring of boundaries can create a mess if we don’t consciously take control and plan it. It can easily become all-consuming, causing fatigue and a sense of failing to being our best to any of them. We have to avoid the ‘always-on’ approach.
A New Approach
Plan your tasks in a way that suits your needs, for example around your best time to exercise, or to attend school events or other appointments. Or gardening in the sunshine and working in the dark!
You’re likely to engage more productively with your different roles as you’re doing them at the right time for you, putting you in greater control and creating a healthier state of wellbeing.
“Accomplishment in a career is achievable not at the expense of the rest of your life, but because of commitments at home, in the community, and to your interior life.” Stewart D. Friedman, 2014.
Where do we Start?
We have to question our values and our narrative. What is important to us? The hours we work? Staying on top of email? Being around for our kids? Taking time for self-care that reduces emotional arousal?
We need to achieve a balance for each aspect of our life:
Family – e.g. leaving work early to collect children from school and answering emails at home
Our professional role – fulfilling requirements whilst ideally finding opportunities to utilise our interests and strengths
Our personal needs – such as pursuing hobbies, attending appointments and exercising between meetings,
Meeting your Needs
You need to give yourself permission to let go – To stop, slow down, rest and reset, to reduce self-induced pressure and walk away. In other words, to prioritise meeting your own needs. Here are some things to try:
Self-assess your level of control in life, your sense of meaning and purpose, your feeling of achievement and competence, your sense of status and security, your connection to other people and the wider community, the level of attention you give and receive, and the ability to create space for yourself. Find ways to address the gaps.
Plan a schedule that meets your needs and coordinates with others in your family and at work.
Be clear about your priorities and boundaries so that you avoid merging everything into something that feels overwhelming. And look out for each other.
Focus on the value you provide and not the hours you put into an activity. Time does not equate to performance and overwhelm reduces engagement and productivity.
Be willing to experiment. It is a learning process that requires trial and error. Start with something small and simple and expect to have to make small changes.
There is no right or wrong as long as you are clear about what successful work-life integration looks like for you and how you will achieve it. If you don’t take conscious control, it is likely you will feel like you’re juggling and continuously dropping balls.
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