Achieving Work Life Balance

In today’s hectic 24 hour connected world, everyone is searching for that elusive, personally satisfying work life balance. 

What is this thing that we are all striving for, that we all endlessly go on about?
Well, it is exactly what is says on the tin.  In a nutshell - Not overworking yourself so you don’t have a life - any life - outside of work.  

Does the balance predicament sound familiar?
It may seem obvious, but if you have no work life balance, in the long run, this is likely to stunt professional and I hope to give you some kind of overview - and personal insights - in this blog.
Does work life balance even exist?  Or is it in reality, unattainable?  This is a question I hear regularly.
So, first things first.  What does the word balance mean?  Okay, trick question.  Balance means something different to each and every one of us.  It’s not about sticking to a strict timetable – it’s about feeling happy and fulfilled.  If you don’t feel happy and fulfilled, it affects your mindset, which ultimately, affects your work.  Anyway, working out the balance you need is about recognising what is important to you personally, to help you feel appreciated and ‘loving life’.
In my opinion, work life balance does exist.  When people ask me to define it, I always say the same thing; I don’t think it’s necessarily about how we actually spend our time, it’s about whether we feel happy with how we spend our time.  Essentially, work life balance varies for everyone.
As a real-life example, take me. Since changing roles at Broadgate Search from sales and managing a team to operations (training and development), I feel that my personal work life balance is a lot better.  This is despite the fact I get up an hour earlier now to go to the gym!  So, going back to what I said earlier, it’s about how we feel about how we spend our time.
Avoiding a burnout
Not being able to balance your work and personal life is one of the biggest pains that the current generation is facing.  I’m convinced that in my parents’ day and age, work life balance wasn’t even a ‘thing’ back then.  Burnout or no burnout, you just kept going.  You just got on with it!  It has to be said that they, of course, didn’t have mobiles and the internet to interrupt their attempts at leisure time relaxation. The world now is fast, very fast, and people need a new level of flexibility in their working lives.  

Could this be because of the increased number of women who have office jobs, who bring a new perspective to office life? If I had my diversity hat on, I could talk to you all day about this.  Anyway, that’s for another time – I will let you stew on that one.
Where were we? Yes, burnouts.  Time management – be good at it.  Have minimal distractions – focus on the task in hand.  Cue quote from Richard Branson – “life’s too short to waste your time doing things that don’t light your fire.  I don’t look at work as work and play as play; to me they are the same thing.”  I’m sure you that you will agree that he is a perfect example of how to stay away from the work-life balance burnout by doing something that you love, where work is fun. 
Maybe you aren’t in at the potential burnout stage yet. In that case I would advise you to develop a passion for what you are doing right now – this is the first step towards enjoying what you do.  When you get to that point, you will miraculously find a balance.  
Flexible working and career development
I hear endless discussions about how flexible working is good not only for you but also your career.  Is it true?  
Interestingly, a recent study, highlighted in The Guardian, concluded that flexible working can actually boost your professional progress.  A survey of 3,000 professional and managerial women and men from the UK and US showed that a good work life balance not only improves job satisfaction and employee retention, but it is also linked to faster career progression.
Whether it’s flexible start/finish times, reduced hours, working from home or compressed hours - all of this is classed as flexible working.  The study found that using at least one of these arrangements leads to a significant improvement in relation to balance and, surprisingly, enhanced career prospects. So, you heard it here first, striving for balance between work and outside work time does not mean you’re a skiver!

So how can you achieve this work life balance?
My first piece of advice is to assess the big picture.  What I mean by this is – look objectively at your life, think about areas you want to change and then take the necessary steps to reorganise your life in a way that allows you to find that work life balance you have been so solemnly looking for.
If you apply the below to your daily life, I’m certain that you will see an improvement.  Personal experience is my source!
Become more productive at work. This is all based around time management and organisation.  A book by Sarah Knight taught me a few things.  I now write myself a “to do” and a “must do” list, for example, which helps me to prioritise for that day.

Set limits.  When I know what I am doing for the day, I set a time that I will leave the office that day. Of course, one needs to be flexible in certain circumstances, but unless anything outstanding happens, I’ll desperately try to stick to that rule.

Learn to say no!  Possible the toughest thing to do, in my opinion.  There will always be pressure from others to do this and that, so you need to learn to say no to lower priority tasks.

There are numerous different options open to you here.  Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular, for example, but, from my own experience, exercising regularly and eating healthily are my top two.  It’s surprising how much impact this has on your mindset and mood.  Try it!
To put this into a personal perspective for you, I have to go through a wind down process after work.  This involves yoga, cooking, reading, or simply flaking out in front of the sofa to watch a few episodes of the Netflix series I am obsessing over at that time.  You get the idea.
Don’t go to bed with a million and one thoughts running through your head about what you need to do tomorrow or what happened that day.  You won’t sleep well and you will wake up exhausted! In my case, I plan my day the night before. Write myself to do list.  There, now it’s on a piece of paper and not running through my head. I can sleep.

In short, do what you need to do to switch off.
Just make sure you don’t try and change lots of areas of your life all at once.  Choose one thing at a time and take small steps. Do this consistently and you will notice a difference!
So, that’s it.  You can make your own decisions on whether you think work life balance will help you get where you need to be in life.  But if you are struggling with work life balance, I hope this blog helps you.  If you don’t believe in work life balance, if you think it’s all psycho-babble from people who don’t like hard work, who like to prove their machismo via the workplace, well at least you have read something from a different point of view.
And for those of you who are at a junior level reading this, don’t let an eagerness to succeed put you off looking for balance! If you manage your time correctly then (hopefully) you will be able to achieve some balance, be more productive and build your career pretty darn quick. Good luck!

About the Author:

Keeley Fitzsimmons
Training and Development Manager
Broadgate Search

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