3 Secrets to Achieving Work Life Balance

As working parents and carers, we are juggling a lot. Additional pressure to have the elusive work-life balance, although it makes intuitive sense, can add even more to our to-do list.  

We often feel far from balanced, and in fact, spend a lot of our time feeling tired, stressed, out of control, irritable, and exhausted.  

We are chasing our tail, overwhelmed and discontent.

So, what are the secrets to achieving work-life balance?

Secret No. 1 - Redefining 

I much prefer the term work-life blend. It removes the expectation for there to be any kind of equilibrium and introduces the idea that there is a mixture of different elements in our work and lives, and they combine together.  

That mixture may change from month to month, week to week, or even hour to hour. The term work-life blend acknowledges the fluctuating ebbs and flows of demands that come from different parts of our lives at different times, sometimes without warning.

By re-defining, we're able to remove the pressure.  Our previous expectation of ourselves to be levelling work and life disappears.  This re-set gives us permission to draw a line in the sand and approach things differently going forward.  

Secret No. 2 - Acknowledge your Unique Blend

As with the age-old saying... 'You can't change what you don't acknowledge'.

So, what exactly are you blending?  It's not as simple as work... and ... life.  There are so many aspects to both of those areas.

If we break it down into the many component parts that we are juggling, we start to understand and appreciate why we may be experiencing overwhelm at certain times.  

It can be helpful to write down all the different roles you play or hats you wear in work and life, as well as the activities you are involved in.  

Think over your work and personal diary - both planned and unplanned.  Where do you spend your time, what hobbies do you have, who do you interact with, and what support do you give and receive?  Another way to think about it may be to imagine someone is a fly on the wall to your life.  What are all the things they see you doing or being?

By recalling all that we spend our time on, we begin to become more aware of what we may be blending, or how many hats we might be wearing at any given time. This heightened awareness allows us a helicopter view of our situation, which then allows for understanding to emerge.  We can then choose if we want it to be any different.

Secret No. 3 - Honesty - What Changes Do you Want?

Looking at the roles you play or hats you wear, allows you to not only acknowledge the number of them but also take a step back and assess how happy you are with the ones you are blending. It also allows you to appreciate if the things that you enjoy doing actually feature.  Maybe there are things not currently in your blend that you'd like to introduce or devote more time to, such as hobbies or friendships.

I encourage my coaching clients to first acknowledge the amount of time spent in each of the areas or roles, and then to rate each area out of ten.  0 being extremely unhappy, 10 being extremely happy.

A recent client acknowledged that a lot of her spare time and energy was heavily invested in her role as a school governor, yet it was something she no longer enjoyed or felt fulfilled by. She also realised she valued the relationship she had with her brother yet wasn't investing time in it.  Her newfound awareness allowed her the choice as to what she kept the same, and what she chose to do differently going forward.

So, what are you blending right now and how would you like that to be different?

Try this self-reflection exercise to assist with your thinking:

  • In what area(s) are you most satisfied? Why is that?
  • In what area(s) are you least satisfied? Why is that?
  • What are the consequences of the lower-scoring parts of your life?
  • What actions can you start to take to feel more fulfilled and blended?
  • Which is the area that, if it received greater attention, would give you the most sense of success and/or satisfaction that felt meaningful to you at this time in your life?

Amy is a mum. At times a ridiculously challenged mum, but a mum. And (trying at least to be) a good mum at that. Amy is also a professionally and academically accredited coach, passionate about supporting working parents like her, through the transitions where work and life collide.  

Formerly a people and HR professional and an internal coach, Amy’s particular skill is developing future leaders, real leaders and supporting working parents to thrive. She has an accomplished ability to enable belief and confidence in others.