We hear so much these days about the importance of work-life balance.
Can we have both?
Can you be successful at work and still have time to play?
Just like in life, sometimes finding balance is not about equal measure, just what works for you.
What does balance look like for you?
What the balance looks like, will be different for different people.
Balance for work and play may not mean an exact 50% split for everyone. This will depend on what your priorities are, and whether these are work or personal priorities.
People talk a lot about the importance of work and life balance, however, the key to feeling ‘in balance’ is making sure that the balance is right for you, and in line with your goals and priorities.
Your priorities will change over time, this is perfectly normal and so this will result in where the balance tips.
When we review our priorities we also need to review our activities to check that they are in alignment, and as a result in balance with what we are trying to achieve in our life.
Once we have decided what ‘being in balance’ looks like then we can ensure that our actions and behaviours are in alignment.
What is most important, is that you determine what the balance looks like, for you.
If your career is your current priority then 'play' will be less important.
You will have made a conscious decision to invest your energy and time into your career which means that there will have been a conscious decision to reduce the amount of time to play to allow for this.
This will only feel ‘in balance’ if it has been a conscious decision and choice. The fact that you have less time to play, will not be an issue, as it is in line with your goals. You will have made a conscious decision to ‘sacrifice’ or 'exchange' playtime for work time.
This is OK when it is a decision in line with your goals and will probably feel less like a sacrifice.
Many people will want to aim for a more even split, however, where the split lies is not the issue, it is how you ensure that you meet the split you have chosen that will be the most important factor.
Where the balance lies is a personal choice. There is no right or wrong. There is only what is right or wrong for you.
Maintaining your balance.
Maintaining balance can be a challenge. So often there are interdependencies or elements that are not within our control.
As with many things in life, start with the elements you can control, and then extend this to the elements that you can influence.
These elements may be other people, it may be making a conscious decision to say 'no' to opportunities or offers that arise.
Focus on the elements that you can control and influence, make sure that you don't get distracted and divert your energy and focus to things that are outside of your control.
Determine your priorities
If you have not taken time to sit and reflect, and consciously determine your priorities, then you need to do this before you do anything else.
You can’t decide that something is out of balance if you have not given yourself time to reflect on what you want the balance to look like.
Decide what you want it to look like.
What will you say yes to?
What will you say no to?
What is non-negotiable?
What activities will you prioritise?
Which activities will you be flexible with if you are short of time?
What does it look like when you achieve it?
What will feel different when things are in balance?
Diarise what is important
Diarise the activities that are important to you. Don’t just say you will call a friend, put it in your diary that you will call them at a particular time, on a particular day.
Book in-play activities as much as you would book in-work activities. Commit time and energy to them in the same way.
Diarise activities you may not normally put in the calendar but activities that you often end up not making time for. You are more likely to make time for them if they are in your calendar as a commitment.
Friends, family, social events etc.
Physical health time
Gym, walking, running, team sports etc.
Mental health time
Time out, reading, film, spa session, massage, book, bath etc.
Make it a priority.
How to tell when the balance is off.
There is a difference between when we 'choose' to do something and when we feel we are doing something that is not by choice.
When something is not in alignment with our values, needs or goals, then we can feel frustration, resentment or even stress.
Working a 10-hour day (or even longer) may not evoke any of these responses if we have made the conscious decision that this is what we want to do, as it is in line with our needs and goals.
If, however, we have determined that our needs and goals are not work-related, then a long day at work can have a significant impact, especially if this extended work activity results in us missing a social activity.
If we have consciously decided to de-prioritise social activities then missing out on social activity to finalize a task or activity at work may not be an issue.
When it feels out of sync it is important to reflect on what is out of alignment. Is it the volume of time that you have spent or maybe even the activity itself?
If it doesn’t feel right reflect on what you need to do differently.
How to tell when the balance is right
When the balance is right, it feels right.
It is important to pay attention to how you feel, as what looks to be right on paper, may not feel right and so adjustments may need to be made.
Whatever that looks like will be different for all of us. What we feel is ‘in balance’ will be different for different people.
You may have colleagues who perceive ‘in balance’ as something very different to you. There is no right or wrong, remember it is a personal choice.
If the balance is right then we spend quality time where we choose to be. We don’t resent the fact that we are somewhere where we don’t want to be.
People who have the balance correct tend to be more productive, they tend to be happier at work, and at home, approach activities with enthusiasm and most importantly as they are working towards their goals they feel that sense of fulfilment.
Find out more in this Phoenix in Focus, video short:
If you would like some support to adjust the balance of work and play in your life why not book a clarity call and see how Coaching can help you achieve the balance and confidence to live the life you choose.
First published Aug 2020
Revised and republished Nov 2022