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Monday, 20 January 2014

How to achieve that elusive work-life balance

So it's early Sunday morning, and one of the work phone lines rings (my partner and I both work from home when we're not out and about with clients.) He rushes to the phone, and I yell "Leave it!!! - Don't they know it's Sunday?".  He answers it anyway, and after 20 minutes comes back and tells me it was just as well he did answer it, as it was an important new client on the brink of a huge new IT project for him... "Oh that's alright then" I say.

There's the rub. I very much appreciate and value our down-time together, but I am also quite ambitious for our businesses, and get excited about the prospect of new projects. It occurred to me later that evening, after watching a film on TV that our principles and values are only strong to a point. Each person will from time to time feel conflicted when they find themselves in a situation that challenges these principles. The work phone ringing on a Sunday morning was, for me, one of those situations. But rather than beat myself up for too long for not sticking to my principles, I decided it was time to remind myself of why I believe in balancing work and non-work activities, and to put some "all-year resolutions" into place.

First the benefits (I shouldn't need reminding of these, but here we go)
  • Increased resilience - inevitable stressful situations are experienced as less threatening and leave less of a mark.
  • Increased tolerance of other people's behaviour - which protects relationships both in and out of work.
  • Better decision making and problem solving - clearer thought processes help me to identify not just obvious solutions, and to be more decisive.
  • Enhanced productivity - when rested, I can plough through administrative tasks as at a rate of knots. Whereas when I'm overdoing it, it becomes like wading through treacle.
  • Higher motivation - I absolutely love my job. But I appreciate it most when I'm looking after myself too.
  • Optimum performance - without a doubt, I can get into "The Zone" quicker and stay there longer when I've had some time off to recuperate and recharge my batteries.

... All of which leads to greater productivity, happier customers and increased personal and business success.

The four step plan (How to improve your work-life balance)
  1. Put down-time in the diary - It may seem a bit over controlling, but if you're used to working with a diary, then having an "appointment" to go out for a nice long walk with your family, or to mow the lawn (not at this time of year, I know!), then you're more likely to stick with it. We have a long standing joke at home that we plan to do something spontaneous every Saturday. Funny, but it works! It also means you can begin to find time for the things that you'd like to do but never have time for. Like create a time slot to go for that early morning run you've been saying you'll do this year, but haven't so far and it's over half way through January.
  2. Evaluate and re-prioritise what you do with your time - If you take a look at how you spend your waking hours, you'll probably find that you spend quite a bit of time on people and activities that aren't valuable or life-enhancing. I don't mean finding chores that you hate, but looking for things that you're in the habit of doing that really don't give you many benefits. This could be spending excessive time searching the Internet for new ideas, or being a perfectionist and spending too long on getting unimportant tasks absolutely right. If you can stop yourself from wasting valuable time, you can replace it with more creative, joyful or relaxing activities that bring you the balance you're looking for,
  3. Don't do, delegate - A great example of a book that can inspire change without getting further than the title! Take a look at tasks that you currently do, both in and out of work, that you might be able to pass on (maybe just in part) to a willing helper. Looking to share tasks with other people will give them an opportunity to work with you and to learn from you. Don't keep your (washing-up) skills to yourself!
  4. Invigorate and rejuvenate - If you think "Exercise" is an 8 letter word, then find an activity that gets you up off your desk chair, or off of your sofa, and gets your blood pumping. Better still, an activity that gets fresh air into your lungs and daylight onto your skin. Research has shown that this will work wonders to clear your head and keep you more alert. It could be a brisk walk, a game of football, or a spot of digging in the garden. Failing that, try a cool (not cold) shower, get someone to give you a regular back and shoulder massage, or take up some form of yoga or meditation.
So there it is, hardly rocket science, but making a few small changes will make all the difference. So next time the work phone rings on a Sunday, will I answer it? The answer is "maybe"... depends how I'm feeling!

Do let me know your ideas for achieving work-life balance. Have you made any new year's resolutions that are already proving beneficial?

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