Aug. 28, 2013 at 5:38 PM ET
How many of the elements of our life are right?
When you break down all of the things that we do, both personally and professionally, there are a huge number each day, each week and each month.
If you are inclined, you can categorize these tasks and work out which ones are absolutely in the right place, which ones are clearly not and which could be better if only certain things changed. We’re definitely going to see an improvement in work-life balance if we adjust those elements that are out of kilter.
How interesting are we making our life?
Sometimes our schedules are full but we find that it is very routine and very dull. What we are driving at here is that you’ll find it useful to focus on what you do, what you read and what you think.
In other words, is it possible that you can become more interested and more interesting if you proactively seek variety in these areas of your life? 'I haven’t got time to read!' I hear you say. If you’re reading the right things for you, you don’t have to spend many minutes in any day to trigger new thinking and new ideas.
Your company and your boss
Whether you’re working part time or full time, the likelihood is you’re giving more emotional time and energy than the amount of hours that you’re being paid for. That is not a bad thing, by the way, so long as it’s healthy for you.
But you may want to reflect on where you are professionally. What are you doing, what is the organization and the team you’re doing it for, and who is your leader? If these components are fine, your work-life balance is likely to be in a good place. Quite often though, these elements need slight adjustments, if not a full blown transition, to get them into a better space.
At different stages of our life, our work-life balance shifts and resettles in a different place. This could be as a result of moving, changing jobs, embarking on a new relationship or having children. One of the secrets to getting a better work-life balance in any of these scenarios is to be fit.
This is not about the kind of fitness that helps you run marathons; this is about being fit for where you are at this stage and how much energy you need to be able to perform without regularly making yourself exhausted. If you crave more time in bed in the morning because you’re exhausted, this is partly to do with your work and life being out of balance. If you address the fitness issue both in terms of nutrition and exercise, it’s going to help.
Wake up your schedule
Many of us love routine. If we have routine and structure and stability in our daily schedule, our work and our life are generally in balance. This is certainly true for many people. But sometimes it is a good idea to break up this schedule, even if only for a short time, so that you can be engaged with different routines.
Doing so brings a freshness and an energy that was not there before.
The more control that we have over our life, the better. Sometimes we feel that things can get out of control. This sometimes happens with other people in our personal life, perhaps where one of our kids gets into a situation that’s less than ideal. Those sort of ad hoc events do occur, but more often our lack of control is over our work and over our travel.
If it’s to do with our work, we must address it by renegotiating or re-contracting with our boss. The issue of travel can be harder. Where it is possible to travel less, particularly if we’re flying around, do so. There are also going to be times where you might want to negotiate spending your time differently, for example, working from home rather than being at the beck and call of highways and trains.
Feedback and growth
Feedback on how we’re doing is a fundamental requirement of a happy, well built person. We are not always in the lucky position where we get feedback spontaneously or regularly, either personally or professionally.
You want to be bolder in asking for feedback more regularly, not just to know that you’re OK but also to identify where you can grow. 'What can I do in my life and in my work that will make things better, that will allow me to be more effective? How should I spend my time?' These are the questions that you should be able to ask of your boss periodically, not just once a year at the annual review.
Friends and colleagues
Good friends and trusted colleagues are a prerequisite to good work-life balance. These will be people that you trust, people that you can lean on in difficult times, people who will pick up the slack when you need that type of support. No one is an island.
Have security and a plan B
We all hope that we’re in a secure climate. That security of tenure, particularly in an economic downturn, is so important for retaining balance in our lives. The predictability of the labor situation is not as it used to be, and more and more areas of employment are becoming less secure.
Have a plan B. If your current position were to end, what would you do? It’s not a question we ask ourselves often and it’s not an answer that is easy for us to give ourselves, but we must give an answer.
Work and non-work
If you enjoy your work to such a degree that you don’t see the boundaries clearly between when you’re actually doing work and when you’re not, the likelihood is that you’re already engaged in the secret of work-life balance.
The flipside of this is that your work is becoming too much of an intrusion and that it is causing you stress and anxiety. That clearly is not a good thing. If you have the former state of affairs, then you’ve probably got good work-life balance already.
Simon North is the Founder of Position Ignition, one of the UK’s leading career consultancy companies.
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