What is work life balance and how can you achieve it?
I recently saw a question from a colleague of mine – we are both members of a local group of management consultants – who was asking for any thoughts people had on work-life balance.
I gave a wry smile when I saw the comment and my initial thought was ‘well you first have to decide what balance YOU want. Then you have to constantly strive to maintain that balance, whilst occasionally asking yourself is this still the right balance for me?’
I did not reply to the email because I thought that all sounded a little too easy and I was sure he was after something much more profound.
But maybe not?
I have worked as a consultant for over 20 years (with just a short slip into the employed world for three years in the middle!) and that has taken me through a variety of phases in my life where the balance I needed between work and “life” was different.
I consider myself pretty good at achieving a good work-life balance but I never take it for granted. It really is a very careful balancing act and one which I do not always get exactly right.
One really important thing to always remember is that – nothing has to be forever. You can make a temporary change knowing that it is just a stepping stone along the way to the real change you are not quite ready to make.
As my daughter was heading to senior school I knew another phase of my work and personal life was just around the corner. I had already considered the options I might choose to take to realign the balance, as this change approached. And maybe that is part of the knack – seeing those changes ahead and preparing to adapt before the change actually hits.
You also need to be prepared for a little pain and stress along the way. Making changes to your work or lifestyle often means stepping into the unknown and that can be stressful. One thing I have learned along the way is that the uncertainty is only a temporary stage as you become accustomed to the new patterns and challenges in your life. I am certainly in that stage at the moment with a quite dramatic shift back into the world of hands on project management from the world of training.
And finally in order to have the confidence to make these, sometimes dramatic “tweaks” to your work-life balance you need the support of your family and friends. I certainly could not have achieved the balance I have struck without the continual support of my partner and the periodic confidence boosts of my friends and colleagues.
So in summary what do you need to achieve a good work-life balance:
- An understanding of what balance means to you
- An ability and the courage to adapt that balance
- A vision to see the need for change before it occurs
- The patience to see it through even when the new world feels painful
- And the support of your family and friends when you need it
I am writing this blog from the sunny kitchen of our cottage in the Dales, whilst listening to spring birdsong and the huffs and puffs of my daughter den building in the lounge. Having already this morning started the epic washing from 2 weeks of guests to the cottage, updated my profile for a new client, sent some emails to former clients to arrange to catch up with them and fed the birds. Not a bad balance even if I say so myself!