How to maintain a work/life balance
Many senior executives will tell you that a work/life balance is at best an ideal that remains elusive, and at worst a simple myth. I know some people who work ridiculously long hours six or seven days a week, with no downtime, no life outside of their office.
It’s fine if you love what you do and it doesn’t feel like work, and if you have little to no family responsibilities that you are sacrificing. In other words, if the earning money aspect of it was taken away, you’d carry on doing it. But most people work to live, rather than live to work. Those people, if money was no object, wouldn’t continue their office job. They’d quit.
Life is short and we only get one. That’s why it’s important that we are happy, that we feel like we’re making a difference, that we don’t waste the time we’ve got. Maintaining a good work/life balance is a way of achieving that.
Easier said than done, you say? Here are five ways of maintaining that balance…
Define your successes
Identify your personal and professional goals and define what success means to you, because then you will be able to work out how to achieve it. Is it financial success you seek? Stability for your family? Recognition and a personal reputation in your industry? Making a difference to other people’s lives? Being able to see your friends often, and do exciting things with them? Travelling the world? Or simply having a passion for what you do? Understand that your definition of success will change over time, as will your means of achieving it.
Once you have set out your goals and successes, you will be able to identify what’s important to you. For example, if family and friends and maintaining your relationships are important to you, a good work/life balance should in theory flow naturally – because what you do is in pursuit of this. People who don’t set out clearly what their goals and successes are end up with regrets. This is because they haven’t allocated their time sufficiently and they’ve ended up missing out on things they really cared about.
Managing communications technology
Communications technologies such as mobile phones, i-Pads, social media and Skype make it so easy to communicate these days. This makes it harder to switch off and disconnect from work. But if you’re ever going to achieve a work/life balance, this is something you need to learn. Decide when, where and how you are going to accessible for work, and communicate this to your colleagues. Some executives and workers in high-powered jobs are starting to recognise the importance of managing their communications. They are forcing themselves to not check their emails or take calls so they can give their children 100% of their attention.
Building support networks
This is crucial for achieving a good work/life balance. Being able to manage your family/social life and your professional life depends on having a strong network of behind-the-scenes support, both at work and at home. This might be your stay-at-home partner who looks after the children, your nanny or assistance from extended family. This could be your personal assistant, your secretary and other support staff at work – people you can delegate work to and trust that it gets done. Recognising that you can’t do everything yourself is vital to maintaining a work/life balance.
Emotional support is essential too. If you have problems at home, confiding in a colleague can be useful to working out a solution. If you have problems at work, confiding in your partner or friends can help you see things from a fresh perspective.
Travelling and relocating
Business trips abroad are often a feature of high-powered, high-pressure jobs. Sometimes relocating is necessary. But you need to be selective and return to your list of goals and successes so you can work out your priorities. Most people’s home life plays a huge part in deciding whether to relocate, or how many business trips ought reasonably to be taken.
If your home or family life is your measure of success, upping sticks, pulling your children out of school and taking your family away from their home and their friends would betray that definition of success. If your ties are more limited and your measure of success is financial achievement and your professional reputation, relocating could be exactly what you need to do. If your goals and successes are a mixture of personal and professional priorities, then you need to decide which ranks higher in your list and go from there.
Collaborating with your partner
For a good work/life balance to be achieved and maintained, you and your partner need to have a shared vision of success. Having completely different goals and completely different priorities could tear you apart, but common goals hold couples together. Good cooperation and interdependence between partners also offer both partners opportunities for professional achievement, travel adventures, intensive parenting, political achievements and community impact.
Do you have any other suggestions for how best to achieve a good work/life balance? Write your suggestions below!