It’s a tough time of year, isn’t it?
Short, dark days, rain and chilliness. And things can get a bit stressy at the office, too. You go back to work full of New Year resolution and good intentions – about being home at a reasonable time, going to Tai Chi regularly, or seeing good friends more often.
But very quickly you realise just how much there is to do and how long it’s all going to take. Your in-box is chocca, deadlines and meetings are flooding your planner and new work is coming in fast. Not to mention all those jobs you hoped to get done before Christmas, and somehow didn’t get to tick off.
You find yourself working crazily long hours, and rushing about like a maniac. All thoughts of balance lost.
I’ve been struck since getting back to work by how many people – friends, colleagues and my one-to-one coaching clients in the charity sector – are telling me that things are totally manic. I can hear it in their voices on the phone, or see them not quite being present in a conversation.
There’s an awful lot of busyness around and an awful lot of long hours being worked, already. What’s it going to be like by the end of the year, I’m wondering?
It’s very clear that extra hours build up to a very dodgy work-life balance (or life balance, as I prefer to call it) which can be really bad for you. Poor health, low mood and stress have all been linked with overwork. We Brits are particularly bad at work-life balance with 1 in 8 employees working very long hours as the norm.
The good news though, is that improving your life balance isn’t about making huge changes. Nothing drastic is required. A few minor tweaks, especially if you turn them into regular habits, have a big impact. In a recent Put YOU Back Into Your Life workshop (for charities to help their people improve wellbeing with a better work-life balance) one participant just committed to getting up 15 minutes earlier. She would then feel in control of her day, rather than events controlling her.
Three tips for moving from manic to balance
There are many things you can do to take back control of your own life-balance. Here are three game-changers:
- Recognise that you are in charge. Your working hours are accounted for, but you can choose how you divvy up the rest of the 24. And crucially you are the only person (and I really mean that) who can actually make the changes which will improve your balance. You choose to go to the gym, or not. You choose to stay late, or not. You can choose to get home on time for an evening walk with a loved one, or not. I know this can be a challenging thought when we feel that much of life is out of our hands but you’ll feel a whole lot better if you start thinking this way and you’ll find that it really is true.
- Stop blurring the lines. Turn off the computer, laptop, mobile, twitter feed, work email flow etc etc when you’re not working. The old line between work and home is non-existent nowadays. We can be wired up 24/7. But we can reclaim our disappearing downtime by turning off what we don’t need and being truly present in each moment. I’ve been turning off my land-line and mobile when my daughters go to their Saturday afternoon drama club. It’s created a haven of space that feels somehow old fashioned in it’s peacefulness.
- Say ‘no’ more often. Getting to balance is often about stopping doing, rather than starting doing. I encourage participants in Put YOU Back Into Your Life to see that when they say ‘yes’ to something they’re not too sure about (because so and so might be offended or whatever) they are saying ‘no’ to that peaceful evening in that they’ve been longing for.
Decide on three small things you’ll do differently from now on. They can be stopping or starting, at work or at home. Think about how they would help your work-life balance. Write them down. Make a commitment. After all, it’s your life.
Over to you
So, what are your top concerns about work-life balance? If you’re responsible for others at work, what are your strategies to help people get some balance? Do add your comments in ‘reply’ below to join in the conversation.
I’m currently taking bookings to run Put You Back Into Your Life with individual third sector organisations. If you want to help your team to a better life balance in 2015 click here to arrange a chat or to book.