ThinkPieces

3 things I have learned about work-life balance

I am off to a conference out of town in a few weeks’ time – which means I am already doing the mental gymnastics required for life at home to run smoothly while I am away; and for certain work to continue even when I am away from my desk. Can you relate? Lifts to and from school, payments, shopping, meals, friends, volunteering commitments, emails, and, most importantly, time with my gorgeous family. Work-life balance: The impossible dream.

For anyone living in Jozi – it actually seems like a contradiction in terms. A chaotic schedule has become a status symbol, and we are too busy chasing our tails to question our approach.

Here are 3 things to bear in mind as you navigate the joyful craziness that is life in 2018…

  1. Keeping your balance requires a focal point
    Remember that childhood game where you had to balance on one foot while watching a focal point? And remember what happened when you closed your eyes? Guess what? It’s even harder as an adult ;-) If I don’t keep my eyes on what I am aiming for – in my being and my doing – it won’t be long before I fall over.
  2. It’s not just ‘work’ vs ‘life’!
    Work is just one of many categories in our lives. We embrace the work-life dualism at our peril: It prevents us from seeing the full landscape of our lives and deceives us into abdicating responsibility for all sorts of other important (and enjoyable) things. My emotional, physical and relational health all play into the general wellness and tone of my life, alongside my career, my financial stability and my sense of meaning. I need to step back and identify ‘slices of the pie’, or I may miss them.
  3. ‘Balance’ re-defined
    Balance either implies an ‘even distribution of weight’ so that something can be steady and stable, or it implies that ‘different elements exist in the correct proportion – resulting in a sense of fairness, or evenhandedness.’ I prefer the second angle. There was a time when I naively thought that balance meant that there should be a constant equality of attention to all the different priorities in my life. In reality, there is no way that the myriad of priorities I am juggling will all receive the same distribution of weight or attention simultaneously, week after week. Instead, the demands they make of me vary from day to day, from week to week – and their prominence varies with the ebb and flow of life. One week I am chasing work priorities and don’t get to gym as many times I would like; but I can always catch up the next week. When I know I have some time away from the family on the horizon, I create extra time to fill up those emotional tanks beforehand. It comes down to an overall sense of fairness, which requires dynamic tweaking and mid-course correction from one day to another. If I get stuck on rules around weekly timing, I will tie myself up in knots. Flexibility is key. It’s ok for balance to look different from one week to the next.

So there we go: 3 things – maintain a focal point, see work as one part of your life and not opposed to your life, and carefully examine how you define that evasive goal of balance. Go get ‘em!

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