Friday, 1 February 2008

What's work/life balance really all about?

Richard Branson said that there is no play or work, just living. So, if we are passionate about what we do, and we get excited about it every day, is there really a need to worry about work/life balance?

People regularly tell me they want to create more balance in their lives. They say they work too hard and don’t get enough time off. They don’t spend enough time with their family, don’t have days off, never take a holiday, get up early, go to bed late. It seems to be a constant battle to keep going.

I realised, after doing some “self-development” work with my coach and one of my mastermind groups, that whilst I love what I do, and am absolutely passionate about it, I might have been falling into a “trap” of pushing too hard in one area of life at the possible expense of another. For me, balance is not about work/life, but about the key areas of your whole life. This includes relationships with family and friends, fun and adventure, personal development, business, finance, toys and luxuries, contribution or service, health and fitness. The game of life is about having balance in all these areas so that no one area is suffering at the expense of success in another.

So, I asked myself “how can I create more balance as a whole” and then created goals, planned strategies and took action to make it happen. However, I also realised that planning balance and taking action was great and moved me forward, it was also very easy to allow myself to slip back into my old ways, the ways of my corporate career when everything in life then was about working hard, getting noticed, delivering results, being promoted, earning more money and bonuses, getting the new company car and so on.

It is so easy to work harder when things seem challenging and finding yourself spinning round in circles, beating yourself up when things don’t go the way you planned and then getting back on the roundabout of work, work, work, or rather, effort, effort, effort, losing sight of keeping balance in the other areas. This is the time when it is so important to keep our eye on the ball and allow ourselves to just take some time out to recharge, refocus and connect back with our energy.

I recall when I worked for a company many years ago, driving fork-lift trucks, moving their products around the site. We worked our machine solidly for 10 hours straight every day. The boss would say that the most important job of the day was to plug the fork-lift into it’s charger at the end of the shift, before we left. If this wasn’t done and we returned the following morning we would find no machine available and therefore no work, no money. The fork-lift, like us, needed to literally recharge it’s batteries to be able to function properly, or even at all, the next day.

So my success tips this week are:

  1. Review what you do and make sure that you are living your life in terms of living rather than work/life as if they are separate entities. They’re not.
  2. Look at where your balance is, or isn’t, and create some goals in those areas that you would like to improve.
  3. When things get tough, remind yourself that more “work” doesn’t necessarily mean better results.
  4. Take time to recharge your batteries and nurture your mind and body so that you can perform at your best every day.

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