Imagine that your Headteacher came in one morning and said, ‘take the day off, go on, go and do whatever you want!’. But imagine that he or she also said you couldn’t do any school work, or housework, or other jobs like this, it had to be a day off, doing something for you, something that would truly rejuvenate yourself. This is self care, and basically we don’t do enough of this, but we must, if we are to feel like we have some assemblence of a reasonable work-life balance.
If your Headteacher did say you could have the day off, would you grasp it with both hands and know exactly what you’d do, or would you actually feel guilty at the prospect of such an indulgence? Self care is important if you want to be your best at work so don’t feel guilty. Let me give you a car analogy. There’s probably certain checks and maintenance you’d do on your car if you planned to go on a long journey as well as the general maintenance throughout the year. And you’d need to ensure you had a mechanism to refuel too! Self care is the human equivalent. It might seem counterintuitive to spend time ‘frivolously’ when you could be doing a whole host of things on your long ‘to do’ list. However, caring for yourself is essential (even in little ways) to your health, general well being, and work-life satisfaction. So, Coach Julie Cohen says:
- commit time and energy to looking after yourself – have specific and sacred time booked in just for you.
- put yourself first – believe in the benefits of focusing on yourself because if you don’t, you’ll feel you are stealing time from some other activity you could be doing
- stay clear on what matters to you – what are your self care priorities and how do you want them to make you feel?
- surround yourself with a supportive environment – who are the people who can offer you support and encouragement to engage in your self care?
If you are unhappy with your work-life balance, one of the first things you must do is look at your priorities – do you spend enough time on what is important to you? The common problems are that people haven’t prioritised, or they have but haven’t acted upon them (or don’t know how to), or have come up against one of the low priority creep barriers that side tracks you.
- The first thing to do is create a vision, a professional and personal vision. Once you have done this it’s easier to make sound decisions.
- There are a number of ways you can create a vision, and include imagining your future self, writing a future job description in 5/10/15 years, or even write a plan of where you want to be in 5/10 years. Whatever this future vision looks like, it must excite you, and concern what’s really important to you now.
- Now you can develop your priorities. Break this vision/big picture into manageable chunks and decide what are you going to commit to doing in the next 6 months, to move towards your vision. But be realistic. Set yourself up for success. And think about financial, and time resources, energy levels and if you are really ready and willing to do this.
- Now as you will know, there can be a disconnect between knowing your priorities and doing something about them! So, you’ll need to secure time that is sacred, each day, week, and month. For example, think about how you will plan each day, and select maybe 2 or 3 priorities (professional and personal) that will help you work towards your vision. Also think about changes that you need to make, or support you need, to do this.
- You will also need to think about where to plan, for how long, and how you will ensure it’s sacred?
- So now plan! This is, of course, a tangible way to move forward. And don’t forget to plan a routine to evaluate and revisit your progress, this way you’ll be able to celebrate the strides you are making towards the work-life balance you want!
Did I get your attention? Good. Because there’s a lot of talk about work-life balance. It’s something we strive for but often never seem to achieve. And the reason is simple – this concept is not a destination or end state but rather a journey towards a desired state of being. You might achieve moments or days of ‘balance’ but it’s not likely to be experienced on a permanent basis. So there’s the bad news. But the good news is if we understand what barriers lay before us, that are stopping us from moving towards our desired state, and then do something about them, we are more likely to feel good about our lives. So how satisfied are you with your work-life balance?
- Rate your work-life balance from 1 to 10 (’10’ being you stop reading this blog right now because it’s just perfect, and ‘1’ being you have no life as such and can’t see a way forward. When doing this exercise, think about how satisfied you are with your relationships, working hours, the work you do, how in control of your life you are, if you exercise, sleep, and can relax easily as well as interests you pursue, and major stressors in your life.
- Now write a 3 word descriptor about how you feel about this number. If it’s a ‘3’ then you might write, ‘stressed and tired’, or a ‘7’ might be, ‘sometimes it’s fun’.
- Document the 2 actions above and write down the date too.
- Now imagine what is possible! Vividly visualise what your ideal desired state would be, thinking about how your personal and professional worlds might compliment each other. Think about the choices and actions you make that will move you towards this ideal state. How do you feel when you visualise being there? What does it look like? How is it different from now?
- Now write down a 3 word descriptor for this new ideal state. It could be, ‘I’m in control’, or, ‘weekends are mine’.
- Of course, moving towards your desired work-life balance needs you to actually make the right choices and then take action. So, what are you waiting for!