We all have a fuel tank with limited fuel: Every one of us has a fixed amount of energy to use each day. How we distribute this energy between the main components of our life (e.g. work, rest, family and leisure) influences our work-life balance. If we put too much energy into work, too little energy into rest, family and leisure, and if we do it for too long, our well-being will suffer. Our health suffers, and our family and relationships suffer. We may be on the road to Burnout!
Balance involves giving appropriate amounts of attention/ time/energy to the important aspects of our life and often this needs to be flexible in order to deal with life’s natural challenges. Sometimes we need to work a bit harder, and sometimes rest a bit harder.
Because we are all different, we will also have different balance needs and we discover this with experience and self-reflection.
Balance requires self-management
Because life challenges, work load, other people and our own standards can pull us away from balance we require effective self and people management skills to build and maintain balance including: Self-awareness, (what’s needed); Time management (managing the load); Goal setting (what needs to be different); Problem solving (removing the obstacles); Stress management (managing pressure) and Assertiveness & saying no (managing others).
Components of Balance
Work – paid, voluntary, home duties, study
Personal Development – Identity, self-esteem, learning and stimulation
Social – family, friends, groups, teams
Spiritual – values, beliefs, religion, heart and mind
Heart and Mind – managing emotions and thinking
Physical – exercise, sport, activity, diet, health
Relaxation – leisure, rest
Benefits of Balance
A lifestyle that balances these activities will increase our personal health and well-being via the following avenues:
- Reduces stress and prevents burnout
- Stimulates the immune system and promotes recovery from illness
- Increases sense of happiness and well-being
- Provides perspective
- Increases physical health, energy and motivation
- Increases self-esteem, self-development, productivity and flexibility
- Provides social support and connectedness
Signs of imbalance include the following and maybe either a result of being off balance or an underlying cause of imbalance: decreased energy, motivation, flexibility; increased stress, frustration, worry; withdrawing from others; getting overly involved in work; negative attitude towards work, people or self; changes in general health and performance; lifestyle habits – increased smoking, drugs, caffeine, fast foods and reduced activity. Over time, these reactions can impact on the health of our heart and immune system leading to an increased risk of burnout and lifestyle diseases (i.e. heart disease, obesity, ulcers, diabetes, and some cancers).
Balance is often blocked by the following, all of which can be managed with effort and assistance.
- Lack of motivation
- Running out of Time and Energy
- The load on our plate (and responsibilities)
- Lacking assertive time management skills
- High levels of stress or illness
- Thinking negatively
- Not being able to say ‘no’
- Unaware that there is imbalance – can’t see it
- Life happens – unexpected critical events
Make a list of how you can help ensure a more balanced life.
A few examples include:
- Make time to reflect on your life and balance needs
- Make note of where your energy is going (actual balance) and decide on how you would like your life to be (ideal balance)
- Set reasonable goals and removing obstacles
- Know your role and responsibilities and your expectations
- Accept your limits (time, energy, skills) as a natural part of working life
- Take time to relax or energise. Have some fun, just read a book or walk on a beach or in a park. Have a massage, sing, dance or play a sport.
- Slow down – your inbox will never be empty.
- Share problems, but be careful what you share and with whom – giving too much personal information or confidential work problems is a definite NO.
- Accept that you will experience a full range of emotion and learn how to express this appropriately.
- Control negative thinking (worry) by rationally reviewing each situation. Ask yourself, ‘what would I be telling a friend in this situation to help them?’ Take it one step at a time.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Reduce your intake of sugar, carbohydrate and fat-rich food, caffeine and alcohol, and avoid cigarettes and drugs.
- Spend time with children, family, friends and people you like and get involved with social activities regularly.
- Take time to clarify and discuss your values, beliefs and what is important to you in your life.
The main focus for me in terms of maintaining a proper work/life balance is ensuring I switch off completely on my days off – no checking of work emails on my phone, no planning for next week, just making sure I use my time away from work to relax and recharge.
My job often requires out of office hours work, planning for the next day so I need to make sure I turn the phone off on days off and get active – catch up with family and friends, exercise (gym or walking), or just do nothing, as long as my mind is not focussed on work.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to the realisation that worrying about things out of my control is futile, so I don’t give that my time or energy. I’ve learned to take time to do things that give me pleasure: baking, catching up with friends, reading, going for walks. The housework is always there but time with loved ones can never be recouped when they are no longer around.
Work is important and when I’m at work I give 100% but when it’s time to clock off , I give my personal life 100% too. Learning to say “no”…difficult but necessary.
When I am at work, I focus on 100 percent on my task . When I am off work, my focus is on myself, family and friends. I understand my personal limit and aware of my physical ability. I would not take on a task that I am not capable. I do cardio and weight lifting exercises often to be physically fit and agile. My personal belief provide me the serenity to face any adversity.
I swap my work roster to fit in around things that are important to me as much as possible. I prioritise sleep as I’m a shift worker. I do yoga, practice mindfulness and I’m doing a continuing personal/spiritual development course where I’ve learned to slow down and breathe. The more I slow down, the more I get done – sounds counterintuitive but it works! I make time to do the things I enjoy – beach walks, catching up with friends, really enjoying the little indulgences when I have them. I’ve learned to stop being a people pleaser and to respectfully say no to honour myself and my needs
Prioritise – what is urgent, what is of high importance and what can wait. I have a tendency to want everything done straight away so I have been working on categorising my responsibilities.
I love to get outside for a stroll in the garden, dogs in tow. The sounds of the birds chattering away, the distant moo of a cow, the constant hum of the bees. Mother Nature rewards us for our previous hard work….New plantings that you carefully dug in have over time grow into magical displays. Admiring natural beauty is very meditative for me.
For me, being outside helps me reset and recharge.
Whether it’s going for a long walk with my partner, taking our dog to the park or simply just some me time, I find it all therapeutic.
My guilty pleasure is to take my motorcycle out for a long ride to the countryside. It is just so liberating.
Not something I do very often but something that brings me a lot of joy.
Hi all. I’m a late joiner, but will catch up. I am finding myself continuously applying for jobs, attempting to study and deal with a suicidal teenager, suffering depression that won’t study or wants to work. As I get more involved with him going missing for days on end, I spiral downward and lose absolute focus with this stress. I am attempting to manage my stress with getting back to exercising. Qi gong style to teach me to breath. I also use this at work when confronted with patients that are in a traumatic situation. I guess there is always someone worse off than me and I can get up and keep going. As I am not a smoker or drinker, my time out has always been a monthly massage to maintain healthy movement and I have discovered Netflix!! DANGER!!
Hi everyone, i think it’s important to have time to yourself without your phone especially since the pandemic began when i first got stood down i found myself spending a lot more time on my phone endlessly scrolling and wasting time so now there are times in the day when i don’t even have my phone on me and having it on silent i think helps also to be less distracted. I have also been doing a pilates class virtually everyday, this helps me not only for physical strength and flexibility but makes me focus on my breathing and puts me in a good mind frame.
I currently have a good work life balance, however because of shift work I feel as though some weeks I move between feeling unmotivated because i’m underachieving (according to my own standards) or feeling as though my calendar is so full that I want to throw my diary away and cancel everything.
The only constant is exercise daily which involves a strong social aspect also. I tend to get through the busy patches by noticing i’m busy and blocking out a day or two the following week to make up for the ‘me time’ I missed.
I do not answer work phone calls after 5pm during the week and at all on weekends and have an early bed time which allows me the time I need to get to sleep straight away.
‘Me time’ usually means quality time spent with my partner. I tend to feel a little bit out of wack if we haven’t spent a night at home having a home cooked meal.
I endeavour to take five minutes, at least twice a day, to focus on how I’m breathing, and then sloooow it down.
This is calming and restorative, and whether at work or at home, it seems to help “reset’ my system , and makes me feel that I’m in a more balanced state mentally, physically and emotionally , and ready to take on whatever the day is presenting.
I try to exercise regularly,
Eat healthy food,
Drink plenty of water,
Have adequate sleep
Have check lists in place for scheduling
Allow time to catch up with friends
Be organised and efficient with a structured routine
Be proactive with time management
I try to get enough sleep, though it does still feel it’s never enough.
Plan for my days and weeks ahead.
Be in the moment and focus within and then realise what truly is important in the now.
I ensure that social media is kept to a bare minimum during my working week so it does not distract me from my work/life balance.
Ensure I check in with myself a few times each day.
Read for pleasure, and encourage my kids to do the same.
Read for knowledge, and encourage my kids to do the same.
My balance is exercise in the morning, then work. To ease my mind at the end of the day, I do some meditation whilst going to bed.
Catching up with friends and family on the weekend is also good, but I also make sure I have time out as well. Not every weekend has to be filled with doing things, sometimes a bath and relax on the lounge is a must.
Afternoon walks, swimming in the ocean, entertaining and spending time with family are all ways that help me recharge and refocus on days off from work.
Maintaining a work/life balance has been difficult after not flying anymore, balancing part time and casual jobs to make ends meet results in time for self often coming second, a significant change after the generous periods of “me time” flying offered. Minimising my time on social media (or at least attempting to!) and trying to find time to get outside, even if for a 20 minute walk, can help to get back on track.
It certainly seems to be getting more difficult to balance the needs of work and having a healthy lifestyle. Maybe just a function of getting older, having kids, juggling more and more tasks or work demands increasing but it seems noticeably more difficult finding that balance than it used to be. I tend to use planning and organisation and my best defence against being overwhelmed with tasks. I then try and combine that when I can with exercise (cycling and lots of walking) to try and find time to relax and problem solve. Having a dog also seems to benefit members of our home in reducing stress and providing reasons to get outside and exercise.
Good luck to all with the course
Yes it is important to find time to relax, I agree with you, Dog walking is a great de-stressor.
i need to do this course as i need to retrain after not flying anymore. I do need to look at work life balance and realize its a must. I am studying after a long break so a bit nervous.
No need to stress Lauren you will find the course is very managable and you will recieve support all the way.
Hi all. Maintaining a work/life balance is absolutely important. Juggling work, family life, exercise and general day to day errands can be hectic to say to least. Thanks to this pandemic, a lot of adjustment has taken place over the past few months (especially being stood down from aviation). I have enjoyed more quality time with my wife and kids and taking up this course will also help me fine tune my career prospects as things start to get moving again. Enjoying sports (both by myself and with others) and doing renovations around the house has really helped keep my mental health in check. Good luck to everyone doing this course.
Hello all, Since the pandemic struck the world my work life balance has become one as I was stood down from work. Starting this course will help me to balance my study time and family life.
I eat well and enjoy walking my staffy pooch (Holly) without taking my phone this allows me to clear my thoughts without interruption. All the best to everyone x
Hi everyone, work/life balance has always been a struggle for me but I am learning to love doing things I genuinely enjoy (such as reconnecting with nature and going on long hikes with friends). I find that I come home feeling refreshed and happy. I am also a firm believer in being organised so that things get done and I am not overwhelmed. Good luck to everyone, I am also excited to be on this journey with you all.
Hi Everyone, I hope you are all managing to keep healthy physically and mentally during this pandemic.
I have decided that during this time of uncertainty i will educate myself not only academically but psychologically. It is a great time to explore mental health and what works for me.
At the top of a balanced life For me is my mental wellbeing, to nurture this I have always included Good nutrition and exercise, however i am taking the time to explore different types.
Voluntary work with animals and catching up with friends is important to me to feel needed and connected.
I love making lists and find this gives me structure and prevents me feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on what i can control and not stressing about things that are out of my control has been a huge learning curve for me.
I also practice gratitude, some days are harder than others haha
I am excited to be on this journey with you all.
Hello everyone, few familiar names in the group… well different time zones are going to be a challenge… Perth today, London tomorrow but loads of isolation to get my head around everything… good luck to one and all xx
I have dedicated one day a week to being my son’s day – we do whatever he wants to do and the household chores and work worries can wait for the day. I have found for my own personal wellbeing it is important to realise no matter how much you get done today, there will always be something else tomorrow – the list is endless – but that’s OK because that means you never have to complete something today if you don’t have the time. I am a firm believer that if you listen to your body (ie I’m feeling tired, I’m feeling stressed) and do what it needs, you will live a better and healthier life.
I like to spend as much time outdoors as possible. I do ocean swimming with a group in the mornings, I walk/run with my dog. I workout with a fun group on the beach in the early mornings. I also keep my mobile phone on silent for most of the day, and have turned off all notifications so I have to actively go into the app/chat group etc to check messages etc. I am missing my local choir as due to current covid restrictions/recommendations we are not currently meeting. This is hard as music is a big part of my life, but I still make time to play the piano at home.
I have set my work phone to automatic ‘do not disturb’ mode from 7pm – 7am everyday, so I dont get the alerts throughout my down time.
I also make sure I allocate 30 mins of exercise everyday.
I find it easier to plan my day if I have blocked out time for important events or just to have a lunch break. It’s so easy to end up in back to back meetings when you don’t protect some time for you. I also turn off email notifications – nothing like a ding in the middle of dinner or a movie to upset your balance.
Most of us leaders and managers talk about work-life balance and preach it to our teams; however, we forget that we also need to get the balance right. Let’s think about the effect of one team member lacking the right balance vs. the team leader. On the one hand, The team member’s lack of work-life balance leads to his lack of performance, which, for the most part, can be isolated to the individual’s duties. One the other hand, when a leader or manager is tired, overworked, or/and stressed, the effect would spread to the team, and it will have a ripple effect on all aspects of the business that can create a toxic environment. Consequently, leaders need to lead by example and have a well-balanced work-life environment. This not only set the right tone for the team but also it keeps the leaders’ mind sharp so they can empower and improve the team
I focus on the fundamentals of health; rest, nutrutition and exercise. For me, the trick is to develop daily routines that incorporate this healthy way of living. Work/life balance is far easier to achieve when the fundamentals are sound and followed-through consistently. This looks like at least 7 hours of sleep per night, a low carbohydrate/medium protein/high fat diet (although this changes slightly given the season and the fresh produce available) and weight training (although with covid-19, this has turned into stretching and spin bike sessions). These are the fundamentals, once I’m in a solid rouitne with these, I can move on to developing and maintaining quality personal and professional relationships – the next level of work/life balance, at least for me.
There have been times when I have allowed the scales to tip in the favour of work. Retrospectively what I noticed about myself was the increased level of stress, becoming run down, becoming ineffective in daily work tasks, suddenly feeling like things were mounting up and not knowing which to tackle first in order to fix up the mess.
When things were balanced and are balanced, everything just seems to flow and to some degree work itself out (obviously wiht a bit of effort from me).
Things I do to keep my balance and one of the priorities most of the time, is providing myself with avenues to be physically active and keep myself fit and healthy. With a Physical Education background, I’m aware of the many dimensions of health and the need to ensure they are all maintained and looked after, given the degree to which one can affect the others.
So, I enjoy mountain biking, bush walks, regular visits to a gym, going to the beach (I’m a water person), catching up with friends over a coffee or quiet beer, having a conversation with someone and perhaps the most important of all is ensuring a presence in the moment and being grateful.
There is little doubt with technology and the increased level of connectedness this provides, it is important that there are avenues to disconnect, knowing it will always be there and not disappear any time soon.
I am a single mother to 2 young children, who need my time and energy. On top of full time work.
So for me the work/life balance is essential in coping with everyday stresses.
For me I like to reconnect with nature. Go for a walk in the bush, be near or around water.
Catch up with my sisters/friends and talk about life, our journeys, our days etc.
I also give myself 20 minutes of an afternoon after work to shut down properly and get into full mother mode.
I like to give myself ‘permission’ to have a half hour of playing online games in the early afternoon. It’s my transition from day to evening before I prepare dinner.
Whenever possible I also love to travel and to practice my photography. I have lots of travel photos on my phone/ipad and this is a way of also remembering the amazing places I have visited and experiences I have had while travelling – its a little bit of travel in my pocket that I can access at any time when I want to escape.
I have a really full load on my calendar so I need to ensure I factor in the time to have social ‘me time’. I meet with a few friends for coffee each week at a set time and location and we have a good chat and some laughs about our week. Plus some amazing work colleagues are always good for a coffee/chat!
It is good you have recognised the need to have some time out and do something you enjoy Michelle. It is important to have a balance with work and play.
I like to spend time outdoors with my family whenever possible to try and improve this balance. We enjoy kayaking and practising Taekwondo together when time permits.
Finding this balance is increasingly difficult due to the increased access to work related emails on weekends, so keeping my family informed if I do need to access these emails is important. I believe communication is the key factor in this issue, as it can be very easy to become overwhelmed with some of the pressures of the balance.
Ben, I think your comment reflects how many people feel these days with access to technology allowing us to be connected 24/7, there is never a break or escape. It is important to manage this though and make sure we take time out for family and relaxation.