At some stage we all get out of balance with work and our personal lives.Here are some clues on getting your balance back. At some stage we all get out of balance with work and our personal lives. Sometimes it starts with a few late nights, taking work home at weekends, and builds from there. And it can be the shock of illness – ours or someone close – that brings us back into perspective.
A new year is around the corner and I personally want to get my balance right for 2008. I am starting now in preparation by taking some time off in the snow in USA, but for some reason I can’t seem to get the balance right while in my own country!
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When work and private life are out of balance
In order to obtain more balance between work and private life, it first needs to be recognised that these areas are out of balance. The signs are usually obvious – people feel stressed and tired, and other people may make comments that a person looks tired or is snappy.
It gets to the point where there are no defined boundaries between work and private life – work gets brought home and family problems brought into the workplace. And with so much happening virtually – emails, mobile phones and portable devices – it’s even more so.
In many cases, people will be in denial. They know there is a problem but they don’t see it as a fundamental problem, or they feel that there is nothing much they can actually do about it.
They may also believe that the problem is temporary and therefore put off taking any action. They might say things to themselves like: “It’s just like this before Christmas…” or “It’s just like this before the end of the financial year…” or “If I can just get to this point, then I’ll…”.
There is always another good reason why they can or should continue the way they have been going.
Some people may even purposely allow themselves to get off balance, as an “avoidance strategy”. They do a lot of work in order to forget about family or relationship issues. There are different yardsticks for different individuals – some people simply work harder than others, and that is OK for them. People need to recognise what is right for them.
Often as a result of an imbalance, people lose their network of friends and their social life suffers. Because they have lost their network, they work more to compensate and the situation turns into a “vicious cycle”. Sometimes it is the culture of their own team – something imposed or self created but manifesting with everyone at the same workplace.
There are various ways of obtaining more of a balance between work and private life. These can range from major interventions to easy and inexpensive things. Some ideas include:
- Focus on fitness and health and make yourself a priority. Book times to do some exercise.
- Take a break or a holiday. Go somewhere where you cannot be contacted – don’t take a mobile with you! Use an email diversion.
- Talk to someone – a friend, colleague, your boss… even a counsellor. Don’t bottle it up as it will just get worse.
- You may need to take some time off during the day – take a walk and get out of the workplace, to break the cycle in some small way.
- Some organisations can help in providing child care, or being flexible by negotiating different hours, even a nine-day fortnight. You might need to set this up for you and your team, or ask for this – be creative and come up with some ideas to gain some extra hours for yourself.
- Reinvent your sleeping script. Saying things like “it’s 2am and if I don’t get eight hours sleep before work I’ll be hopeless” will certainly set you up for a difficult day. Instead, tell yourself something constructive and helpful like “these four hours [for example] will be fantastic and I will feel wonderful when I wake up”. It sometimes helps to review the reasons why you stayed up late and what you accomplished in that extra time.
- “Voluntary simplicity”. Re-evaluate what is most important to you in your life. Do you really need or want a bigger house, a better car, etc…? Maybe you could do with less, and have less pressure as a result.
By Eve Ash, psychologist and Managing Director, Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry of the Ash.Quarry production – Balancing Work and Private Life www.7dimensions.com.au
Zerlinda Buesnel-May writes: Your article is so right. I am in the midst of this very dilemma and have chosen finally to take drastic action and down scale my current role as a corporate EA, to take on community based, recruitment officer role outside of the CBD and closer to home. I have also enrolled to begin my degree in Nutritional Therapy in 2008. A start of a new chapter. For a few years now I have stayed doing the same thing. Always pretending I was okay with it. Finally, I have been truthful and am heading in the new and exciting direction. Articles like yours help support decisions like mine and lead to greater happiness and work/life balance. Thanks so much.