Work Life Balance
Specialty: Declutter coach in London, UK
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/declutter
Twitter ID: @jlpcoach
Ask any working mum if they manage their time effectively, and they’re likely to express frustration, resentment at the disproportionate amount of time dedicated to work or household tasks. Many feel guilty for not spending quality time with their partner or children; others bemoan the fact that their own health or hobbies get neglected. In boardrooms, at bus-stops, on blogs – working mums seem preoccupied with the pursuit of work-life balance.
In conversation with coaching clients, teaching colleagues and fellow parents at my children’s schools, I notice that questions relating to work-life balance mask hidden assumptions. In order to create purposeful changes in our personal and professional lives, I’d like to declutter some of these assumptions.
1. “How can I be more wise with my time?”
If your work-life balance seems out of kilter, start by focusing on what’s going right rather than what needs improving.
- Rather than berating yourself for what you don’t manage to do, give yourself credit for what you do actually accomplish. Getting children ready for school is no mean feat. Arriving at work on time deserves recognition (even if your boss takes it for granted). Phoning a friend on her birthday can take considerable effort.
- Acknowledge success, rein in self-criticism and maintain a positive approach. I’m not advocating complacency here but it’s important to acknowledge existing talents and seek ways to apply them strategically rather than starting from scratch.
2. “How can I find more time for what I want?”
If you don’t clarify what really matters in your life, you’re not likely to find time for it. As business guru Lee Iacocca stated: “If you want to make good use of your time, you’ve got to know what’s most important and then give it all you’ve got.”
- Compile a list of qualities that you appreciate in yourself and in others, and ask yourself: what are you most passionate about in life?
- Consider the deeper values that your answers represent: creativity, freedom, connections, justice, love, laughter, learning – the possibilities are infinite.
- The aim is to figure out what matters most so you can plan and prioritise accordingly.
3. “How can I make more time in the day?”
Time management gurus often quote H. Jackson Brown Jnr: ‘Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.’
Personally, this maxim doesn’t satisfy me because to the best of my knowledge, none of these clever, creative and compassionate icons were working mums!
- It’s clearly futile to hanker for more hours in the day. It’s more useful to step back from micro-managing daily routines to take a broader view of the calendar.
- Whether you use an online planner or a simple diary, the aim is to look at work-life balance in terms of weekly, monthly, termly or annual goals rather than daily ones.
- Set goals together with your partner and children, for example, to plan activities at weekends and during vacations.
4. “How can I find the energy to tackle major projects?”
Whether it’s redecorating a room or dealing with paperwork– it takes time, energy and motivation to get started on household projects.
- The answer is to redefine objectives by breaking the project into smaller tasks that seem less daunting. Don’t aim to sort out your basement in one session; just focus on clearing one shelf at a time.
- Another tactic is to use a timer to limit the time that you dedicate to mundane but essential tasks.
- And maybe you need to let go of perfectionist tendencies: if a job’s worth doing, don’t worry about doing it well. Good enough can be good enough!
Conclusion: Is work-life balance itself a myth?
Discussions with working mums often leave me wondering whether work-life balance itself is myth. Work, it could be argued, is part of life. The way you feel about your work will impact on how you feel about your life, in general. Perhaps the greatest challenge for working mums, therefore, is not managing time but rather finding purpose and meaning in every aspect of our lives, including work.