I’ll be honest here – i’m not entirely sure that there is such a thing as a perfect Work-Life Balance; the scales always seem to tip in one direction more than another and it’s so hard to juggle everything.
I have a very very busy life – I work full time (and often extra-time), have a ‘second job’ as a writer, I’m also a full-time mum, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an aunty, a friend, a blogger and so much more. There are so many hats that I need to wear throughout my week, or even just throughout my day that sometimes it feels as though I’m constantly dropping some or all of them. I’ve covered some of that feeling in my #MumGuilt post which you can read here too.
Lately I’ve really had enough of the constant struggle – I could cut things out of my life but honestly I do enjoy everything that I do and I like being busy, that being said I definitely need to try and maintain a little more balance; I’m very much an all-or-nothing kinda gal so I think I need to learn to slow down, to pace myself and to take control of my time.
And so I’ve done some research and asked friends how they achieve work-life balance (or attempt to!) in their lives, and here are a few tips i’ll be following and trying to implement over the coming months. I’ll let you know how it goes:
I saw a quote on Pinterest a while back that went something along the lines of ‘wherever you are be there‘ and it really struck a chord with me. How often do we see groups of friends meeting up for dinner and all simultaneously on their phones? How often do you ‘just’ write a quick email whilst playing with the kids? How often do you and your partner spend an hour sat next to each other but barely noticing the other’s presence? I know I for one am guilty of not truly being wherever it is that I am – I think i’m achieving more by multi-tasking but actually i’m just giving neither of the activities my full attention. I want to be really present whenever possible – if i’m out with my friends its because I enjoy their company and want to spend time with them, if i’m watching a movie I don’t want to miss the best bits because I was too busy responding to a message that could have waited, if I’m spending time with someone then I want it to be quality time.
This ties in with the idea above about ‘Being there’ and being present. Social media is always a distraction for me – both from work and everyday life. It’s easier said than done to step away from it though – particularly when you use it to communicate with friends or family you don’t see very often (or ever!). My phone is constantly buzzing with notifications from various apps, there’s always a message pending and I’m practically addicted to checking my Instagram feed. I don’t know how to best achieve this one – i’m not one for self-inflicted deadlines in terms of cut off times, and each day changes too much for me to be able to say ‘after 8pm no more social media’. Instead what I think I need to do is try me best to be present – leave the phone in the living room when I’m playing with Lily, mute the notifications in the evening, not take the bloody thing out of my purse when out at dinner with friends…
In my work role I have to be super organised and I am – I have a colour coded calendar, folders and sub-folders set out according to templates, I can access any document on my laptop within a few seconds, I manage simultaneous projects and deals and rarely ever slip up. Unfortunately that organisation doesn’t seem to flow over so easily into my real life. I’m forever forgetting Lily’s PE kit or having to iron her school uniform in the morning, always leave meals to the last minute to plan and end up heating up a ready meal or opting for something unhealthy instead of cooking a good meal from scratch. I think my brain kind of rebels against adding more organisation to things as it already works so hard on keeping tabs on everything work-related, but i’m a firm believer that a brain can be trained.
I’m planning to set myself a loose timetable of things that I need to get done across the day or week – simple things like prepping Lily’s packed lunches on a Sunday so that they are ready to go all week, or making sure to stick a wash in on certain mornings so as to keep on top of the laundry.
I’m also going to try and get back into meal planning, and thinking up some easy recipe ideas that will be quick or can be prepared ahead of time to minimise the effort and time required in the evenings after a long day of work.
In this instance a date isn’t referring to a night for me and Scott (although that’s important too) – I’m using date in the broader sense and thinking more about spending dedicated time with other people. A date in this case could be a coffee break with one of my friends, or a trip to the cinema with Lily, an evening spent sharing chocolate and gossip with a friend or an hour spent playing with my nephews whilst their mum relaxes.
It also, of course, does mean spending quality time with my better half – we are quite lucky that Lily loves to sleep over at her Nan’s or Grandad’s houses quite regularly – in fact she’d probably move in with one of them if she could! This means that we do get evenings where we can spend that time together, it’s just all about making the effort to do so. It’s way too often that we sit in the same room but are absorbed in completely different activities and barely say a word to each other all evening. Even if it’s just being sat on the sofa for a cuddle and catching up on the Walking Dead – it’s important that we make that time to spend together and not have distractions.
This tip can work in a multitude of ways. I’m thinking that it would work to combine a bit of housework with spending time with Lily – competing over who can pick up the Lego fastest, washing and drying the dishes together, getting her involved in preparing and cooking dinner. Or to combine meeting friends with exercise – taking the kids to the park and doing speed walking laps of the playground whilst they play, or doing a group exercise session together. Even working out with Scott – going for a run or helping each other through a HIIT workout. I begin training for the West Highland Way soon and to help me make the most of all the practice walks I’ll be taking I’m planning to turn them into blog articles, taking pictures and notes along the routes and I’ll even be recording myself, dictating the writing for my second job as I walk.
This is definitely a really difficult one for me – I’m such a people-pleaser and I hate letting people down; I always feel like people won’t like me if I don’t say Yes to their requests or suggestions – even when I really don’t want to do something!
I need to learn to openly say no without feeling like I need to justify it. Normally I’ll come up with some kind of excuse when actually what I really just need to say is “I’m not up for that” or “I don’t think that’s a good idea” or just, simply, “No”.
I’m forever agreeing to help people on extra tasks at work and in every day life, even when my to-do list is already heaving, but I’ve noticed recently that some people just take advantage of my willingness to help or make myself available and they now just expect me to jump whenever they click their fingers. It’s not a healthy relationship when things are like that. I need to step back and remind myself that I don’t have to be liked by everyone, and I don’t have to be involved in everything either.
Asking for help was never something that we did in my family growing up – we’d all just get on with our own thing, and struggle on in silence and when I look back now I realise that we could have all been a lot nicer to each other, and to ourselves and just asked for assistance.
Most of the time I don’t let anyone help me, I end up being a bit of a Martyr, or bottling up my frustration at doing everything myself and then snapping when someone asks for the slightest bit of my time. It’s not a healthy way for anyone to go through life.
I am going to start asking for help; from simple things like asking Scott ‘Can you pick up something for dinner tonight as I’ve got a hectic day on at work’ or asking Lily to help me write the shopping list, to bigger tasks like asking a friend to come round and help me blitz through my wardrobe and plan out some outfit combinations or to help me edit my writing when I’m struggling.
Friends and family who truly love and care for you will be happy to help if they have the time, just as I would do the same for them too, and often do.
And this one is probably the most important one – give yourself a break. I need to remind myself that there really is no such thing as ‘Perfect’; that the person whose life you see on Instagram which looks incredible and beautiful and organised will not always be that way, that what people let you see on social media isn’t the reality of life, that I’m not the only one out there pushing a basket of laundry out of the way in order to take a picture of my ‘tidy living room’, or who literally couldn’t be arsed to do the washing up the night before and so left it in the sink to soak.
For me I’m not expecting to achieve the perfect work-life balance, like I said above I’m not entirely sure it exists – after all we are human beings with a multitude of tasks and feelings and those things change daily too, not robots with pre-programmed timetables. What I do want to achieve however, is to have developed my own ways and strategies to deal with the things life puts on my plate without constantly feeling overwhelmed or exhausted – that’s not too much to ask but I know it will take hard work to get to that point, particularly when starting from where I am now.
How do you get more work-life balance? Is it something you struggle with? I’ll keep you updated with my progress over the coming months 🙂