Mastering Work/Life Balance
Life is a Balancing Act. We are all constantly juggling conflicting priorities. Clearly we need to earn enough to fund our vision ... and pay the bills. But this can be so time-consuming we run out of time to enjoy it. Dealing with all the complicated practicalities of life frequently means we never get around to higher priorities such as moving forward and fulfilling our true potential.
Here I give you my Ten Commandments for Work/Life Balance & Fulfilment
• Get Your Priorities Really Clear
It’s a straight choice – are you after a life or just a lifestyle? Making extravagant holidays, houses, cars, gadgets and fashion accessories your priority commits you to a treadmill of money-making. No amount of stuff can fill the vacuum, whereas a lively interest in people, engagement with current issues and a variety of personal pursuits create a life full of richness.
• Review Your Finances, Sort The Money
It need not cost a fortune. But what happens is that expenditure tends to increase to use up the income available. Review what you spend money on, and work out how much of this is essential or even worth it – every £70 (that’s six quid a month) means another day’s work you have to do (at average income after tax)!
There are some costs you don’t have to keep paying for ever, the most obvious being your home. One way and another the top financial priority is to work towards getting a free roof over your head. This can be through a combination of paying off the mortgage early, sharing, renting out rooms, tapping parents’ assets and settling for a small place in an unfashionable area. This is the sort of sacrifice that is really worthwhile, because once you have a free roof, you can cut your costs to around £700 a month. Then you only need to work 7 days a month!
• Make Time For The Good Times
It really helps to remove what you don’t want in your life! You’d think this was obvious wouldn’t you? Yet most people’s lives are stuffed with things they don’t want. There are so-called friends they keep humouring, manipulative relatives, current partners with a shopping habit, social events and holidays they loathe, commuting hell ... and 75% of us are doing jobs we hate – all because we’ve lost sight of the real priorities. Make certain there’s time for fun! Good time management means dropping things ... and sometimes people.
If you’re feeling put upon, only valued for what’s in your purse or wallet, constantly spinning 17 plates for other people, put your foot down! Don’t worry about the squawks of “Selfish”; it takes one to know one, and it is not selfish of you to opt out of running other people’s lives for them.
You have 168 hours a week – and you alone choose what you do with them. If you commute and work an average week, you still have 56 hours for you. Don’t waste it. Chuck the telly in a skip and cancel the Blockbuster subscription. If email is making your life a misery, put a stop to it – have a creative hour instead. Make the most of meals & chore time. And be sure to have at least 28 hours a week (4 hours a day or all weekend) just for YOU, doing what you want. If you go solo and work from home of course, you could have even more flexibility.
• Rediscover The REAL You
If you have read this far, you’re probably quite seriously contemplating a Life Shift or maintaining one. Recognise that in so doing you are setting out on a journey to rediscover the real you. And this probably involves dropping most of those spinning plates. Life Shift means Change and the main thing that has to change is YOU! So the first career/enterprise development to do is personal development.
The new YOU that emerges will have one hell of a fight with the YOU that you created Frankenstein-like to get by in the world. Even though it has boxed you into a corner and cut you off at the knees, there is something comfortable and familiar about it that can be incredibly hard to let go. And that’s the principle personal growth task – letting go of the old that no longer serves you, so you can grasp the new.
• Do What You Love
In the end the only way to do it ... is to do it! Sitting ecstatically and humming will achieve little – you do have to get up off your butt. Work is a place we each create in order to learn and grow; and it has this useful feedback mechanism – money, which tells you when you’re on or off track. And if you’re ever going to create that gorgeous garden or get that Chopin prelude off, you’d better get cracking.
This might be your first Life Shift, or your tenth or you could be between Life Shifts, no matter. It’s an on-going process that never ends, and the process is:
-> every day review what brings you Joy ... and repeat it
-> every day review what makes you Miserable ... and delete it.
Doing what you love as a way of generating the income you need removes one major conflict. You get a whole extra 56 hours of bliss each week. Happiness is a by-product of doing what you love. So is money as it happens. So put your passion into practice. Life is simply too long to do anything else.
• Take The Brakes Off!
What does stop you? And what disguise has it assumed this time?! You’ll generally find it’s fear of some sort, an obsession or addiction, a tendency to whinge, your own private self-destruct button; what it will never be is someone or something else!
To get your life back in balance there’s no point pumping the accelerator, doing even more; all you have to do is just stop driving with the brakes on.
• Discover Commitment
Commitment is a complete mystery to most people, but it’s really very simple. If you can’t do something, or don’t want to, don’t pretend that you will. If you say you will do something ... DO IT! Now which bit of that is difficult? And yet I’m always coming across people who tell me they really, really want X. They then explain that they’re spending all their time on Y ... and wonder why X is not happening! I even catch myself doing it, and have to have a word!
“Let your yea be yea ...”
Commitment proves you’re taking responsibility. The Child in you, if it never grows to Adulthood shirks responsibility; it dumps responsibility for its life on others; it is both selfish ... and self-less in the sense that it is disconnected from its Self. On the other hand if your Adult self overdoes its sense of responsibility, it deprives others of the opportunity to take responsibility; this is also selfish and full of its self but equally disconnected from its Self. The wise Adult takes responsibility only when it is appropriate and allows others to be responsible when that is appropriate.
• Give It Time
Because there are so few hours in the day (and because we make such poor use of those hours) we have come to expect instant gratification as the norm. This probably accounts for 90% of our frustration and dissatisfaction with life! It takes time to play the trumpet like Miles Davis or paint like Picasso.
Rushing at things is counter-productive too. Give yourself time to develop excellence in your chosen, priority field, and take the time you need – Charlie Parker used to practise his alto sax for seven hours a day! Meanwhile ditch the ‘C’ jobs that waste your time. Gently! Issuing ultimata is unlikely to get your partner or family on board, and if you demand instant decisions from employers or customers the decision is probably No.
Think big by all means but start small; evolution is a gradual process. One good tip is to only change one thing at a time. Another is to start by making 1 day a week special – the way you want it to be.
• Get Help!
Think of this next phase of your life as a trip to the North Pole –would you not ask around a little before you set off?
You can do it all on your own – but you will dramatically reduce the time it takes if you get some serious help from someone who’s been there before. This will also spare you most of the pitfalls awaiting the unwary. And you won’t be wasting time reinventing the wheel. Pride and conceit slow you down; engaging with the experts, talking things through with a coach who’s trained to listen, teaming up with able collaborators speeds the process along and stops you getting stuck and discouraged.
One of the things that can appear to interfere with your Life Shift is the people around you not understanding or supporting you. Real friends will support, so you may cheerfully drop the rest! And focus instead on all the fun of connecting up with a whole new bunch of people who like you have chosen to engage with life.
Some people seem to do this connecting effortlessly. Others dread it. What takes you into the effortless category is ... GIVING. Give your total attention for starters; get out of the dual monologue dead-end and listen with genuine interest; ask questions that relate to what they’ve just said ... and listen to the answers. Just that could be enough, but you could also give encouragement, ideas, experience, information, contacts, a new perspective ... or just a smile!
Meeting each other in this generous way gives both of you a golden glow! And people will fall over themselves to help you back; you just need to be very clear what you want to know so we can all help you.
Sometimes you’re talking to just the right person; more often though you want to ‘network’ from this person to that Arctic explorer who can fill you in on the journey you plan. Now, if you’ve been a fascinating and interested communicator, how much more likely is it that you’ll be introduced to the next person who might help you on your way?
If you don’t give you probably won’t receive.
Finally, keep your priorities under review by reading your goals aloud first thing every day, and making a monthly commitment to meet up with your coach. It is too easy to let things drift and let other people’s agendas encroach on your life. Don’t backslide!
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Annie Ashdown - Business and Personal Development Coach, Author and IntuitiveOctober 20th, 2016