Work life balance (and how to find it)

I read a news article recently that referenced a Novotel study finding that the ‘average Brit’s work-life balance is 55% work and just 45% pleasure’. It went on to suggest that ‘the ideal is considered to be 43% work and 57% life’. Whilst it’s not a surprise to read statistics like this I still find it mind-blowing that we accept this as the norm. And aiming for 43% work and 57% life still feels like a massive compromise to me.

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Personally, I don’t like the term work-life balance. It suggests that our work isn’t part of our lives, that it’s the thing that just gets in the way. And looking at the other side of the same coin, living is what we get to do only when we aren’t at work. I prefer the simpler term of ‘life balance’.

At least half of my clients highlight work-life balance as a problem area for them at some point in our coaching programme. It means different things to different people, but invariably something isn’t how they want it to be for them, it’s a cause of pain and, of course, they’d like it to be better. We work on it, but only when we’re completely clear where the problem lies.


Is work-life balance a problem for me?

If you feel like work life balance is a problem for you, it might be useful to reflect on these three key questions.

1. How am I balancing my work and life now? 

  • How much time do I spend at work?
  • How much time do I spend ‘living’?
  • What do I consider to be the key activities that make up ‘life’?
  • Where does the rest of my time go?

It’s helpful to chunk this up into different activities (hobbies, family, social, exercise, adventures, etc.).

Now go back over your answers and check that you’re being honest with yourself. This shouldn’t be just about where you are physically, it’s also about where you are mentally. If you’re reading a bedtime story to your daughter but thinking about the report you need to finish for the boss, where are you really? If you’re stuck in a meeting at work but stressing that you’re late for your anniversary meal, are you really still at work?

2. For each part of my life, what do I get for my time investment? 

  • What does my work give me?
    The first answer here is usually ‘money’. But it’s really important not to stop here, there will be more.
  • Does my work give me anything else? Maybe a sense of achievement at the end of the day. Maybe it’s social connection from colleagues. Pride? A sense of purpose?
    Spend as much time as you can on this. Then you can follow up with this:
  • For each of my ‘life’ activities, what do I get from them? 

When you’ve spent plenty of focused attention on understanding what all of your various activities are giving you, you’re ready for question three.

3. If I could design my life to be exactly how I want it, what would the balance look like? 

  • Where would I want to spend more time?
  • Where would I allocate less time?
  • What needs to be taken off of my list altogether? This is your ideal life, why would you leave things on the list if you don’t want to be doing them?
  • What would I want to add to my list? 

If you’re thinking about your ideal life for the first time, you’ll almost certainly find yourself putting up barriers. Look out for these old favourites:

  • “it’s unrealistic”
  • “I can’t afford to change”
  • “it’s too late" / "I’m too old" / “I should have done it years ago”
  • “work is work, it’s not meant to be fun”
  • “I’m at the stage of my career where I have to do the hours, it will get easier”
  • “when I have enough money, I’ll retire early”

In coaching, we call these limiting beliefs. Our minds are absolutely brilliant at serving these up to us whenever we have some doubt about whether we are capable, motivated and deserving of better things. Listen out for them. It’s important to challenge them – they often stand in the way of life-changing progress.

When you’ve worked through these three questions, you’re ready for question four: What’s my first step?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53
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Written by Alan Evans, Executive Coach, Life Coach
Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53

Alan is a husband and father of two teenagers. He is a coach, mentor and consultant to individuals and businesses. His greatest passion is helping people and businesses to find the confidence to unlock their potential. He works with individuals at all stages of life, from teenagers up to pensioners, and with small to medium-sized businesses.

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