As an Occupational Psychologist, I regularly work with clients on supporting them with one of life’s greatest mysteries.
“How do I achieve good work-life balance?”
I've written this article for Daddy's Digest to help parents better understand that it ultimately boils down to focusing on two key areas,
Identifying personal values
It is important to recognise that the dynamics of work-life balance change over the course of time and as your career path evolves. Early on in your career, when you have the time and energy to focus on work, you may find yourself giving priority to your career. After the birth of a child, that balance may shift to focus on family and you may prioritise your free time with them over extra work or even a golf session with the boss.
The key is to recognise that this balance is ever evolving and therefore needs to be evaluated regularly.
Where do you want to be on the work-life balance scale?
The first step is to identify your personal values. If you want to focus on your family and want to be there for them, understanding this will help you figure out where you are on the work-life balance scale at this point in your life and help you make better decisions.
Answering these questions can help you identify your values and align them with where you want to be.
What type of person do you want to be?
What do you want to stand for?
What types of relationships do you want to have?
The next big challenge though is living it...
There are only 24 hours in the day. Time is not flexible so we must be.
We can easily break up the day into sections and say that we will spend eight hours sleeping, eight hours at work and eight hours for ourselves. There is then a sliding scale which moves up or down on each of the three sections of how much time we are prepared to spend in each.
Time and time again, I hear, ‘yes, I know that, but I just don’t have time to do all the things I need to in the day!’. The funny thing about time is, if something goes wrong, we always have time for it.
For example, your car breaks down unexpectedly and you need to send it in for repairs. The amount of time it takes to call and find a mechanic, get quotes, take the car to the garage, get back to the house/office, find a replacement car, etc. is a lot. It all takes time - an additional 6 hours in your week! However, if I had asked you at the start of the week if you had a spare 6 hours to say go to the gym, spend with your family, spend time meditating - would you have said you have that time? No, probably not, but you still managed to find it when the car needed to be repaired!
Ultimately, it’s about priorities – what are you prioritising in your life? You are ultimately in control of your time. No-one else. Just you.
When people tell me they don’t have time to do something, I correct them. It’s not that you don’t have the time, it’s that you aren’t prioritising that task. Start to rephrase that sentence and see the impact it has on you. You start to notice what you see as important in your life and what you don’t.
For example, if I hear – ‘I’m so busy at work, I don’t have time to go home for dinner with the kids because I need to finish this report.’ This is really you saying, ‘I am prioritising my work over a family dinner.’
How does that make you feel? Is this sentence aligned with your values and the type of person you want to be? If the answer is ‘no’ then you need to be aware that you may have your priorities wrong for the person you want to be and you may want to consider changing them.
That’s all very well and good but what about that report that needs to get done?
A key leadership skill that is regularly overlooked is the art of good prioritisation and delegation. The first question to answer is - do you need to do this task? Who else could help you do this task to get it done quicker? Can you delegate it? If you had to be smart about your time, how would you utilise others around you to facilitate your work? Something to think about...
Living a life that is aligned with your values will lead you to live a full, rich and meaningful life. If we are being the person we want to be and having the relationships we want to have, it will make us happier in the long run.
Nobody said it would be easy. We have to make sacrifices and understand how that impacts ourselves, our health, our happiness and our families in the long run.
Sarah is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with over 15 years of experience in the UAE and UK. She has developed in-depth knowledge of gender diversity issues in the workplace and the behavioural approaches that will create lasting and meaningful change. As a mum herself, she has experienced the ups and downs of balancing work and family life and fully appreciates the need to continually evaluate approaches and adapt career plans to get the best outcomes.