Is work / life balance the biggest lie out there?
Today I ask if work / life balance is the biggest lie that we are being peddled. If you ask lots of my clients why they want to change their careers or start up their own business work / life balance comes out pretty much at the top. Equally if you asked me why I wanted to set up on my own I would say the same. So what exactly is work / life balance ? and is it a myth - can we really have it?
For your work / life to be in balance they would be equal. Equal hours working and living. In reality work / life balance is rarely about a complete balance but more about flexibility and options and as with most things it means different things to different people.
To me work / life balance means being able to take your kids to school and pick them up at least three days a week. It means having your weekends free from work and really being able to unwind and have holidays every 3 months.I knew in my previous role this was impossible so this was one of my drivers to change careers. To have that time with my children every day is precious to me and helps motivate me when things are tough.
I have read endless blog posts and Facebook posts from female entrepreneurs either saying that you need to work 80 hour weeks to make your business a success or you can be a success working 3 hour days. Probably both are true but more realistically it is about having excellent time management skills, focusing on what is making the money for your business and outsourcing so that you can manage your time to decide how you spend your days. It is also about creating something that you are passionate about so that work doesn't seem like a chore.
I see so many mums who have set up their own businesses yet neither see their children or their children complain that they are always on their laptops doing work rather than spending time with them. We always start by thinking about what their ideal day / week / month / year would look like in terms of "balance" and then work from where they are now to move closer to this ideal. As with any change the steps might be small but you will get there in the end.
I am not suggesting it is easy and often we have blocks that we create ourselves or limiting beliefs that are telling us "If I don't work hard then I won't do well" as though working ourselves to the bone on a daily basis will result in success. I remember in one of my past roles being at work until 8pm every night and in at 6am and when I had a line management meeting with my boss him saying that I hadn't met my target in one area and what was I doing, my response "I am working really hard" but I wasn't getting the results so I needed to change what I was doing otherwise it was pointless for everyone.
As an entrepreneur and a mum staying in balance is probably one of my biggest challenges, there is always something that I can be doing for my business and for my kids. I have learnt that I need to spend time on myself - exercising, meditating and catching up with friends or I a nightmare. I have learnt that if I try and multitask I do things like sign up to a new website provider with a completely made up email address which takes an hour to fix. I have learnt that even my rules of balance can be broken sometimes and that's okay - if I have a client that can only speak on a Sunday and that is one hour out of my day it isn't the end of the world.
My advise on work / life balance - be clear what you strive for and do everything you can to make it happen but also don't be too hard on yourself if you don't always get there.