Insights: Work/Life Balance
This article is just a little chat about work and life and the balancing of the two. It is not a self help guide on how to achieve the optimum work/life balance. This is different for everyone but I love reading articles on how other people prioritise their life and work because even if they are juggling full time work, three kids, an elderly parent and a sick dog (most of which I am not) I always get something from it, not least empathy and a feeling of camaraderie that we are all trying to achieve the perfect life. Undoubtedly, most people are expecting too much from themselves, which is never going to work. Is there such a thing as the perfect life? I don't believe so but there is such a thing as living your life to the full without compromising your health or happiness. Just remember, it's the trials and tribulations of life that make us stronger and shape our character.
I work mostly from home, I have a husband (not the demanding sort who wants a packed lunch and his dinner on the table for 7pm), no kids and no other dependants. I appreciate that statement would envy many of you, especially those who are juggling other things in life. But I still put demands on myself and find myself juggling the things that are my life.
I don't have the stress of getting up to an alarm clock. I did it for many years so I know it is the worse feeling to be snuggled up under the duvet when the screech of the alarm goes off. This never pleased me. I am not one of those people who wakes up in the morning and jumps out of bed to enthusiastically start the day but neither am I a grump. I just need ten or fifteen minutes to come round.
On paper, my work/life balance should be next to perfect but I think we subconsciously program ourselves to make things more completed and when everything is running smoothly we are in danger of becoming complacent. Some of the best work I have ever produced is when I have been under pressure.
Ideally, I would like to wake up, drink a glass of water (which I do every morning), check emails and social media, then do a work out (to one of my many youtube videos), have a shower, eat breakfast, then start work, stopping at 1pm for lunch, going back to work, stopping to make and eat dinner, another hour or so after dinner to finish off and relax in the evening with a magazine, a book or an episode of whichever tv show I am watching. After successfully winding down, I'll take a long soak in the bath and then retire to bed with instagram or a book. Is this ideal, or is it unrealistic or is it even boring? If my ideal could happen every day would I become so conditioned that I couldn't cope without routine? I don't know, it rarely happens.
Reality has others ideas. I have seen me get up in the morning and climb straight into my work out gear and before I know it I am getting up from my desk to make the dinner.......still in my active wear! I can cope with this now and again but I start getting stressed out when my work out slips because we all know how easy it is to get out of that habit and before you know it your energy levels start to dip and your hard worked toned arms start to resemble bingo wings. And when you work from home, you get little other exercise. You don't even get the walk from the car to the office.
Some mornings I will wake up, read an instagram post, an email or an article in a magazine, get an inspirational burst and have to get straight to my desk to start tapping. If I don't go with the flow, I can sometimes lose it. This becomes the priority and everything else planned for that day will take a back seat. I try not to skip breakfast but it can get to three o'clock before I realise I'm hungry or worse still I have been hungry for the past two hours and have ignored it because I can't risk losing the flow of my thoughts.
On the flip side of this, if I need to go out on an errand, it sets be back with my work. If I worked in town, I could nip out at lunchtime. But as I work from home, I have to stop what I'm doing (if I even get to start it), get showered, dressed and put my makeup on before travelling to where I have to go, all the while stressing about the work I've left behind that no-one else is doing for me.
One of the advantages of working from home is that you can put in a load of washing during the day but one of the disadvantages is that you see what needs doing around the house and you just can't get time to do it. I might walk past a dusty surface ten times on the way to make a quick coffee and make a mental note to get the polish out. It becomes a vicious circle. I am a clean tidy person so I can't close my eyes to these things (perhaps if I wasn't I wouldn't get so stressed).
It's a strange thing trying to achieve a work/life balance when you (mostly) work from home. It can be hard to separate the two. It's too easy to work long hours and not take some downtime in the evenings. I try to leave household tasks to the weekend but that in itself isn't easy because you see what needs doing. I did miss an important email the other day that needed addressing right away because my ironing pile was getting too high. But I can't always say I'll do it in the evening because that might be the day that I get so engrossed in work that I'm still at my desk at 10pm. And I'm reluctant to slump across the ironing board on a Saturday afternoon when I could be having a late lunch and a glass of wine.
My other complication comes with cooking. I eat quite healthily and make everything with fresh ingredients so no stopping for five minutes until I throw my ready meal in the oven. I can take up to an hour to make my evening meal and then a good 45 minutes to eat it, chat to my husband about our days or catch up on the news. This is really important to me and I will find the time to do it. But it also doesn't stop me from stressing when I realise I have another 3 hours of work ahead of me that evening.
I do believe we overthink these things rather than just get on with it. Everything will get done eventually, does it really matter that your favourite hand washed jumper has been sitting in the utility room for 2 weeks?! Or that you have to search the ironing basket for the t-shirt that you want to wear that day?! Forget about the other thirty items that need ironing - you only need the t-shirt right now! And work isn't everything either. If some things need to be put off until later because you are burnt out and need some 'me' time, well this isn't just necessary, it's crucial.
I do think I have a pretty good work/life balance on the whole. Nothing really suffers long term and anything short term can be lived with. I would say housework suffers the most as I'm always procrastinating to avoid it. It's not that I particularly don't like it. It's just a thankless task that needs doing over and over again and there is so much else I would rather be doing (even work!). Although, having said that, I have an occasion walked away from my desk due to the risk of going mad, turned on my favourite playlist on spotify and cleaned the house (yes, things really were that bad!).
Be in control of your own work/life balance. Don't work so hard that you forget to live or convince yourself that your career comes before everything else. Try not to let uncontrollable factors decide this balance for you. Don't end up in bed for two weeks because sheer exhaustion has made you ill. Start each day in control of your work/life balance. Health and happiness should not be underestimated.