Work-Life Balance De-Mystified

Posted by talk2Medebrief on August 7th, 2014

I am reminded of a client who sat in my consulting room a while back:

My partner religiously leaves the office at 5.30pm every day and boasts to his staff about the need for work-life balance.”

And how is that for you?” I ask, in true therapist fashion.

Total rubbish,” was the reply, “He comes home, grunts at me and the kids, parks himself in front of the TV and answers work emails all night. He is physically there, but mentally and emotionally he is still at the office.”

She raises a very good question. What is work-life balance? It is heralded as something desirable; something that is going to benefit us and promote an overall sense of well-being, but what exactly is it? Is maintaining work-life balance actually a function of time spent at work vs. time spent outside of work or is there more to it?

Clearly, for my client it is not a function of time. “I would much rather have one hour of him being completely attentive and engaged with us, than 5 hours of him being distracted.”

So here are 3 ideas to help you create the balance:

  1. Understand the value of your full attention. We’re not going to be very effective at work if our heads are at home. And the reverse is also true. We are not going to be effective at home if our heads are still at work. If you’ve ever had one of those conversations where the eyes of the person you are talking to glaze over or they look at their watch, then you know how it feels!

  2. Learn to transition from one ‘space’ to the next. Leading researcher and speaker, Dr Adam Fraser calls this the ‘Third Space’ ( ); the space between work and home. Rather than allowing work and home to bleed all over each other we can use the time in-between to mentally and emotionally ‘round off’ the events of one space and then intentionally prepare our mindset for the space we are heading into.

The beauty of the Third Space is that you get to choose what is going to help you to make the transition. For many people, debriefing really helps, which is where a service like Talk2Me can really help ( ). It is a phone service that has been recently set up so that people can call in after work and debrief their day before arriving home. Other people exercise between work and home as a way of getting the day out of their system. I know of one lady who has a certain landmark near her house. She allows herself to debrief her work day up until she reaches the landmark, but once she has passed it, she leaves the day behind her and mentally prepares for the home space.

  1. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. This is really an extension of one and two. Anyone, who knows me, knows that I am forever ‘banging on’ about healthy boundaries as a key to having healthy relationships. But I think we also need to put boundaries around our use of time - especially these days. For example, do we own our Smartphones or do our Smartphones own us? (I’m speaking to myself here!) Here’s a thought: it has an ‘off button!’ What! Maybe, just maybe we could turn it off for an hour or two whilst we do one and two. (Just a thought!)

So in summary, creating work-life balance is largely a function of knowing how to transition between work and home, and being intentional about it. There is always going to be more work than work-day. And let’s be honest, it’s not our family’s fault if we’ve had a bad day. Learn how to ‘round off’ each space. Be deliberate about changing hats. And when you are with the ones you love, be WITH them. You will be better at work, and better at home.

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Joined: June 26th, 2014
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