Blog header image showing deckchairs in sunset to suggest work-life balance.

Working on work-life balance

Our life’s work isn’t just what we do in our day job, i.e. our work role. It’s the sum total of the work we do in each domain of life. But that balance of work across life domains can get out of kilter. Reflecting on the roles we’re currently playing in life can be a useful exercise to do especially if we’re feeling burned out or are at a transition point. (Or even after a holiday as I found out myself.) It can help us to get our work-life balance back on track. This article provides some questions that you can ask yourself to help you make the necessary changes.

Losing sight of work-life balance

Whilst on holiday, my husband got chatting to a fellow motorbike enthusiast. Eventually, the biker turned to me and asked: ‘What are your hobbies?’ To be honest, I had to stop and think about this. It felt like ages since I’d done something which was simply for me. The cruise we were on had provided an opportunity either to do absolutely nothing other than watch the sea glide by, or to decide on a whim to go for a swim, or read, or get an ice cream, or have a stroll on deck, or (unexpectedly!) to do some crochet, etc. What luxury!

Photo of a crochet blanket to suggest idea of work-life balance.

Returning home was a shock to the system. I realised that the commitments I’d made within various life roles had got out of balance and I needed to review my investment in them. 

Why are life roles important? 

All the roles we play in life give us basic things we need as human beings: they provide a sense of identity & purpose and make us feel valued by others within our immediate and wider community. They enable us to express core values which in turn supports wellbeing.

But the various personas associated with each role are almost like a team of people each with their own needs and concerns. 

As the Manager of that team, you have finite resources (time & energy) to get the work done in those various roles, so you have to think about how to allocate your resources fairly to each of the team players. 

If one of the players is getting more than their fair share, something has to be done about it. Likewise, if one of the players is not getting enough, that too needs to be addressed. 

It goes without saying that mid-career, the player losing out is often the Self, the one who needs that bit of time to just be, go for walk, read, etc.

So, what to do about it? 

Nine questions for reviewing the balance of work in your life roles

  1. Think about what’s working or not working. 
  2. Are the roles you’re playing satisfying? If not, why not? 
  3. What do want to give through each role and what would you like to receive?
  4. How are you perceived in those roles and how would you like to be perceived?
  5. Ask yourself whether the balance of investment is right. 
  6. Can you change the level of investment or drop one of the roles altogether? 
  7. Would you like to take on a new role of some sort?
  8. Are you investing enough time in yourself? If not, what needs to change? 
  9. If you don’t make changes, what will happen?

Consider also that if you’re planning to make changes to your career, you’re taking on the temporary role of Career Explorer which itself has responsibilities and tasks associated with it. While you’re doing that careers work, will you need to cut back on your responsibilities in any of the other roles?

No easy answers for achieving work-life balance

These questions don’t necessarily have easy answers. During mid-career, it can often feel like there’s no way out: you can’t give up being a parent, you have to earn a living to pay the bills, you can’t easily walk away from being a son/daughter/sibling, you have to manage your home, etc.

But allowing yourself to reflect on the questions may bring a new perspective and help you to see where changes might be made that could bring things back into some sort of balance.

As this article from the Harvard Business Review observes, getting the balance right isn’t a one-time activity. It’s a constant cycle of experience, re-evaluation and improvement. Indeed, it can’t be anything else because Stuff Happens. But it is possible to be mindful of taking on too much and to think about what you can do to manage the workload with greater kindness toward yourself. 

If you’d like help with mid-career review, please get in touch to arrange an initial discussion.

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