Balancing act

What works for Bob, won’t suit Tom or Jane

In Summary

•A spot of self-reflection is a great way to start.

•What am I enjoying, and what do I seem to be missing out on? How does that make me feel?


I’m pleased to note that the phrase work-life balance is in almost constant use these days. But that doesn't mean that many of us understand it any better than as a place we’d like to reach one day.

The truth is that defining a healthy work-life balance is an individual matter. What works for Bob, won’t suit Tom or Jane.

A healthy balance might involve hitting your targets at work while still having time for family and friends. It might be as simple as sleeping properly and eating well. Or having a hobby that brings satisfaction.

A spot of self-reflection is a great way to start. What am I enjoying, and what do I seem to be missing out on? How does that make me feel?

Being aware of negative feelings - disappointment, anger, frustration, resentment - helps to make sense of where you might have got things wrong.

Remembering the last time you really laughed, or felt joy or wonder, helps you reconnect with those feelings and want to experience them again. The lesson here is that the emotional rather than the rational brain is more valuable in identifying the right balance.

The modern world has taught us that life is about priorities. But so many of those are other people’s priorities, not yours.

Your employer’s, your parents’ or your customers’ priorities - and full marks to you for trying to honour them. But your own priorities deserve their place on the agenda, so think about what needs to change.

And here it is important to realise that evolution is better than revolution. Usually, you don’t have to resign from your job or leave your partner or move to another country.

In fact, the disruption such radical changes cause is likely to be counterproductive. Most of us have a life balance that is only a few degrees out of true.

If your issue is at work, ask for more flexible hours or set your own limits. Not looking at emails after 7 pm. Not agreeing to meetings on weekends. Booking and using all your annual leave.

At home, small changes also relieve pressure. A busy Mum can’t be a fun Mum every evening, but she can make a midweek outing a regular feature. Elderly relatives might prefer a longer, monthly visit than a brief and unsatisfying weekly drop-in.

Employers can do much to help. By encouraging a culture where people can speak up if they feel under pressure. Insisting you take leave (unclaimed leave is a financial obligation most businesses strive to avoid). And taking the time to ask how you, and your family, are doing.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside

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