How to create and protect a work/life balance

It’s common at the end of a relationship to invest in your work. It occupies your time so you don’t have to think or feel your grief and your battered identity can be rebuilt. However, there is a danger in not establishing a healthy work/life balance. So what is work/life balance and how do you create and protect it?

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What is work/life balance?

For most of us, work is what we do to get paid. If we are lucky we employ our gifts and talents and are paid to pursue our passions. But eventually we retire.

Life is what happens around work. It’s family time, relationships with friends and community, caring for ourselves. We don’t retire from life and for most people the ‘life’ part of their time on earth is where their greatest impact will be felt. It will be their legacy.

Looking at the Model for Healthy Living, work is one of seven dimensions. Work needs to be integrated into your life. However, often work overruns other dimensions of your life, sapping your time and energy and causing stress.

Balancing work and life is not giving each equal time, but knowing your priorities and establishing boundaries on work, so you invest in all areas of your life.

Why might you get it wrong?

  • Sense of worth coming from what you do. You are a human being not a human doing.
  • People may think if you’re single, no kids, that you have more time and can be flexible to fill the gaps when the people with partners or family don’t.
  • Hidden drivers such as the inability to say no and being a people pleaser.

Identity

It’s easy to define yourself by what you do rather than who you are. I struggle with this. I tell myself I’m an OK person based on what I achieve, my self-worth and identity being bound by my roles in work and ministry. My work/life balance favours work which is why I have experienced burnout.

How do you balance work and life?

Set boundaries

You need to put boundaries around your work. These include the time you will give it, whether you will let it invade your thought life at home and in this 24/7 world, how you will manage the intrusion of work through electronic means. Setting a boundary around the time and mental space you give to work means you need to draw a line in the sand.

The Line in the sand

Work will always take the time you give it, especially if you are passionate about it. The line in the sand divides work from home.

For Craig Winkler, founder of computer financial management system MYOB, after he and his wife experienced the entry into their lives of triplets, the line looked like leaving the office at a set time to be home to help with the kids, rather than working till he’d finished 1.

Andy Stanley talks about how to create the ‘line in the sand’ in his book ‘When work and family collide.’ He had previously released the book with the title ‘Choosing the cheat,’ because he says, you can’t be all things to all people so you have to cheat someone. 2

Protecting the line in the sand

You need to have the attitude of Gandalf from the first Lord of the Rings movie, to your line in the sand. He slams his staff into the rock bridge, smashing it so the dangerous Balrog falls, saying ‘You shall not pass.’ Other will try to cross your line in the sand. Life will erode it. Don’t let them pass.

How many hours do you have to work? Work these and no extra.

Can you turn you work mobile phone off and not check your email. Tell work people what your practice is and even put an ‘out of office’ reply on your emails or a message on your phone if you have times you won’t answer.

When at work, be at work and work hard. When you come home – forget work. If thoughts about work come  write down the details if you need to remember them, then take your thoughts somewhere else. Do relaxation breathing and a guided imagery exercise if needed.

Choose to live your life in all its dimensions e.g. invest in healthy relationships and community.

Putting legs on it

Where do you need to draw a line in the sand? How will you protect it?

What time will you start and finish work?

Will you check emails and answer your phone at home? What times will you do this?

How will you deal with work thoughts that enter your head at home?

Resources

Health Direct: Work life balance http://www.mindhealthconnect.org.au/work-life-balance

References

  1. The Family Series, episode7 ‘Work /life Balance’ Olive Tree media 2011
  2. Stanley, A. (2011) When work & family collide, Multnomah Books, U.S.A, p 14

Photo credit Kalen Emsley www.unsplash.com

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