Are you looking for a better work-life balance?
Work-life balance is a term thrown around the working world more than job advertisements. Its traditional definition from the Oxford Dictionary is ‘the division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities.’
We work with business owners around the globe and this challenge of work-life balance has always existed. It was here before the pandemic, but arguably is now even more of an issue with the new remote working culture. However, the constant foe of work-life balance can be fought with the right mindset and techniques.
To help business leaders, we have put together ten things about work-life balance that many of us need to realise.
The term ‘work-life balance’ is contentious
Shouldn’t we be looking to find harmony between work and life, not balancing one against the other?
The term ‘work-life balance’ suggests that work and life are opposing forces. But work is part of life.
So, really, we are all looking for a ‘work/rest of life’ harmony. It’s a harmony rather than a balance because the ratio between one person’s work and ‘rest of life’ can look very different to someone else’s. One person might be fully fulfilled working more than they’re not, which leads onto our next point.
Work-life Balance is Individual – Decide What It Means for You
Work-life balance is not the same for everyone. This is especially true for business owners and leaders. At the different stages of their businesses, they will need to dedicate different amounts of time and energy.
Just as the needs for family, friends, and yourself change and go through seasons, your business will too. Therefore, work and the rest of life might not always be balanced and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Of course, most leaders we work with want a better work-life balance. What that means in practice varies according to their business and personal preferences. Some are people in a hurry who are dedicated to building their business at pace and dedicate their time and energy to that. For others, family comes first and there is every shade of grey in between. Business owners are individual leaders, with unique businesses and different personal and company visions. However, those who put their business first do need to be mindful of what they might sacrifice in their homelife.
Our tip? The first step to improving your work-life balance is to define what that means for you as an individual.
Work-Life Balance is About Living the Life You Want
Finding the harmony of your work-life balance brings perspective. If you only ever focus on delivering your vision for work, you may well forget why you’re doing it in the first place – mostly likely to live the life you want and look after those you care about. It’s easy to miss this if you only work.
By taking the right amount of time away, you feel revitalised, healthier, and then actually enjoy work more as well as ‘life’. Not only that, but you reduce stress and increase productivity. What a win-win!
A Lack of Work-Life Balance is a Habit
When you start a business, you often burn the candle at both ends and you get used to working long hours. It becomes the norm, and you don’t challenge yourself as to what you really need to focus on.
As a result, you fall into the habit of not “coming up for air.” This habit can also develop a belief that business owners need to ‘busy’ all the time to be effective. By being busy, they don’t leave enough time for those ‘life’ activities they want to do. So, realise it’s a habit and look to break it!
Business Owners Need to Stop Feeling Guilty
Business owners often struggle with a lot of fear. Fear that their business is about to evaporate; that the people who work for them don’t understand what the business needs; that if they turn down an opportunity that it may never return, and in general, they feel guilty when they are at work, and guilty when they are not.
You should never feel guilty for taking a rest. In fact, we would argue rest is a critical part of success.
At our recent international member event, we invited Claudia Hammond to speak about her book, ‘The Art of Rest.’ What she said was so key. Here is a snippet from the book:
“We always feel we must be doing something. And we have come to defined ‘doing something’ very narrowly. It means, for most of us, being busy. And not just some of the time, but all of the time.” (Page 2, The Art of Rest)
“We need to rest more. And we need to rest better. For its own sake, of course, but also for the sake of our wider lives. Resting is good not just for well-being but for productivity.” (Page 2, The Art of Rest)
She goes on to suggest that the best kind of self-care is rest.
So, no-one should feel guilty about looking to rest. It’s important that we do.
It’s All About Focus and Structure
A lack of harmony between work and life often boils down to not prioritising and planning effectively. Treat yourself like a valuable piece of equipment and stick to a maintenance schedule.
Over-working often comes from trying to do too many things at the same time. This makes it even more important to have focus. You’ll find that if you maintain one to-do list for both business and personals tasks or activities, you’ll be able to prioritise your time much better. And once you have a plan, stick to it.
So Many Business Owners Don’t Delegate
Another common reason leaders overwork is because they have a reluctance to delegate.
This might be because the processes are in their heads, meaning it’s quicker to do the task themselves rather than explaining to someone else. Secondly, leaders can worry that no-one can do it like they can. Instead, leaders need to challenge themselves and ask – “could they do it better than me?” It’s important at accept that we all have different ways of doing things, and just because someone has a different approach to something, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong…and it could be better!
Why not create a ‘To Don’t List’ to identify tasks or projects you can delegate to others? Don’t let cost be a barrier – your time directed to the right activities will more than likely give a far greater return than the cost of getting someone in to help.
Many Don’t Do Anything About It
It’s baffling how many of us continue with a work-life balance with which we’re unhappy. We must start to do something about it.
The first step is to identify the signs. For example, if your partner complains about how much you are working, that might be a signal to review how you’re spending your time. Also, hearing yourself say “I don’t have time” is another sign you might need to take a step back. Identify where you want to make changes and make them.
We all have the same amount of time available to us. What differs is how we each choose to use it.
Leaders are Responsible for their Employees’ Work-Life Balance Too
Sometimes we can be very insular and not realise that as leaders, we need to think about the work-life balance of others too. You are an example to your employees. What sort of culture are you creating if you’re always at your desk? They can replicate your behaviour, believing that working long hours is what is expected of them.
To avoid this, you want to be open and honest on the issue. Understand your employees’ own preferences and help them understand yours. Talk to your employees about the importance of personal commitments while stressing they can also ask for help if they’re struggling to meet a deadline. Be proactive in helping them recognise the symptoms of overworking and lead by example.
We hope that’s been helpful in identifying some key areas where you might need to focus when it comes to work-life balance. Have you defined what it means for you? Are you doing anything about it if you’re unhappy? Is there a way you can help your employees find harmony between work and the rest of life?
Take some time out to think about these things and you’ll be on your way to leading a more fulfilled working life.
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64.5% said they have a better work-life balance since joining TAB*
*Based on an online survey with 93 active TAB members.