I recently attended a work life balance event for International Women’s Day. Inspiring female academics spoke about their experiences of balance, wellbeing, of finding their way through the challenges of demanding careers, family and all of the other life stuff. There were a few things that stood out to me, that are at the forefront of my mind a week later. I wanted to share some of those thoughts and ideas here.
We talked about whether you can really have it all. The conclusion….. yes. Probably. Just not all at the same time.
Work life balance means different things to different people at different stages in their lives. It’s important to work out what it means for you and what resources, whether individual or organisational, exist to help you. I hear this…. as a wellbeing coach, I always begin with new coachees by talking about the meaning of wellbeing to them. There is no one answer. There are a few formal definitions if you go googling, but wellbeing is contextual, personal, changeable.
Back to the speakers. We must recognise and move through the tough days. Acknowledge when you are having a tough time and take some steps, no matter how small, to support self-resilience. Connect with the people around you. Others will have experienced this too. Do some physical activity, take time for yourself and your leisure. Find time to do nothing.
Share your tips with others. In the organisation, set a good example. We change culture through small actions. Don’t join in with the evening and weekend emailing.
Create discipline within your working day – this is both a simple but difficult thing to do. Time is a precious resource. We need to protect it. Time is not a free gift, it’s finite. Some people say yes to everything they are asked to do. This will not serve your wellbeing. There are other, better ways to prove yourself than turning up to every meeting. Work out the ones that matter and go to those. Brevity is key.
We need to let go of trying to be a superman or woman. Let your standards in housework drop if you need to. You don’t need to be perfect and you need get comfortable with that.
And here comes my favourite tip from the session. Pretend you are in London for the day. Tell everyone you aren’t around. Shut the office door. Block the time out. You’ll be amazed at what gets done in your absence.
I think this session resonated with me so much, as I am pretty bad at this stuff. Despite coaching others on wellbeing, I’m not so good at taking my own advice. Over committing is my downfall. Here is what I have learned about wellbeing and trying to have it all, even if I don’t always put it into practice.
- No is a complete sentence.
- Guilt is a useless emotion. It hurts you and keeps you stuck.
- Work (knowledge work at least) never actually ends. It just pauses until you come back to it.
- The Queen is probably not coming for tea. Even if she does, she’s been a working mum, she will understand.
- It’s not me/you that is at fault for finding this balance stuff difficult. It’s the system that we operate in.
- If you don’t take care of your own wellbeing, who will?
- Protect your you time. That thing that sustains you, that gives you a sense of wellbeing, or just reduces your stress, do that. Deliberately, proactively and without guilt.
Or…..just tell everyone you have gone to London.
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