The Perfect Balance? Top Tips for Juggling Work and Life Demands
Trying to navigate all the demands of work and our wider lives can be really tough. The demands and stresses of work often spill over into our home life (and vice versa), leaving us feeling overwhelmed and that whatever we do, we are somehow getting it wrong.
The good news is there are some practical strategies that can really help to manage - if not master- worklife balance and most importantly help to relieve some of the guilt too. Below are 4 strategies that I use personally and I find can usually make a difference if I am caught up in overwhelm:
1. Define what “Good Enough” looks like for you
It is easy to scroll through social media and feel as if it only you that is struggling or that there is a magic formula that you just need to uncover to be winning at life. But the reality is that perfection is a myth - and not even something ultimately that desirable. Because the real magic often lies in the chaos and unfinished messiness of daily life. It’s the little moments - the belly laughs with your kids or a good friend, the snatched time for a run or a swim, the square (or more!) of chocolate that tastes SO good. And in work it might be simply managing to tackle some of the to do list or a connection with a colleague. Striving for perfection - or feeling that we should be - means we pay less attention to these small, imperfect moments where contentment and a sense of achievement often lies.
2. Work out if you need to give a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ - and give yourself the freedom to do both
Boundaries are talked about a lot as an elixir for success - and are often treated as a badge of honour in the form of self-discipline. But the truth is, when we are juggling multiple demands, boundaries may need to flex. For example, if the school calls and your child has just thrown up everywhere, then you may have to say no to your boss whether you want to or not...likewise, you might find yourself with an unexpected gap between tasks where you do have the capacity to take on extra.
There will be times when you have the space to take on more, and times when you don’t - and these can't always be predicted. The same works for home too. So remove the expectation of perfect boundaries, accept that there are times when you'll have to muddle through and that a 50% effort on this occasion may have to just do (see point 1!). Giving yourself permission to adapt, will help your stress level too - and mean that when you do have capacity to lean in, you'll be firing on all cylinders! Working out the priority in the moment takes practice, but the ability to flex and adapt is one of the key contributors to your resilience.
3. Give yourself “self-care snacks”
Finding time to look after yourself or do the things you enjoy in and around all the demands can be really hard. If you haven’t got time to do the full activity you might just decide to forego it in its entirety. But the great news is that self-care can be cumulative - it doesn’t need to be all or nothing. Treating yourself to self-care snacks - a 10 minute yoga session, 5 minutes in the garden looking at the flowers or even simply standing up at your desk can have just as much impact on your mood and wellbeing. And whilst planning these in can really help it can feel like another thing to do - and the best snacks can often be found in the moment. So, if you are taking 5 minutes for a cup of tea or coffee, sit down in the garden or in silence and really enjoy it...
4. Remember that asking for help is NOT a sign of failure
Trying to do all the things brilliantly all the time is an impossible task. Simply put, it’s not you who is failing, you just have too much to manage. So take a bit of time to separate the things that really do need you - and that you really want to do - from the things that others could help you with - and then ask them for help or support. And remember that in asking for help, you enable the people who want to support you to feel valued and important too.
However, sometimes the reality is there is no-one who can help in the immediate term. So then it's a reminder of point 1 and a bit of point 2, where we may just have to accept and let something go.
Finding a balance or blend between work and personal/ family life is HARD. And it's an ever evolving, dynamic process that will need adjustments along the way. Finally, what this blend looks like is different for everyone - which is why online and IRL comparisons rarely - if ever - help.
So start by looking for small ways to fill your cup, reduce your own stress and find acceptance in the “good enough” - because usually when we feel we are getting it wrong, we are doing the best we can - and often the small wins are the ones worth celebrating.
Nicki Bass is a business psychologist who specialises in building a resilient workforce and is passionate about the power of everyday adventures. If you could so with some support in building resilience for yourself or your teams, please reach out and contact firstname.lastname@example.org today