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Hi, I’m Ange and I’m a workaholic. I love my work. I can’t remember the last time that I worked a 7.6 hour day but that’s been my choice. I’m sure I am no different from any other business owner who is building a business or to an employee who loves what they do. Even as an employee, I loved my work and didn’t have this whole work life balance thing sorted. My love and enjoyment of my work often means it doesn’t really feel like “work.”
Work Life Balance. It’s a hot topic of discussion. How do you achieve it, what really is it, does it even exist? Is it just a dream or theory that many of us aspire to and beat ourselves up over when we don’t achieve it? I feel a little hypocritical blogging on the work life balance topic because I certainly don’t have the answers and I can’t say I lead by example.
What I do know through my own personal experiences and through having others share their journey with me is that work life balance is different for everyone. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa and what I define as my work life balance may look like the symptoms of a workaholic to you.
My motivation for blogging about this topic has come after a few light-bulb moments over the last few months. As I said, I definitely haven’t got this work life balance stuff sorted but I’m now in a space where I’m happy with what I define as my work life balance and having others tell me that I work too much or don’t have enough down time now doesn’t worry me or stress me out.
A few months back I took my first real holiday since starting Inspire HQ. I say “real” holiday because it was the first time that for my holiday I could not be contacted; I could not access emails or any of our computer systems. It is true that I had to have our IT guy change my passwords and logins while I was in a plane flying across the country so I couldn’t be tempted to log in and see how things were going – but it worked for me! I was long overdue for a holiday and it had been a tough slog in the few months leading up to my holiday. I was tired, I was stuck in a “working in the business” rut and just when I thought I couldn’t cram anymore work into one day I managed to find a few more minutes to reply to that email, to write that proposal or to interview that candidate.
My holiday was a godsend. It gave me the opportunity to step out and back from work and get some perspective and clarity. I recharged the batteries and set some key goals and priorities. And guess what? One of them was not to let my work life balance get to the stage that it had got to in my lead up to holidays. I knew that that period was unrealistic and unsustainable. I could feel it physically, mentally and emotionally and people close to me where telling me this regularly. I had all these grand plans on my return from holidays. My work life balance was going to be sorted; I had this under control.
So after 1 day and then 1 week and now after 1 month since me holiday………. My grand plans have failed. I quickly slipped back in to old habits and in reality my grand plans were unrealistic; I just didn’t see that at the time. But what has changed is my mindset and I’m making small incremental changes. To start with I beat myself up over failing to make the grand plans a reality but I had to get over that. I realised that I had to chip away at this thing called work life balance and make small incremental changes. In reality I don’t want to work a 7.6 hour day and that’s ok. I’m ok with working on a weekend or a public holiday to catch up or work on the project or new idea that I have that will take my business forward. And when people shake their heads at me for doing so, I’m now ok with that. I’m ok with it because it’s my choice. Whether you are a business owner or an employee we all have choices about work life balance, about what we prioritise and invest our time and energy in.
The last few weeks since returning from holidays have been a bumpy road and it’s been a massive learning curve. I’ve had some major key learnings from this whole experience and if you too beat yourself up about work life balance here’s what helped me navigate my way through:
- Small incremental change is the way to go, be realistic. It’s a journey to achieve work life balance and just when you think you are there life changes and your work life balance destination changes. Work life balance is fluid.
- Get comfortable with your definition of work life balance and don’t let others tell you what is right or wrong for you. I don’t have young children to be home for, I am in the early years of building a business, I want to work a lot more than the standard business hours. That’s what I choose and want to do at this time in my life.
- Surround yourself with great mentors and support people. These people will be the ones that give you the kick up the bum when you lose sight of the forest for the trees; when you get stuck in a rut because you’ve had your head down absorbed in the now. But they won’t criticise you for working long hours or for missing your childs school sports or whatever it might be.
- Keep your mindset in check. Sometimes our own mind set is what causes us stress and pressure. Don’t let your perceptions and mind set hold you back or influence your actions. For me changing one of my mindsets meant hiring a house cleaner. For many months I’ve contemplated the idea, after a big week of work cleaning the house for a couple of hours is the last thing I feel like doing and could invest those couple of hours much more wisely. What stopped me from getting a cleaner was my own mind set of what other people would think. Why would I need a house cleaner? I don’t have children to clean up after; surely I can clean up after myself? Yet coming home to a home that wasn’t getting the love and attention it needed would stress me out. So I got a cleaner and it’s the best thing I did. A weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I no longer feel that pressure. Don’t let your own mind set hold you back from making decisions and taking action to help you achieve a better work life balance.
I’ve by no means got this work life balance thing sorted but after reflecting on my recent learnings and applying what I’ve learnt I am lot happier and less stressed about my work life balance. If you’ve got some thoughts or learnings please feel free to share away as the only way we can all work towards achieving our individual work life balance is to share our learnings and help each other on the journey. Good luck!
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Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.