Women have always struggled with achieving a healthy work life balance. Our typical day is filled with many elements; work, home and family. Modern society tells us that we can ‘have it all’ but does not give us reassurance on how to do this. Our job is to find solutions that ensure work does not rule our day or indeed our life. Do you end your day tired and feeling like you did not achieve everything? Read on for solutions to put our life in better balance and succeed where it matters most.
Work life balance for women
I’m writing this at the beginning of my work week. I’ve just had a very busy day and have come home to my son. My evening consists of cooking, helping my son with homework and writing this post. Although it’s been a productive day, I’m aware I’ve had no time to myself. But this is not a not ‘woe betide me’. It’s more of a kick up the backside to ensure I look after myself as well as do everyone else. I am giving myself a call for help. Will you join me and make our journey a more balanced one?
Why is it important to have a healthy work life balance for women?
Do you have evenings when you should be out with friends? But you cancel instead, too tired to do anything. Or mornings when you keep hitting snooze on the alarm? Or even feel yourself sliding into panic or depression over the very long list of jobs that never get completed. If you recognise any of these in yourself, you need to keep reading to learn what we can do about it to improve our lives.
Signs that you do not have a good work and home life balance
1. Your relationships are not doing well
Are you spending enough time with the important people in your life? Do you argue about quality time? Have you realized you do not have enough hours to attend important school events or find yourself not taking much notice of your partner’s needs? If so, the answer to the question is probably not. Relationships need nurturing. Like flowers in the garden, they are fragile but can be beautiful and rewarding if looked after with care.
2. You have no patience
When we are not stressed or busy, we have no time to listen to others. To hear a problem or listen to a story. On the contrary, when we have too many situations demanding our attention, our limit for patience often decreases. This can seem uncaring by the other person involved and can case friction. Do you find yourself snapping at your children? Or impatiently telling them to put themselves to bed because of the emails you noticed earlier that are now playing on your mind? Precious time cannot be bought, it is our job to calm ourselves down and prioritize.
3. Your health is suffering
Illness due to lack of down time can present itself in many ways. Anxiety, stress, decreased concentration and headaches are just a few. The effects of anxiety and stress on the body are numerous and can even leave to illnesses like cancer. Notice when you start to feel persistent headaches or cannot concentrate when trying to complete a task. Your mind and body are trying to tell you something. Popping a pill is a temporary fix, looking at our work life balance challenges is a more permanent one.
4. You constantly think about work
When we go through periods of working too much, it can be very difficult to switch off. Going to bed and not being able to sleep because of problems running through our minds or constantly checking emails should be warning signals that our balance is not correct. Children can get very frustrated with this as they see that their parents attention is not on them. This then makes them feel neglected. It also teaches children that it is ok to not be present in the moment. There needs to be separation between work and home, a time to switch off from the stress at work. Work life balance for women can be a very delicate thing to negotiate.
5. Lack of exercise
Unfortunately, exercise is often one of the first things to go when we are stretched for time. Who has time for a run or a gym session when you have to drop your child at school, pick up a prescription, go to work and take said child to a club after work? Exercise should be an important task you hold onto . When I skip a cardio session or two, my body feels older and less flexible. My worries take their toll more and as well as the mental stress, my body is not exercised and takes on the physical stress.
After constructing that list, I realize I used to have a poor balance between my personal and professional life. My day often finished at about 9.30pm, after dinner, cleaning and my son going to bed. Consequently, I often went to bed late in order to have an ‘evening’. Work ran through my head when I was trying to sleep and this in turn affected my health. There came a point when I knew it was time to change!
Although we are resilient creatures, women are still capable of burn-out. In order to prevent this in my life and in yours, I researched the subject and put into practice the following tips. This ensured they are practical for our day to day lives and can achieve the results we want. Follow these to help create a better routine.
Examples of work life balance initiatives
1.Ignore the emails
Why is it that we leave our physical work at a certain time but still check email when we hear that ‘ping’ noise? So many of us are guilty of this as its easy to think ‘I’ll just check that one email’. But once you have checked one, work on your mind. Then your mindset shifts back to the stress of your daytime job. Not good. It does not make us more productive, rather just increases our stress levels. My solution would be to decide a time when we will switch off from our work email. Maybe change the settings on your phone so you do not get a notification when yet another work email comes through. Then you will discover the ‘power of no’.
2. Leave work at home
This is one that I often find tricky. My day job is BUSY! When it is time to leave, I often find it takes a couple of hours to unwind and to stop doing everything at warp speed. Although I am a good multitasker and work quickly, this is not good for me. Health-wise, stress levels increase your risk of major diseases like cancer. Although I enjoy my job, its certainly not worth risking this. One way of calming down that I find works with me is having a bath. Along with some deep breathing and forcing my mind to stop thinking about my day, I mentally and physically slow down. I notice my shoulders feel less tight, my jaw is less tense and I feel better. It is all about a daily closure and helping you, as a woman find a work life balance.
3. Work smart, not long
This one can be tricky. We still mainly work in an old-fashioned way. For example, office hours are traditionally 9am-5pm. Most of us have set tasks that we need to complete over a year, a month, a week, a day. On top of that, we have activities that could happen one day or the next. But what happens if our tasks are completed at 3pm? Or 4pm? Can we go home satisfied with our productivity?
There are surprisingly few jobs that would let you do that. Instead, what normally happens is that our productivity tails off at the end of the day and we tend to procrastinate. A solution would be to prioritize our most important tasks and then at the end of the day, complete those things that do not take long or require much brain power. If your job can’t be flexible, then you have to be smart in how you approach it.
4. Stop being a perfectionist
Certain tasks at your work will always have deadlines. Although it is important to achieve these, sometimes the mantra ‘done is better than perfect’, should be applied. I could certainly use this when it comes to my writing. Writing is an enjoyable and easy past-time for me but now, as I am striving to achieve more, I tend to scrutinize and procrastinate. What I need to do more is practice what I am preaching here. Write, read over, fix then publish. And the job will be done! Then I can move onto the next, with more time to spare.
5. Set your own rules/boundaries
We all need to recognise that everyone’s life is different. Some of us will work four hours a day in our job, some much, much more. Within your own time frame, you need to work out and set your own boundaries. What time do you need to switch off from your job each day? How long does it take you to unwind? What aspect of relaxing do you find the most challenging? Physical or mental? If its physical, maybe factor in a bath or a yoga class? Mindfulness is great for the mental side as it allows us to zone in on our current activity and put our day firmly in the past.
How do you feel after you’ve done something that stretches and physically pushes your body? We feel refreshed, more flexible and our minds are more alert. Endorphins run through us and give us the energy needed to concentrate on other areas of our lives. Never make exercise one of those tasks you allow to be sidelined. It is easy for stress to seep into our body but it is also easy for us to banish it through exercise.
Along with these constructive tips on how to practically improve the balance in your life, we could all do with some inspiration. Below are some quotes from inspirational people who could easily have become overwhelmed by the work level in their lives but recognized the importance of balance.
No one on his deathbed ever said ‘I with I had spent more time at the office’. Paul Tsongas, politician
‘Don’t confuse having a career with having a life’. Hilary Clinton, politician
‘Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable’. Sydney J.Harriss, journalist
Our childhood drums it into us that we need to work hard for a successful career but never that we also need to work hard for a loving and successful family life. For me, these quotes are poignant. After loosing my daughter, my time is extremely precious. I grab hold of people I love and embrace my time with them, making it special. At the end of my life, I want to know my free time has been spent with people important to me.
My work/life balance is levelling out after pursuing these tips and my happiness index is increasing. To fulfil our dreams, we must first make sure our work/life balance scales are working and stay firmly in the middle. Its far easier to reap the rewards of career success when we have in our lives people that we have nurtured our relationships with.
Let me know how these tips work out for you and how your work life balance as a women improves