In today’s society, work/life balance seems to be the Holy Grail that everyone strives for, yet very few achieve. The reality of this widespread struggle begs the question – Is this concept of balance more of a hot trend, rather than an achievable resolution to stress and burnout?
These days people tend to glorify being busy so much that even our time for ‘balance’ is so overwhelmed with “relaxation” activities, that we end up exhausted. We’re told to ‘separate’ our work and personal lives, to ‘be present’ with our loved ones, and ‘switch off’ from the office – yet this strategy often causes even more stress. It is important to consider that the concept of a work/life balance isn’t for everyone, and instead contemplate that art of integrating performance, happiness and health. In fact, integration is the perfect way to consider our lives in a healthy way, and what we should be striving for in 2016.
When we talk about work/life balance we are automatically suggesting that work is in the ‘non-life’ category. For many people, however, their passion is their work. They enjoy spending time immersed in work because they love what they do, and are energised by it. Trying to split themselves into two categories and ‘switch-off’ can in fact cause more stress, and be fundamentally unproductive. For most people, integration can bring a higher level of happiness and productivity then “balance” ever could.
Top 6 tips on how to achieve work/life integration this year:
1. Give yourself permission
Enhancing your happiness and health starts with giving yourself permission to feel better, be better, and become better. This may sound simple, but this is an incredibly great challenge for some.
2. Take control of your schedule
We actually have more control over our daily schedules than we like to believe. After we give ourselves permission to be better, we can take power over our schedule and achieve a higher state of integration. Many people find it’s too stressful to switch off from work entirely, and enjoy accessing emails at night if it means they can leave work at 5. Often having a break between leaving the office and then accessing e-mails at home will re-energise you.
3. Have a trial period
Start with small steps by requesting a trial period of one workday from home a week, or a late morning start so you can hit a yoga class. If this energises you, it will enhance your productivity twofold. Talk to your supervisors about a schedule that works for you. More and more businesses understand the importance of integration by allowing employees to work from home, access emails via a laptop, take a fitness class in the morning, and encourage healthy eating. For example, Virgin Australia has even established unlimited leave for their employees. Inside 80 Performance work with corporations and teach top management how to maximise their productivity through creating a better, more flexible environment for their employees (we’ve worked with GE, Credit Suisse, Shirlaws Group and stay-at-home mums alike), and can testify that corporations are changing – so start the conversation with your supervisor.
4. Maximise activities that give you “energy credits”
Wishing you had more time in the day? We don’t have a time machine but we can do things to create more energy that enables us to get more done. Feeling more energetic will help you to integrate your schedule more. In order to maximise your energy, self-care is necessary. Self-care doesn’t mean selfish, in fact it will help you to help others. Doing activities that you enjoy, looking after your fitness, eating nutritious food, and engaging in social activities that contribute to your energy will give you a greater capacity to give time to others.
5. Spend your “energy credits” wisely
Think of having a possible 100 maximum energy credits per day when you wake up (if you have gotten enough sleep). Once you have your energy credits, there is no overdraft facility. You need to spend these wisely. Spending time with people who zap your energy credits is a big one – time to spring clean those energy-zapping friends. Giving energy to things you can’t control will deplete your energy credits. Just focus on what you can control.
6. Work with your natural pace
Some people have shorter attention spans; some people have longer attention spans. Some people are morning people, while others aren’t. Stop spending energy credits trying to operate in a way that’s against your natural pace, and stop trying to participate in the ‘trend’ of work/life balance if it doesn’t work for you. Once you embrace your natural pace you will use less energy credits to achieve stronger results – and automatically you’ll create more free time and strengthen your integration.
The traditional concept of work/life balance truly isn’t for everyone. There are some with a deep passion for their work, and others who spend an unhealthy amount of energy credits trying to be perfect in areas usually in the ‘life’ bucket i.e. having sculpted abs, or making the perfect lunches for your kids. Overcomplicating our time of balance and trying to separate our work and life can lead to unhealthy stress and anxiety. Instead, let’s start thinking about integrating our work and life, and stop spending 45 hours a week participating in ‘non-life’.
About our guest blogger: Vanessa Bennett is a high performance coach and CEO of Inside 80 Performance Australia. She helps leaders, individuals and teams improve their performance by incorporating neuroscience for optimal performance.