Finding balance: Stop trying to do it all – and start doing this instead

Finding balance: Stop trying to do it all - and start doing this instead
Finding balance: Stop trying to do it all - and start doing this instead

Africa-Press – Seychelles. For many of us, a sense of achievement and being able to do everything we set our minds to means the world.

Trying to balance work life, home life, a healthy lifestyle and parenting, while still nurturing our creative sides, is pretty impossible. There is, however, a way to find balance.

The evolution of work

Over the last 100 years or so, the Industrial Revolution introduced the concept of a timed working day. This ultimately became the 40-hour work week we know today.

After World War II came and went, the concept of the man as the primary breadwinner became established.

Women who chose not to marry could be employed in lesser occupations regarded as “women’s work”, but these women were often shown the door when they got married or became pregnant.

Society told many of them that their responsibilities were in homemaking and child-rearing.

However, work as we know it has evolved in recent years, bringing the challenge of maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

Finding middle ground

There are four areas in which a work/life balance has become challenging to maintain.

Duncan Woods, a human performance coach and executive coaching consultant to digital well-being platform, soSerene, provided some insights to getting the balance back.

1. Tradition vs Modern Life

Many of the values and traditions that modern employees take for granted evolved at a time when adults were expected to be in heterosexual marriages in which responsibilities were divided.

“Historically, there was little gender balance – during the working week anyway – as one parent took care of all the family and home responsibilities, and the other brought home the pay cheque, simple as that,” says Woods.

Today, things are rather different. Single-parent homes are common and, even where there are two partners, most households need multiple income streams.

However, Woods still sees many of his female clients doing the child-rearing.

“Female executives who are mothers are still stretched a lot – and, of all the groups [that Woods works with], they probably need the most support. Extreme expectations placed on them – often by themselves – still persist. I think dads have stepped up their support a lot, but they still have plenty ‘house-training’ to do,” says Woods.

Finding balance: We need to reassess what constitutes “work” and split up the responsibilities more equitably.

“Previously, the field of play was clear, but ‘work’ is no longer demarcated as leaving home with a packed lunch to clock into nine-to-five. It has all become a bit of a blend,” says Woods.

“The partner who does the online grocery shopping is as important to a functioning family unit as the partner who is making the big moonshot sales pitch (and is often the same person).

2. Thinking beyond the hustle culture

The 2020 pandemic brought with it an increased focus on work/life balance, which had already reared its head as a solution to the hustle culture, but gained traction as employees rediscovered the simple pleasure of spending more time with their families.

“We have come a long way in the last decade in this area,” says Woods.

“In the first part of my career, I found there was a definite culture of being applauded for having a single-minded work focus. The ‘race towards burnout’ was celebrated and voluntarily contested – as mad as that seems!”

However, while the situation has improved, Woods believes that balance has not been fully restored.

“The balance has really improved from a physical perspective – people are working from home more, attending more kids’ concerts and sports games, etc, which is wonderful to see. However, we are really being challenged from an attention perspective, which is the next frontier to conquer.

“This struggle is real, because digital integration brings work into every physical environment we enter, so managing ourselves in an environment without clear rules and boundaries is very challenging.”

Finding balance: Woods recommends employing guardrails at certain points in the day to entrench good habits. These should include a ritual around how the day starts, mental and physical pauses during the day, and ending the day in a way that brings closure.

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3. Creating an environment for success

It’s a situation that’s all too familiar – trying to do everything and, in the end, we’re stretched so thin that nothing gets done.

“We have to be very careful to set ourselves up to succeed and thrive, rather than get into a cycle of struggle and feel like failures,” says Woods.

“We all have a legitimate right to thrive, rather than just endure life.”

Finding balance: One way to exit this cycle is to detail clearly what failure and success mean to you, says Woods.

“Being wildly successful at work, but with crumbling personal relationships at home, for example, may not feel like success at all.”

Once you have a clear vision of what you’re aiming for, it’s easier to work towards it.

He also stresses the importance of prioritising well-being exercises as part of your personal “key performance areas”.

4. Time is well-being

“The people with the best balance seem to be those who value their time – both in putting in a quality shift at work, but also in making time for the things that are important to them,” says Woods.

Finding balance: Woods recommends figuring out where your “non-negotiables” lie and making time, space and attention available for those.

“Don’t negotiate on non-negotiables!” Woods cautions.

“Work on the high-performance skill of delivering the ‘discerning NO’ – valuing your skills, time and energy, so that everyone gets your best, not a thinly sliced version of you. When we value the best version of ourselves, everyone wins. When we allow a lesser version of ourselves, everyone loses.”

– Information supplied by Mantis Communications.

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