Updated: Feb 26
Balance can seem like a hard to reach concept in this day and age when we are all conditioned early on to strive to have a successful and happy life. If you find you have perfectionist qualities it's even harder to switch off from trying to do your best and relentlessly pursuing that elusive perfect result. Or you might be a people pleaser who feels like they can never say no and wants to please everyone and earn their approval which can lead to you spending all your time and energy on other peoples intentions for you.
Now that so many of us are working from home, where it is even more difficult to find physical separation between work and home life. All of this can lead to an endless cycle of exhaustion, depressed feelings and anxiousness that can impact your personal and professional relationships and eventually result in burnout for professionals.
Todays blog is going to highlight some coaching and counselling strategies to help you recognise the warning signs and to work toward achieving a more balanced approach to work life.
Understand Your Energy Needs
It is important you take the time to self reflect and be clear about what you need to do to function at your best and be healthy. Perhaps it's a self-care practice, time doing non-striving activities, a hobby, being creative or just simply having fun to balance the task orientation of work and study. Once you know your needs be realistic and disciplined enough to prioritise them ahead of time and make this step non-negotiable to sustain your wellbeing and especially if you need to recover. Speak to your employer about managing this to find a sustainable approach.
Build Physical Boundaries
Whether you're working from home or doing a hybrid of both home and office work having physical boundaries can help establish healthy separation. At home ensure your work space is away from the home living if you can. Make the effort to prepare for work and declutter the space and have good organisational systems so you can work optimally when you're there.
If you're heading into the office ensure that you have a space where you can focus on getting work done as well as socialising and working in groups. Collaborative spaces are popular set ups for office these days but there is lots of evidence to show this doesn't always improve productivity and some people find it difficult to concentrate. If you're not in a leadership position organise to speak with your lead about setting up the space so you can do your best work.
Be Assertive, Communicate Clearly and Advocate for Yourself
You can learn to say no and still be an influential leader and well respected in the workplace. Having something to say ready in preparation to being assertive can really help you communicate professionally and assertively. It can feel scary to speak up for yourself but it is necessary for achieving work life balance and personal power.
As well as saying no you can also ask for help and support. You don't have to do everything alone and sometimes asking for help can lighten your load. You might ask colleagues not to call or email you after work hours to discuss work and set your work hours and communicate clearly to all stakeholders that they are to be respected. If you're in leadership these behaviours models the right for others to have good work life balance. You can also get support with tasks at home like house cleaning or baby sitting to take the pressure off.
Define Your Values Mindfully and Prioritise
Understand what your values are - they are present when you feel happy and energised. When you spend some time reflecting on your top values you can get better at identifying them and then prioritising the actions that engage with your values. Practice pausing in the moment when you feel reactive and notice when you're engaged in other peoples values and shift into focussing activities on your own value adds. This will give you a greater sense of agency over your decisions, more control over your life and make your work and home life more meaningful.
Try to notice reactions and learn about your patterns of the body mind with mindfulness because in the long run they will then have less power over you if you can learn to stand in a self aware and more equanimous space with them.
Build in Daily Downtime, Set Work Hours and Switch Off
With digital platforms that we can access via our mobile phones and lap tops we can feel like our work is always with us and we are always on. It is important we establish digital boundaries, especially if you're working in technology where most of your work is happening on a screen and online. Establishing some work hours, communicating them to all your colleagues and switching off all emails, apps and devices that you use for work is essential for having good work life boundaries.
A good way to unplug from work digitally is to separate the platforms that you engage in work communication with your personal communication outside of work hours. Even if you socialise with colleagues in your personal life ask that they communicate with you outside your work platforms if not within "work hours". These can feel strange at first but without this kind of self discipline your boundaries will become blurred.
Changing habits is not instantaneous so you have to be prepared to make mistakes, go on a learning journey and give it go. I suggest implementing 3 of these strategies everyday and no more until you have mastered them and they feel natural and you are committed to them like a habit. Without commitment your boundaries are porous and likely to become blurred. Using a journal, speak to others to help make yourself accountable and if this article speaks to you make it your next self-care project. If you need support with setting work life balance boundaries and keen to work with one of expert counsellors or coaches reach out for an introductory call.