Work-life balance….. pfft!
What does that even mean anyway?
How do you get it?
Is it even realistic?
When speaking to teachers one of the main things I hear they want is better work-life balance. This is because they feel work has consumed them with endless tasks and demands. But what does work-life balance actually look like?
Often we think work and life should be separate, we go to work, work hard and then come home and want to switch off. But with advances in technology we are more accessible than ever. If our phone isn’t pinging with a new email, we are notified via social media of new resources or readings. We don’t want to look but our intrigue gets the better of us, then we wish we didn’t. Now our mind is wondering between things to do, people to see and competing priorities. This leaves us either feeling drained with the thought of so much to do, or guilty because we aren’t doing it.
So, what’s the solution?
Instead of thinking that life and work need to be separate, we need to think of our life as one whole, and work fits into this, not the other way around. This is best seen in the image below.
The reality is we have a life and work fits into this, however the problem is when we get home we do not have any clear mental and emotional boundaries to separate them. Notice in the picture how work is encapsulated in a bubble that creates a barrier or boundary. It is through establishing some simple boundaries that we can better create work-life balance. But keep in mind, this may need be as simple as it sounds because what we are talking about is changing our habits. The habit of how we arrive at work and how we leave work each day.
When i was teaching in schools, I remember the jobs being endless and time scarce. I could’ve worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and still not do all that i wanted to do, but this simply wouldn’t be living. Instead I had to think about what was really important to me and consider what the point of it was. I wanted to work to live not live to work. This didn’t mean I cared less and under performed in the classroom, it just meant I had to set some boundaries for myself, other wise the job was simply not sustainable.
As a result, I decided I was not going to work weekends. I would work until 10pm 5 nights a week if i needed to but weekends were for recovery, rest and play (and of course house work). This was hard at times as I always had new ideas for my classes, however I also knew I needed the mental and emotional rest. I found this both restorative and empowering. I felt like I was living on my terms instead of being at the mercy of other people and their demands.
Other ideas for creating boundaries include;
- Stay at work for as long as possible to do the mundane tasks and only bring the creative, fun stuff home.
- Creating a ritual or an anchor when you leave work such as playing a song, noticing the final turn into home, or changing your clothes as soon as you walk in the door at home.
- Turn off your email notifications on your phone (check them when you are ready, not when they arrive)
- Practice mindful moments at home by being present with your family eg mindful cooking, mindful cleaning etc
- Keep a small notebook accessible near your for any ideas that come your way. That way you don’t need to keep them in your head, you can write them down, let the go and refer to your notes when you are back in work mode.
In a nutshell, I think Stephen Covey explains work-life balance best by saying ….. we need to schedule our priorities not prioritize whats on our schedule.
What is most important to you in your life?
How and where can you schedule this in your day?
What boundaries can you set for yourself to keep work and life in perspective?
Founder & Director Teacher Wellbeing