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You will never feel truly satisfied by work until you are satisfied by life. – Heather Schuck

What better way to setup up the year for success than to take a realistic look at our life and how work integrates with it?

‘Work life balance’ is a buzz topic. An ideal that so many are seeking. Maybe you see the need for it … but is achieving it a pipe dream that will leave you disappointed?

Is it just a fantasy?

Perhaps you’ve not heard much of ‘work life balance’. Well, it almost describes itself – trying to achieve a careful balance between work and the rest of your life. But when you bring family, friends, hobbies, relaxation, self care into it, things get a lot more complicated.

If you’re an employee, you may be able to easily set boundaries, operate normal hours and leave work at work.

But achieving this for ourselves as business owners opens many more challenges. We begin to ask ourselves questions like, what is balance? Can I afford to let some things go? How will it change my future? What about my current commitments?

Well, let’s start at the beginning …

What is balance?

It is going to be different for everyone. Who defines it? Well that really comes back to you.

I’m just taking a guess, but I’m sure your work is your passion. As business owners we tend to love what we do. We enjoy seeing the change we can make and how we are able to positively impact people.

And because it is our passion, we tend to dive into it deeply. Really deeply.

Work is something we know, it’s something we enjoy, so it’s easy to just fill our time with it.

It’s human nature to focus on what we enjoy to the point that we exclude other things.

And then, usually, we have external pressure from others to bring balance to our lives. Sure, we understand that we should lead a more balanced life … but sometimes we need an outside perspective to see clearly. We need to reset and look at our priorities.

Can you afford to let some things go?

Many people struggle to let go. They have a strong feeling that they need to constantly be working – either to keep things moving, or to improve and achieve more.

There can be financial pressures or, perhaps, the need to make our business ‘successful’ whatever we feel that means.

These are powerful motivators that make us feel that we need to pour our time in or everything will break.

Add to this managing staff, planning for the future, maintaining current systems … There are dozens of additional responsibilities that make the life of a business owner extremely complex.

When we’re not currently dealing with work or other issues, our minds (not so helpfully) continually drag our thoughts back to ponder, stress and work through them anyway. We spend a lot of time inside our minds.

How will this change your future?

If we do let things go, we feel there will be some loss.

It might be that we feel others will not work as well as us. Or it will hurt us financially to employ or outsource.

And if we’re in the early stages of business it can take a while to gain traction. We might be missing opportunities.

It is true that at various stages in life we will have more capacity to focus on work. There will be other times when we need to invest more on our relationships or health.

So what is the answer?

Maybe the answer is in the way we define ‘balance’. The word itself gives the idea of keeping control, with everything nicely in its place. Every moment we don’t have this, we often feel guilty, inadequate, or like we’re failing.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Everything comes back to how we use our time.

As Stephen Covey so brilliantly put it “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”

Firstly, look at it more as integration.

Then things make a lot more sense. Some days work will take more of our focus, other days personal life. And they can work together quite beautifully.

Perhaps we should redefine it as, ‘Work life integration’. It will vary for each person, each situation, and each stage of our lives. To seek some holy grail of work life balance is unrealistic. You need to work it out for yourself.

Secondly, take time to reflect.

If you never step back from your work to see things at a distance, you’ll have no idea if you’re investing your time well, or simply spending it on being ‘busy’.

I like how Arianna Huffington reminds us – “We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in.”

Reflection is a key to help us understand how we’re using our time. When we stop and consider what is important – in our companies and personally, we do gain a different perspective.

Thirdly, Care for yourself.

Take care of yourself: When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to youFailure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.” – Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter

Usually, if you take the time out to meditate, eat well, exercise and build relationships – when you get to your work you‘ll be more efficient, have more energy and more clarity.

Did you know much of our mental, emotional and physical healing happens during our sleep? We’re all different as to how much we need, but ensuring you have enough sleep is fundamental to functioning well.

Remember when you care for yourself, you’re better able to care for others.

Lastly, prioritise.

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” – Dolly Parton

As a lawyer I live a big life in every aspect, which is part of me. I love helping and finding solutions, it’s my passion. But so are my friends and family. I don’t work 9-5 but I do integrate my work with my life. I am happy with my dinner plate of life and that makes everything easier.  And just as we don’t eat the same thing every day my dinner plate of life is ever changing.

It’s called ‘work-life’ balance. Is the priority work, or life?

Most people agree that relationships, family, health and relaxation are all more important than work. The priority should be our life, with our work integrated into it.

However as with everything, there is a bit of danger that work will become more dominant, and we lose focus on what is important.  I don’t have the perfect equilibrium all the time, because the scales of my life are never tipped perfectly on any day, but I do try to bring health, laughter and sanity into my life where I can which makes it a whole lot easier.

So as you start the year it’s a perfect time to ask the question ‘how you are integrating work into your life’.

This blog post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is a general commentary on matters that may be of interest to you.  Formal legal or other professional advice should be sought before acting or relying on any matter arising from this communication.