In a world where we attend team meetings from our loungerooms, we message employees from the supermarket checkout line, and we pitch to clients from our kitchen island bench, it’s no surprise that “work-life balance” is a common topic of conversation.
There’s no denying that it’s important to make time for work responsibilities, loving relationships, physical and mental wellbeing and individual pursuits. Yet sometimes it can feel impossible to switch off all work-related thoughts at 5pm like clockwork and throw yourself into the role of parent, partner, friend or even just being yourself.
The reason our pursuit of balance can feel so exhausting, confusing and never-ending is that it assumes our work and our lives are separate, not connected and interrelated aspects of our being.
What if, instead of chasing work-life balance, we crafted a work-life blend?
I first discovered work-life blend around 6-months ago, and it has given me new-found freedom to embrace and acknowledge every aspect of my life. Before, I was continually holding myself up to a standard of what I thought I “should” be doing, which only resulted in constant feelings of failure and frustration.
Going after work-life blend means you’re no longer searching for the ability to switch-off “after-hours” or setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. This approach realises that our work and our life are not two worlds apart, and it teaches us to take pleasure in a healthy and steady merging of both.
Through introducing the blended approach into my life, I discovered some helpful strategies that allow me to build a lifestyle that fits comfortably around the two.
1. Acknowledge the different parts of your life
The first step in creating a work-life blend is to discover who you are on a deeper level. Working from home as a mother of three is a constant and delicate juggling act, but the only way I can keep all my balls in the air is to realise that I am more than the person people know between 9am and 5pm from Monday to Friday. I am a mother, a partner, a daughter and a friend. I am a lover of nature, an avid adventurer, a nurturing mentor, a yoga teacher and an advocate for body movement. No one of these roles is more or less important than the next!
2. Set weekly priorities
Setting priorities is not a hard thing to do. But setting the right priorities is. Once we have established the different roles and responsibilities that we have in our everyday life, we can identify where we need to direct our energy. That means creating space and time to nurture the different parts of ourselves and ensure we’re not pouring all of our efforts into one area.
I review my priorities every week because my lifestyle is constantly shifting. Some weeks I have non-negotiable work-deadlines that need to be my priority, but other weeks I may have a family member that is struggling and in need of my support.
3. Create basic guidelines
I don’t like to set overly strict rules for myself or have any penalties for not meeting these standards. Instead, I create guidelines to help build a meaningful and considered lifestyle that supports my short- and long-term goals. Some of my basic guidelines include:
- Leave the home office by 5pm to start cooking dinner and spend time with Shane and my kids
- No work in the evenings or over the weekend
- Date night every Wednesday with Shane
- Making time every morning to either train, practice yoga, journal, cycle, or a combination of these rituals
- Have a date with my Mum once a month
- Pick my daughter up from school on my days.
Does that mean I never work on the weekends? No!
Have I ever phoned a friend to pick up my daughter from school? Yes!
Is my morning yoga practice sometimes replace with an early start at the computer? Of course, it is!
4. Be flexible and kind
Rather than getting frustrated or self-destructive when I can’t meet my guidelines, I am learning to show the same kindness and understanding towards myself as I do others. Because while we might have great intentions, the truth is, sometimes it just doesn’t work out! The most important part of the work-life blend is having flexiblility when things don’t go to plan, and realising that it’s not a reflection of your work ethic, your dedication, or even you as a person.
Sometimes I can’t reschedule a meeting to pick up my daughter, or I need to work on a Sunday afternoon to meet a deadline – and that’s okay! It’s simply life.
A work-life blend looks and feels different for everyone, so it’s about finding the tools and structure that support your vision of an idyllic lifestyle.
What would work-life blend look like for you? Let me know in the comments below.