Work-life balance? Yes, please….
You know how it is. You’re juggling work and life – which includes just about everything you can cram into it – and it’s flippin’ knackering. You would love to have the time to figure it all out but, quite frankly, ‘achieve work-life balance’ is just one more thing on your ‘to do’ list and it’s so close to the bottom that it’s just never going to happen. Not if you have to declutter, detox and decide what’s for dinner before can you even start on it.
Hitchin-based Rachel Green knows all about that feeling. She’s a Chartered Counselling Psychologist, as well as having two small-ish children, and she’s been helping people with problems ranging from depression to anxiety to phobias to a general sense of having lost direction in life. A lot of the clients she sees share that all-too familiar feeling of having too many things to do and not enough hours in the day, never mind fuel in the tank.
After years of working as a psychologist in the NHS (what a woman!) she’s setting up her own practice (face-to-face and over the phone) right here in Herts. I met her recently to talk about having just too much to do and too little time in which to do it, and we talked – coffee in hand and one eye on the clock – about just how hard it is to balance work (which we both love) with the rest of our lives, our families, things we want to be doing, all the other stuff that needs to get done.
Work/life balance is definitely a bit of a challenge for me: I mean, I wrote this with my laptop on my knees, sitting in the viewing gallery at the local pool, while my son and his best friend were swimming lengths and I was texting a friend while trying to figure out what to cook for tea that later before I had to head off babysitting….
Talking to Rachel, I came away armed with some encouragingly realistic ideas for inching my way closer to that elusive balance. Work, life, in perfect harmony? Maybe not yet – it is half term, after all – but at least I have a plan now.
And here they are! Rachel’s 5 top tips that you can use right now to help your juggling
1. Eat that frog. Make that phone call you don’t want to make, open that letter you don’t want to open, take out that life insurance policy you haven’t taken out but have been meaning to for months. And eat that frog as soon as you get to your desk at work or first thing in the morning at home. You’ll creates space in your head, a feeling of relief and a sense of control over your life. 2. What to wear? This might sound like going back to school, but I find it really works: choose what you’re going to wear tomorrow – the whole top-to-toe outfit – and get it all out before you go to bed. Put your car keys, your Oyster card, your wallet, whatever, in your bag ready to go. Bingo! No last-minute running around looking for keys or drying your tights with a hairdryer.
3. Write it down. In my personal and professional experience, women can be prone to worrying and we end up carrying our ‘to do’ lists round in our heads. Try this instead: carry a notebook with you or tap that list into your phone. And then, before you go to bed, dump the contents of your head onto paper – whether it’s things that need doing, things you forgot to do, things you’re worrying about doing. That way, you can avoid those wide-awake-at-2am moments when you’re suddenly thinking something important you forgot to do. 4. Breathe. Sounds obvious but many of us spend some time each day holding our breath or not breathing a full breath. Don’t worry, I don’t mean meditating or sitting for long periods of time – it can be while you’re sat at your desk waiting for a file to download, on the train to work, or in the car on the school run. Take a few deep breaths, focussing on the breath (you can repeat to yourself ‘breathing in, breathing out’ – although best not out loud if you’re on the bus) and then just get right back on with whatever you were doing beforehand.
5. Unplug. Try turning off your smartphone, iPad or laptop for at least an hour a day. I know, I know, but you’ll be just fine! We are constantly bombarded by technology, which does create a sense of urgency, so having time away from all that will help create more calm and a sense of spaciousness. If it helps, choose the same time each day – then you get to look forward to it as well.
If all else fails, though, just run a bath, lock the door and read your book. A glass of wine or a G & T usually helps at this point, too. And, relax….