So... you may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately... That is because I injured my arm. My right arm. The arm that does everything for me - including writing blog posts! There wasn't anything that I specifically did to injure it, but the pain got worse over a period of about a week. To cut a long story short, I eventually went to the doctor and he told me I have an ulnar nerve impingement. I was faced with a decision - continue pushing myself and face the prospect of surgery if my condition worsens or take a step back and take care of myself. I chose the latter. I contacted my clients and announced it on the Facebook page. I was taking a break!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent a lot of time with my husband and my family. My husband and I went out for breakfast on the weekend, we spend a whole day running errands, I cleaned out my wardrobe, had dedicated cuddle time with my dogs, I caught up with some friends and even spent some time just sitting. My creative brain was let loose! I had so many ideas! Taking a step away from my business made certain things a lot clearer and you know what I also realised? I haven't had a day off since April. That's right. I have not had a day off since before I launched Pop Your Career (previously Littleoven Loves). Seriously. I even worked while I was on holiday in Fiji for my friends wedding. I don't actually remember the last time my husband and I spent a whole day together without laptops - until now.
You know what else I realised? At the beginning of the year, in completing my Leonie Dawson planner, I was prompted to think of one word to sum up my upcoming year. The word I chose, very intentionally, was balance. Unfortunately, I have not been very intentional at all in following through on that promise to myself. Something needs to be done. I love Littleoven Loves, but I also love my husband, my family and my quiet time at home in front of the television, sans laptop.
I know that I am not the only one who has let work life balance take a back seat. In this post, I am sharing a few practical steps that I am taking to reclaim that elusive work life balance and hopefully these tips will help you too!
1. Define Work Life Balance
What does "work life balance" actually mean? It is important that you ask yourself this question as your definition of work life balance may be a lot different to mine. Maybe your work life balance is all about making sure you can pick your kids up from school. Perhaps you want to have weekends off to hang out with your family and friends or spend time on your hobbies.
My work life balance is about juggling my day job and Pop Your Career whilst still making time for my husband, my pets and my family. Having a full time job and a side-hustle, I know that I have to work hard and that I won't have a lot of free time - that is the nature of the beast. But I also don't think it is too much to ask to have at least one day a fortnight, where I don't have to work and I can give 100% of my attention to my loved ones.
If you don't respect your boundaries, how can you expect anyone else to? #worklifebalance
2. Set Boundaries and Communicate Them
Once you know what your work life balance looks like, set some boundaries and let people know what they are. You may have heard me talk about the fact that last year, I went part-time in my day job. I did that to improve my work life balance and take away the pressure to be on call all the time. A few months later, my employer hired a new CEO, who texted me one weekend asking if she could give me a call to discuss a piece of work. I wanted to be helpful, but I also knew that this would be really overstepping my boundaries. Instead of taking my boss' call, I texted her back and politely told her that I am not available on weekends, but that I would be happy to come in a little early on Monday morning to meet with her. There were no hard feelings. She understood and she knew for the future that work matters would need to be reserved for the days that I was in the office.
If you haven't been following me for long, you may be a little confused - I mentioned having a full time job, but then I told you I went part time. That isn't a mistake. Earlier this year I made the decision to leave my previous employer and took on a full time role with a different organisation. It took a lot for me to go back to full time but it was an awesome opportunity. I also knew that it was a 6 month contract and that my sacrifice had an end date. Needless to say, going back to full time work has greatly impacted on my balance and I am planning to return to part time work on the 30th of November, when my contract expires. That is the new boundary that I have set for myself and those who are close to me know that this date is very important to me.
3. Respect Your Boundaries
It is all well and good setting boundaries, but if you don't respect them, how can you expect others to? That's right. If you make a commitment to yourself, you need to uphold it. Remember that scenario where my boss wanted to call me on a weekend? If I had have ignored my boundaries and told her that I was happy to talk, maybe I would have gotten brownie points for being obliging, but I also would have been setting an expectation for the future that my boundaries are negotiable. I have been in that situation before and let me tell you. Once you set those expectations, it can be very difficult to change them, particularly if you are generally an agreeable person.
I know that taking one day a fortnight off will be difficult for me, especially given the work patterns that I have become accustomed to. But, I also know that if I don't respect this commitment to myself I could also end up burning out or even damaging the relationships I have with my family and friends.
4. Carve Out the Time
You may have heard me refer to this quote before, but it really does sum things up beautifully. Marie Forleo says "If you don't schedule it, it's not real". This rings so true for me. I know that if I don't mark out my days off in my calendar (and maybe even set a few narky reminders for myself) that I will forget, find an excuse or say to my husband "Let's do it next weekend".
By marking out time in your calendar, you add credence to the non-negotiable nature of your commitments. Try scheduling in time for work and time for your other activities. Make sure you include time for self-care and relaxation as these are two of the things that are often dropped first when we are juggling competing priorities. One of my favourite bloggers, Mattieologie, says "The only way to manage time is to stay ahead of it" - Check out this post for some great advice about time management.
5. Increase Your Productivity
Here's a newsflash. Most of us are wasting a heck of a lot of time. I know I am. I didn't get to level 879 on Candy Crush overnight, you know what I'm saying? I also know the ins and outs of the lives of people I haven't spoken to since primary school thanks to Facebook, stay on top of the 200 odd newsletters that I am subscribed to and spend an awful lot of time reading about how to be a better blogger - so much time I don't then have enough hours in the day to implement what I have learned!
You can try to deny it, but I am sure there are areas of your life, where you can be more productive. Do you procrastinate when you need to clean the house? Perhaps you spend too much time in your email inbox and not enough time completing your work tasks? Think about this:
- If you could complete more in your work day, could you avoid working extra hours?
- If you spent less time completing household chores, could you spend more time with your kids?
- If you were more organised with your paperwork, could you spend some extra time relaxing?
- Are you completing tasks that aren't really important?
Now, I am not professing to be any kind of productivity expert, but I have taken a few steps to up my productivity and I know there are more improvements to be made.
- Since injuring my arm, I have stopped playing Candy Crush as using my mobile aggravates my injury
- I do all of my grocery shopping online, which saves me loads of time in going to the supermarket and unpacking bags from the car
- I use Unroll.Me to manage my email subscriptions and have turned email notifications off on my phone, so that I am not distracted
- I have started waking up early a couple of mornings a week to work on my business so that I can free up more time on the weekend
Each of this improvements were simple to make, but have already made a huge impact on my productivity. What productivity improvements can you make to afford yourself more work life balance?
I hope these tips help you to bring some balance back into your life - let's make it our mission to make balance a priority as 2015 winds down and 2016 begins. If you have any other ideas for improving work life balance, make sure you leave them in the comments.