The Mythical Work/Life Balance - How to get it and what to do with it once you’ve got it
There may be times when you feel like you are a work ‘wife’. The person who not only schedules every aspect of the business life (diaries, inboxes, catering, transport, accommodation, meetings and documents) but controls all elements of the personal life as well. The birthday cards, the Christmas presents, remembering anniversaries, complicated dietary requirements, offspring’s’ football matches, organising parties, tracking down obscure musical instrument sheet music, paying for deliveries, collecting dry cleaning and pets from the vets...the detritus of life. And perhaps you have a family of your own, for which you do all of the above and more, but this time, without the salary.
Possibly, you commute for up to an hour, or more, then do at least an 8 hour day, probably without even taking a proper lunch break, followed by the commute back, before either trying to squeeze in an exercise session, or see a friend, or rush home to collect the kids from school, whilst cooking dinner and checking homework and housework and dealing with the other ‘home’ humans in your life. And I bet at home, you don’t get thanked for all your efforts on a regular basis either.
When people talk about work and life balance, do you think ‘yes please’? So- let’s get you some. The basic thing is....you have to be responsible for creating it. Your employer is unlikely to hand you extra days off and say ‘you worked over time last week, take Friday off as a Spa day’. Own your life. Stop working those extra hours in non crucial times- is it something you have fallen into the habit of? Checking your work emails on the phone whilst you commute home? Logging in at the weekends because you dread how many emails there will be on Monday? You have to break that cycle. Yes, initially the emails will seem overwhelming, but they will still be there. Use the ‘rules’ function to sweep non important or secondary emails into separate folders. Look at Dr Monica Seeley’s book on email management (Brilliant Email: How to Win Back Time and Increase Your Productivity) to claw time back.
Take that lunch break. If you can’t manage a full hour, take 30 minutes. Go for a walk, breathe non air conditioned air, if you can. Read a book. Just do something that isn’t in front of a screen. Do something for you.
Value your non work time, because no one will do it for you. When you are out of work, focus on what’s going on in your life. Do you do anything that is just for your enjoyment? Or is everything you do for the benefit of someone else? Perfection doesn’t exist- if you have one hour in the evening, and you could either ‘do the thing you really like’ or ‘pick up the dirty washing/hoover/clean the oven’, do the thing you enjoy. The idea of a ‘perfect home’ is just an idea- you won’t win any awards or medals for having a miserable Tuesday evening doing chores, when you really wanted to be swimming, or singing, or seeing friends, or taking a boxing class.
Give yourself permission to put yourself first.
Abigail Jones is a career Executive Assistant, with almost two decades' of experience. With three degrees in the Arts, she started working at the V&A Museum, Tate, Christies, Sotheby's before moving into Healthcare, Charity, Fashion/Luxury Retail (L'Oreal) and is currently working for American Express Global Business Travel as EA to the MD.