As a working parent, I know the often overwhelming challenges we face in finding a work-life balance. Always rushing? Feeling the pressure? Losing perspective? Just remember, you’re not alone.
It’s time to slow down, breathe deep and focus on the three main issues.
Make a plan
In my experience working with clients, most people come undone because they haven’t planned. And because they haven’t planned, they haven’t gone to the gym, eaten well or managed stress.
As a result, they feel they’ve failed. The truth is you haven’t failed. You just need time to reassess.
Take 60 seconds and think: What do I want to achieve this week? Set yourself a couple of goals. If you’re trying to get fit, factor in two exercise sessions or six in a week – whichever approach is most achievable. Ensure your goals are within your grasp and not too idealistic. Don’t set yourself up to falter before you even start. (Six exercise sessions a week might sound good on paper, but is that a stretch too far? It is for me).
Next, work out the vital steps to smash those goals. Pre-book an exercise class and pack your gym clothes the night before, or head to the supermarket and grab all the items you need for the week so you don’t fall into the trap of eating a dinner you later regret. Take the time to plan and reset that work-life balance. Take control and push aside the barriers.
Set the boundaries
By setting boundaries, your brain can focus on the present. You can become more resilient, be more creative and attentive, and, most importantly, satisfied with your life.
In fact, we really should rename the work-life balance “work-life boundaries”. It’s more about creating quality time and less about establishing balance time.
The biggest offender? That “must answer” accessory – the mobile phone. While they’ve transformed the way we work and interact with our global community, they’ve also placed unprecedented pressure on our ability to disengage from work, and, indeed, the world.
So, what next?
Focus. Which boundaries have become blurred? Which ones need your full attention? If you regularly find yourself thinking about work as you drive home, consider writing a to-do list for the next day before leaving the office. If it’s your phone that causes problems, consider turning off the notifications as you step through the front door or use different email apps for work and home. Leave your phone in the kitchen at night, or turn it off in the evenings. Think: The world can wait until tomorrow.
Just do what it takes to disengage from one task before you move on to another.
You only have to look at the popularity of the new sleep gym classes in Britain to know that many of us are desperate for some slumber.
As a parent of two little ones, I’m the first to say I can’t remember the last time I have had a full night’s sleep (I would also happily pay for one of those classes!). Sleep has a huge impact on our health and happiness and our ability to cope with daily stress. We need sleep to function well, but, sadly, it doesn’t get the attention, planning and priority it (and we) deserve.
So, what can I do?
Make sleep as important as exercise and nutrition.
Take a leaf out of elite sports sleep coach Nick Littlehales’ book and see sleep as an important and necessary recovery for high performance.
Among the suggestions are the importance of creating an environment conducive to sleep (dark curtains, temperate room, remove the clutter) and a routine that prepares you for the rest ahead (low light, and no screens).
If stress is keeping you awake or you’re struggling with insomnia, get help. There are lots of support services out there. If your children are keeping you awake … well, that’s tougher – I’m struggling with that that one myself! The best you can do is be compassionate with yourself and know this too will pass.