Successfully balancing work and family commitments can feel like an impossible task. On particularly challenging days or weeks, we can feel like we’re not doing a good job of either. Over time this can leave us feeling stressed, demoralised and downright unhappy.
But there are steps we can take to help redress the balance and create some structure that allows us to thrive in all areas of our lives.
In this blog, I’d love to walk you through my top seven tips. Let’s jump in…
1. Focus on what’s important
How often do you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? This is a common feeling for many of us, particularly people with additional commitments such as young families or other caring responsibilities.
This outlook often arises from how we spend our time, not how much we have of it.
To gain that much-needed balance, it’s worth getting back to basics and reevaluating YOUR purpose and your goals.
What’s important to you?
What do you want to achieve?
How do you want to feel?
You can ask these questions about your personal, family and work life to gain perspective on all areas.
For example, if spending 30 minutes playing games or exercising with your children is important, schedule that into your day.
If you have goals at work that are important to you but never seem to have time to dedicate to them, block out a day a week in your diary to focus solely on those. Communicate this to your line manager and team, so they know you’re unavailable to deal with business as usual on that day.
Consider cutting out the non-essential ‘stuff’ that seems to take up so much of your time (and energy!). For example, checking personal emails multiple times daily, scrolling through social media or constantly comparing yourself to others.
Really look at what’s serving you well and what’s causing you unnecessary stress and wasting your precious time!
2. Be firm with your boundaries
With the summer holidays just around the corner, I’m sure many working parents are already starting to feel the pressure of juggling annual leave, holiday clubs and other childcare scheduling. You’re not alone!
This is the ideal time to establish and, more importantly, be firm with your boundaries.
If you’ve got periods of leave coming up, be realistic about what you can and cannot achieve in the time you have available at work AND home. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve got multiple jobs started but nothing finished!
Then communicate your boundaries effectively with those around you, including your partner, children, wider family, line manager and team. Knowing what’s realistic and what isn’t allows them to prioritise what they ask of you.
As you go through this exercise, it may involve learning to say no to commitments or work tasks. It will probably feel tough to start with, but when you notice how much lighter it makes you feel and how much more headspace you have to focus on your priorities, it doesn’t feel quite as daunting!
3. Look for flexible working arrangements that suit your circumstances
Most companies have adopted flexible working arrangements following COVID-19. Many people have returned to the workplace for just 2-3 days a week, and some have remained fully remote, depending on business requirements.
If you’re still commuting and find it’s eating into your working day (or leaving you feeling exhausted) and you think that working more flexibly would help, speak to your line manager to see what’s possible.
Some people prefer to start work earlier, or later, due to personal commitments. If that sounds like you, why not see if you’re able to negotiate a different start time with your company – after all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get?!
Small changes can make a massive difference to our outlook and sense of balance.
4. Create a workable schedule
Is your schedule working for you? If not, shake it up!
Perhaps you’ve noticed you’re most productive in the mornings? If so, schedule the tasks that need the most concentration at the start of your day and leave the easier, more mundane tasks until the afternoon.
If you have a slump around lunchtime, block out some time to exercise or call a loved one to re-energise you, so you come back fighting in the afternoon.
Are there parents who drop off children at the same activities as you? See if you can take turns to free up some of your time.
Your schedule should be working for you, not working against you. Take back some control and create a day/week that leaves you feeling content and satisfied, not exhausted!
5. Maintain an open dialogue
If you struggle to create a work-life balance, speak to your line manager and/or partner, and voice your concerns and needs. No good comes from struggling in silence.
6. Accept that life isn’t perfect
Life isn’t perfect! It never was, and it never will be.
There will always be setbacks and challenges to deal with and hopefully overcome.
If you sway towards perfectionist tendencies, for example constantly striving to produce ‘perfect’ work or ‘perfect’ activities for the kids, holding yourself and others to high (and often unrealistic) standards or critical self-evaluation, allowing these standards to drop can be truly liberating!
It doesn’t mean you no longer try to do a good job; it just means you understand when you’ve reached ‘good enough’ and allow yourself to stop before overwhelm and burnout creep in.
Another element of accepting that life isn’t perfect is allowing yourself to accept help from others. As the summer holidays approach, lean on grandparents and friends to share some of the burden. Building a solid network of people around you can lead to a greater sense of balance and inner harmony.
7. Practice self-care
When we do too much of one thing, it can soon feel all-consuming. So don’t forget to make time for yourself and build self-care into your daily routine.
- Eating well
- Getting enough sleep
- Recognising the signs of stress and practising stress relief
- Making time for your personal relationships including your partner, friends and family
- Taking part in activities you enjoy, such as hobbies
I hope these tips have helped. Remember, if you start making small changes, you CAN begin to redress the balance between work and family commitments!