The balancing act between work and play

Do you work to live or live to work? Follow these inspirational 10 keys to balancing work and play.

Welcome to the Monty Python Silly Olympics and the 100-yard dash for people with a poor sense of direction! The starting gun goes off and everybody starts running, very fast. You cannot fault them for effort. They are really putting it in. But with a poor sense of direction they run up to the high jump, disc throw, hamburger stand, and John Cleese goes powering out of the stadium and up a busy high street. As he’s running a reporter asks him about his progress. He shouts: “I’m getting there, getting there!”

When I first saw this sketch I was hit with the image that I was watching my life. The alarm would go off in the morning and I went running. I often didn’t know where I was heading, but somehow the faster I went, the quicker I believed that I would reach my destination. Big mistake!

Ask yourself: at the end of a day of work, do you live your life or do you merely recover from work? The main reason why we lose a sense of balance in our lives is the failure to have a clear direction before we get busy. Vision has to lead any project, any change and any action. The following 10 steps are designed to help you lead a balanced and fulfilled life.

1. Aim for success

Follow the S3 formula to help you consider the key factors in a work/life balance. The first S stands for success – begin to form criteria of what success means to you. The second S stands for “Strategy” – start to form a workable plan to achieve a balance between work and life. The third S denotes Synergy – make sure you focus on relationships and creative cooperation with those around you. Aim to be a team player and a good communicator.

2. State of mind

Success is an attitude and not just a set of achievements or financial gain. If this were not the case then every high achiever would consider themselves successful. But in fact, many rich, famous, and accomplished people have material success but do not actually feel truly successful or fulfilled. Understand that success is not just found in outer things but is located within yourself. Cultivate success as a state of mind so that you stop chasing false goals and expectations, and start living your life focused on what matters to you.

3. Time management

One of the biggest traps to fall into today is the “busy culture”. The major problem with this culture is that the habit of “busyness” eclipses real business – it gives rise to a “start early, finish late” work ethic that confuses constant effort with real effectiveness. Avoid keeping busy out of a sense of habit, duty or guilt – these factors all reduce effectiveness, morale and motivation. Think about how you could be less busy and more effective. How could you work smarter, not harder?

4. Avoid workaholism

Workaholism is an escape from life through work. It is a compulsive behaviour that can damage effectiveness, estrange families and impair health. A workaholic will ensure that they always have access to work. Often confused as a sign of dedication, this leads to imbalance and burnout. Be alert to symptoms of overload and focus on balancing your work and life.

5. Prioritise

Make sure that you prioritise your goals, your strengths and your actions. Recognise that you cannot excel at everything and prioritise accordingly. Ask yourself: What am I really good at? Where do my natural talents lie? What do I enjoy most? What will help me advance my life’s goals and vision?” Being strategic about key issues at work and in your life will make all the difference to achieving a healthy balance.

6. Take action

Taking action is about taking responsibility for your life. Do not blame circumstance, conditions or others for your experiences. It is your choice either to wait for your life to get better or to take action. The extent to which you are willing to act is equal to how far you are exercising your “proactivity muscle”. Developing this “muscle” is comparable to working out at the gym – you cannot expect to develop strong biceps overnight. Practise creating a proactive mindset and look for ways to enhance your life each day – then act!

7. Enjoy relationships

A poor work/life balance can have a detrimental effect on a relationship. Be aware that if you are unable to shake off the stress of work when you go home, this can affect your private life and, ultimately, it can cause irrevocable differences between you and those you love. What do you want from a relationship – love, respect, communication, intimacy, fun? How important are each of these elements to you right now? Clarify what you want in your relationship and make achieving that result a priority.

8. Time out

Do you allow time for your favourite leisure activities? There is a price to pay for not taking leisure time – you may experience higher stress levels, greater exhaustion, ill-health, insomnia and impaired relationships. What leisure activities do you want to do that you may have been putting off? What changes do you need to make to ensure that you achieve a balance? Realise that leisure activities enhance your health by acting as both a preventative measure against stress, for example, as well as a cure for it.

9. Improve yourself

It is essential that people commit to lifelong learning in a competitive and fast-moving world. Decide what personal development goals you have. Would it be useful for you to improve skills such as motivation, communication or confidence? If so, which ones? Make a personal development plan by listing the key skills that you want to improve and then prioritising them. Find out what seminars, workshops or other activities would meet your learning needs. Schedule time to attend events, read literature and receive coaching.

10. Enjoy success

Many people achieve successes but fail to enjoy them. There are many reasons for this. One is the tendency to push ahead so fast to the next goal or task that there is not time for celebration. Another is that they undervalue themselves and their achievements. Maybe they feel that completing a project successfully is merely part of their job description. Make sure that you enjoy your success and reward yourself with a healthy work/life balance. It is not worth having success at work if you have no friends, no fun, and no life.

Courtesy of Fitness Professionals UK

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