8 tips for balancing family life with a demanding career
Balancing a career with a family is a common cause of stress. And, just as we thought we’d finally got things organised, along came COVID-19 and everything we thought we knew about balancing our career with our family went straight out the window.
The struggles of balancing work life and home life, which were already blurring, have been amplified by the pandemic. Our dining table suddenly became our office space or your kid’s school desk; and what wasn’t quite finished on Friday afternoon could always be finished on Saturday morning.
If you’re struggling to juggle your busy home life with your demanding career, check out our top eight tips for managing the balancing act.
1 . Have clear, fixed boundaries
“I’ll do an hour of work on Sunday morning to get it finished.” We’ve all been there, thinking it won’t take long so we’ll work late or spend time on it over the weekend, but this blurring of our professional and personal life is where problems can arise. Of course, if your entire family are out the house on a Sunday morning then this could be the ideal solution but if you find that you’re working during the middle of time that you’d usually spend with your family, your equilibrium is off balance. Set yourself realistic boundaries, whether that’s keeping all weekend for family or making sure you’ve finished in time for dinner. You and your family will be glad you did.
2 . Have open conversations
You may think that only you can manage your work-life balance but if you haven’t discussed it with your family or significant other, you may not know what’s best for everyone. Discussing how you can be present for your family will likely open your eyes to what they see as important. It will also help them to understand that if you’re working late on a Tuesday, you’re doing it so that you can be completely available for a lazy family Sunday. Make sure communication flows both ways.
3 . Accept that imbalance is sometimes inevitable
In an ideal world you would split your focus 50/50 but accept that sometimes your family will need you more and other times your clients will. There will inevitably be times when you must throw yourself into work and do longer stints to complete a project, but similarly there could be times when you miss that late-afternoon meeting to attend your child’s parent’s evening. If your imbalance doesn’t always fall heavily in favour of one or the other, things will even out in the long run.
4 . Focus on what gets the best results
The Pareto Principle states that we get 80% of the results from 20% of the work, so focus on what matters. To use a cliché, work smarter not harder. Analyse what will get the best results. At work, this means prioritising and delegating where possible. At home, this is focusing on what means the most to your family – you may not be greatly missed if you’re not there at breakfast, but your family will expect you to be there for dinner, for example.
5 . Learn to say no
It’s important to be clear about what matters most. Of course, this changes from day to day depending on your workload, but it’s important to be clear about what is essential and let the rest go. Don’t feel obliged to take on an extra project if it means working at the weekend. Your time is valuable, learn to say no and you can focus on being present at the events you do attend.
6 . Be clear on your goals
Set yourself short, medium and long-term goals which all contribute to your overall career and personal life objective. This allows you to take small steps on the way to achieving your greatest ambitions without overlooking your day-to-day responsibilities. Make sure these goals are achievable and measurable – giving you the greatest chance of success.
It also makes sense to document these goals somewhere, so when you’re feeling the pressure you can refer to the goals and objectives and remember why you’re on this path.
7 . Accept the shorter version
You may want to have a two-week break with your partner to celebrate your anniversary but maybe a long weekend is more realistic. Or you may plan to take a long lunch break to catch up with an old friend but actually a 45-minute coffee will have to do. Taking your team away for the weekend would be great but actually a day of workshops followed by dinner will achieve as much. You don’t have to cancel your plans altogether if you’re short on time, just see if there’s a more time-conscious way of doing what you want.
8 . Take time for you
In the midst of your busy schedule, it’s vital that you take a little time for you, too. You may have to-do lists as long as your arm but without taking care of yourself, it’s unlikely that you’ll complete tasks to the best of your ability anyway. A yoga class, a quick run or even just taking a few moments to be silent and focus on your breathing can help you reset and get everything done without burning yourself out.
Balancing your family with your busy career isn’t easy and there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach. Work on individual solutions to your issues that work for you and those around you. Working hard and advancing your career may be hugely important for your sense of worth but don’t lose sight of why you’re doing it all in the first place.
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