Is work / life balance really achievable?

work/life balanceWe hear it bandied around all the time – ‘you MUST have work / life balance’, ‘buy this great program to achieve work / life balance’, ‘you may love your business but do you have work/life balance?’

But what IS work/life balance and is it achievable?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently; I’m starting a new business, a new phase in my life, while renovating a house and learning a whole load of new skills – the work part is easy, and I’m loving my life, but have I reached that nirvana the gurus are always talking about?

Wikipedia tells us that work/life balance is:  “a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (Health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).”

Sounds easy, right?

But it’s not, especially when you own or run a business, no matter how large or small.

Looking at Twitter and Facebook, I see lots of business people complaining that they’re been up since 6am, that they’re working until 2am, that they have a million emails to catch up on after a short break, or that they’re tied to their smartphone.

Yet those same people will tell you that they’re living the dream; they have this work/life balance thing sussed. They get to take 2 holidays a year, take time off to see their kids in school plays, go to the gym 3 times a week and more.

work/life balanceBehind the smiles and the proclamations though, do they really have a balance?

The first thing they pack when they go on holiday is the laptop and a dongle in case they can’t get internet. They miss most of the school play because they’re answering emails and text messages on their Blackberry or iPhone. The journey to and from the gym is reserved for phone calls to give them that hours’ peace they need while in the gym, and the time running on the treadmill is spent thinking of new ways to get customers.

Is that really work / life balance? Are they living to work or working to live?

To me, work / life balance means being able to do the job I like, but being able to leave it behind at the end of the day. Spend time with my family, go out with my friends, sit and read a good book in a hot bubble bath. It’s not spending every waking hour worrying what I haven’t done businesswise, or has this client been serviced properly, has that one paid their invoice on time. I don’t know about you, but I’d quite life some life in my work / life mix!

How am I achieving this? Well, let’s get one thing straight – I’m not perfect! But I’m pretty sure that by delegating the tasks I’m not good at or tend to put off to people who do them better than me, I’ve made a start.

Do I want to be fixing my car, or talking on the phone with my best friend? The phone call wins every time! On the other hand, phone calls chasing money or a bottle of wine with my husband? This time the phone calls take a back seat I’m afraid.

Most of us go into business in order to free up our time, make us happy and give us that elusive work / life balance.

The next time you find yourself posting ‘Up again at 3am working’ or ‘Hopefully I can fit in a few sales calls on the way to sports’ day’, ask yourself this:  “Is this what I signed up for?”

If not, maybe you could consider delegating some of the things you don’t like doing or don’t have to do yourself, and spend more time doing the things you love. That’s work / life balance to me.

What would you consider the perfect work / life balance? Are you achieving it? What will you are doing differently in 2013? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear your thoughts

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