Hey guys, you might well remember at the start of December last year, I excitingly announced a collaboration with my new partner in crime, renowned TV Psychologist Emma Kenny (and founder of wellbeing site SWITCH), where together we would host a monthly problem page right here on the blog.
Well, welcome to our page: #Problemshared, a space dedicated to helping you with any concerns you might have, in all aspects of your life-family, work, relationships and more.
Think Jackie Annual brought up to date online!
Want to get in touch?
Simply email me firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, and one will be chosen to be answered by both of us, each month.
Thanks so much to all those who have sent in questions already. We hope to share as many as we can as this feature progresses.
Please note, I can of course, (as I have today), publish anonymously if you so wish.
Over to this month’s question, something I know will resonate with many of you, as it did with me.
How Can I Switch Off?
Anon, wrote in for advice with this-
I have two children, aged 3 and 7 and work as a social media manager 3 days a week. The internet never sleeps and as I work around a flexible schedule, choosing my own hours, I find it hard to switch off and basically, achieve balance in my life and in work.
Emma, have you any practical tips and advice to help me?
I feel guilty that I can’t always be focused on my kids and then guilty when work needs to take priority.
Vicki, as a full time blogger, how do you create boundaries and manage your schedule?
I just want to learn how to switch off and feel more in control of everything.
Over to Emma-
One of the constant areas I lecture in is work/life balance and the reason for this is because so few of us actually have any these days.
Decades ago the story was very different, the 9-5 job existed and often the female partner would stay at home when she and her partner had a family.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled that these days the majority of us accept that it’s not only fine for a woman to work but that it has the clear potential to help our kids (especially girls) aspire to be whomever and whatever they choose to be.
That said, it also means that we are pretty flipping knackered and at times meet ourselves coming backwards, along with dishing an unhealthy amount of guilt on our heads because we feel we are not getting the most out of our family life.
So how on earth do we start redressing the balance?
Well it’s actually easier than you think!
One of the most powerful things I have learnt is Pareto’s rule, this guy was a philosopher who observed that 80% of your success comes from only 20% of your actions (man that got me excited!), therefore by figuring out what you are great at (in my world that’s communication), and by concentrating your efforts on this area of your world, you will automatically become happier, more focused, less stressed and more successful than you ever believed you could be.
Think about that for a minute, instead of trying to firefight because you are trying to give EVERYTHING 100% you simply shift focus to the 20% of the things you are great at, thus saving you lots of time and more importantly making you feel fabulous.
The next point that I write will make you all sigh as the thought of it will feel like I am simply adding to the amount of work you have to do, but bear with me!
…Scheduling is imperative if you want to achieve work/life balance; the average scheduler saves around 270 hours a year, (that’s a pretty decent holiday somewhere hot!).
So if you intend to make a new years resolution then it’s time to buy a great diary or to utilise your smart technology to start planning exactly what’s happening in your week. This includes you time (long hot soaks in the bath), family time (having a family meal together), activity time (visiting a museum), social time (meeting the girls), health (exercise/nutrition) and of course romantic time (with whoever floats your boat). Obviously this schedule will have all your work activities included also.
The reason that you need to schedule is so that you scrupulously stick to your plans to ensure that you start addressing your personal needs as opposed to simply addressing your work ones.
The next stage is that two letter word that so many of us struggle with…NO!!!!,
Now I know that many of us like to be pleasers, but genuinely this is a thankless role and will only serve to make you frustrated, exhausted and resentful. Whist initially muttering the dreaded duo may send you into a clammy sweat, I promise that the more you say it the happier you will be.
The way I see this is whilst I am saying no to someone or something else, I am more importantly saying ‘yes’ to me.
Ok, so now we are really getting somewhere, but if there is one thing that can scupper all the above plans it’s the flipping smart phone and cyber world! Whilst initially all this wonderful technology was a blessing, it appears that 97% of the population has become cyber addicts with a genuine fear that should you put your phone down for one minute the world will either implode or you will lose an unbelievable opportunity that will ruin your life!
Yes, when Facebook blew up in 2004 so did most of our social lives, which these days consist of friends behind screens.
Whilst technology is here to stay and we should celebrate it, the truth is we need time away from the constant drum of status updates, emails and text messages; we literally need to digitally detox.
For me, this is after 8pm on a weekday and all day Saturday, and it’s wonderful, I feel like I am back in 1987 and find the hours can be filled with wonderful alternatives, such as having a conversation with my husband and listening to my children discuss their days.
Finally, and most important of all the points I have written today is finding time for those nearest and dearest to you.
In all happiness research there is one fundamental and paramount thread that runs through happy peoples lives and that is good relationships.
Making sure that on a very regular basis you surround yourself with those who remind you of your intrinsic worth is a sure fire way to help you find balance. If you are currently not making time to see friends and family then let something else go, because I promise you that the sacrifice will benefit you ten fold.
…The thing about guilt is unless it motivates you to make changes it’s a wasted emotion. Instead of feeling guilty, think of practical strategies that will enhance your life as opposed to feeling stuck in your current position.
Also the great thing about guilt is it gives us a measure of what is truly important in our lives. The more guilty we feel, the more important the issue at hand is.
So there you are, my tips to help you achieve a brilliantly balanced life: let me know how it goes!
Right I am off for a quick jog, after all it’s in my schedule!
….WOW, what incredible advice Emma, thank you, I need to take those tips on board too to improve my own work/life balance.
I totally understand how stressful and overwhelming life can feel Anon, particularly as lines are blurred between work and being online naturally, when you work in a digital career.
I try my best to be strict with my time for the most part. I stop when I do pick-up up until bedtime and unless it’s urgent, 9pm is my cut-off most nights when it comes to work.
I know this isn’t possible for all and many work evenings to accommodate their kids and that is fine too. It’s just about making sure you do get at least 90 minutes before bed to actually switch off. My good friend, blogger Helen of Mummy Mode really helped me when I struggling to sleep, and advised a total digital switch off as early as possible on an evening and I couldn’t recommend it more.
I also give myself a break-
I know that some weeks will be incredibly busy and others more manageable and less hectic and I won’t always win at ‘balance’ and that’s OK.
I try and be kind to myself and realise that imbalance too, is normal, common and simply part of life.
It’s give and take. I know if I want to feel free and work to my time and remotely, so there will be times when because I wasn’t around from 4pm some days, I need to make up for it over the weekend or later than I want, some nights.
I also think prioritising what matters to you and as Sheryl Sandberg advises in her ground-breaking book ‘Lean In’, letting go of perfectionism and just getting the job done, is liberating.
Work out what you want to focus on and say no to what you don’t. Be mindful of your time.
She expands that the concept of ‘having it all’ doesn’t exist and simply sets us all up for failure.
Sandberg famously pointed out in an interview along with Richard Branson that the work-life balance question wrongly targets women. It infers that women can’t have both, while men are never asked this question.
We can have both, but we all need to let go of this notion that home and work life will always run perfectly. Home life feeds into work life, whatever your job, acknowledge it’s about compromise between both sectors of your life and it won’t always be easy.
I personally try to separate my work sphere from home life as much as possible so I clear my office aka the kitchen table of my laptop when the kids come home. I won’t work in my bedroom or lounge. It helps me physically divide work and home life.
Most importantly I eat well as much as possible and go for a short run in the morning first thing, even if it means waking up before the kids (ouch) and 10 minutes of gentle yoga before bed to help clear my head and feel more content and able to deal with day to day stresses.
Please know none of us is getting it right all of the time though, we are all somewhat addicted to being online but making small changes and forcing yourself to be stricter with your time online will help you feel better.
Wellbeing Takeaway Tip:
Be realistic about your time and kind to yourself. No one can have complete balance all of the time. Set a schedule and be try and keep to it but know that we all veer off plan and setting aside time for you and practising saying ‘no’ more will make you feel more in control and liberated
I hope this has helped.
I’d love to read any comments below.