Achieving the elusive work-life balance

Q I work in a very demanding job and am finding that due to the high workload, I have to take work home with me. I feel like this is a never-ending cycle and it is having an impact on my family. I feel resentful sometimes when one of my kids has an issue I need to deal with that takes me away from work and I know this is wrong. I love my family and actually like my job too but don’t know how to achieve a good balance between the two.

A I’m sure many people can relate to what you are saying – balancing work and life can seem like an impossible feat. However, once you start making some changes, even small ones, it gets a bit easier.

I’ll begin with what may seem obvious. If your workload is high, are you being supported in managing this? Have you spoken to your supervisor about solutions such as delegating some of your work, reviewing priorities and other factors that may be part of this problem? Regularly communicating with a supervisor ensures there is an awareness of your situation and also assists with future planning.

Also:

  • Ask yourself: “Who do I want to be in life? What do I stand for? What do I want to be known for?” There is no right or wrong answer here. Do you want to be known as someone who is hard-working and also makes time for family? Will you be known as someone who spends more time on work than is healthy? These questions don’t just relate to work and home life. Contemplate everything that is important and valuable to you and ask yourself if you are travelling in the directions you would like to be. You can be successful in work, home and health but now is a good time perhaps to reconsider what you thought “success” or “survival” has been and “should” be.
  • Once you have identified what is important to you across the various domains, set yourself very small goals that demonstrate you are starting to move in the right direction. Set yourself goals as well as boundaries, particularly in relation to work. When I have made this suggestion to some of my clients, they might say: “I will lose my job if I do less”, “There is no one else to do my job or help me” or “If the work doesn’t get done, I will let many people down.” Is there some truth in some of these statements or are these partly expectations you might have created yourself? Can you be creative about how you go about achieving your tasks? Is it possible to come to work a little earlier and leave later on some days to avoid taking work home? Then, on other days, can you deliberately leave on time so that you can plan activities for yourself and your family?
  • Every single day, despite how busy you have been at work or at home, do something just for you. You don’t have to leave your home for this; it could be a night routine which helps you to switch off for the day. Even if you are exhausted, can you promise yourself that you will read a chapter from a book, read a magazine or watch your favourite TV show? Make sure the last thing you think about is not work. This also means no looking at electronic devices attached to work.
  • Also review how you structure your work day and identify possible areas for enhancement. If you do a Google search using the words “working mindfully” the articles related to this may give you some more ideas.

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Tanya Russell

Tanya Russell is CatholicCare's Counselling Team Leader and a registered psychologist.

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