How to check if your work-life balance is broken
Many of the women I work with, come to me because they have a broken work-life balance.
The results of my recent survey proved that work-life balance is the No 1 workplace challenge for ambitious women.
Previously I shared some of the most common reasons that crop up (time and time again), even with the senior women who join my Women’s Confident Leadership programme.
I’ve been helping ambitious women get clear on how to mend a broken work-life balance for many years. Because it’s such a big challenge, I decided to theme the whole of my January online conference on work-life balance. (25+ amazing speakers share their approach to confidently balancing work and life, so that you can too).
With my analytical background, I find it easy to diagnose whether and where your work-life balance is broken. I thought you might appreciate the checklist that I use so that you can determine for yourself what’s broken and if it’s not broken (yet?), where the cracks are starting to show. Once you have identified that, you can start to fix it.
5 Core elements of a broken work-life balance
Let me start by explaining that The Confident Mother is an approach to life based on balancing 5 core elements: contribution, wellness, work, family and the feminine. How you balance those elements is unique to each woman and will change at different stages in your life.
Get these 5 elements balanced in the way that’s just right for you and you will love work and life. You’ll have more confidence and more energy to balance work and life the way that best suits you.
1 – Contribution
For me, contribution is about what is unique and special about you and what you contribute to the world: your skills, your talents and your experience. It’s valuing you for who you are and what you do.
Your work-balance can get knocked ‘off-balance’ when you are not working or playing to your strengths.
For example, if you are a big-picture-big-strategy-blue-sky woman and you are promoted into a role where you are expected to manage the details, you are not working in your zone of genius. You may be good at detail but it’s not really your thing, so you’ll never be fully ‘in flow’. Thus work will seem harder. More energy-sapping. Less fun.
On the other hand, if you are a very creative person, always coming up with brilliant new ideas, doing a role that requires absolute attention to every detail …. that’s going to feel such a drain.
2 – Wellness
It is important to look after your wellness. Your mental, physical and emotional wellness give you strength and confidence. How well do you look after yourself?
The signs that Wellness is the element to explore further: if you have not taken a proper break for months; if you can’t switch off in the evenings or at the weekends; if your stress levels are increasing; if you are feeling overwhelmed; or completely exhausted, all of the time.
A little stress can be a good thing but when it’s day in, day out, you could be on the fast track to career burnout.
3 – Work
The work element (whether you have a career or run a business), is valuing and being valued for the work that you do.
We all crave meaningful work. But often we can’t see the meaning in what we do, either because we’re in the wrong job, because something gets in the way, or because we’re not looking for meaning in the right place. (By the way, Katie Bailey, Professor of Management at the University of Sussex and an expert in work meaningfulness, will share her insights into the importance of meaningful work during The Confident Mother).
You might be working too hard – trying to squeeze 5 days worth of work into a 4 day week, covering a vacancy or just have more work than even Superwoman can handle. Maybe you are working 110% on projects or tasks that the business doesn’t value. Or maybe your boundaries are being pushed and pushed, and you don’t know how to push back.
4 – Family
More and more women in business today are part of the ‘sandwich generation‘, “sandwiched” between young children and aging parents as the primary caregiver. The Family element is often a source of guilt, anxiety and tension. Women tend to be the default carer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t (or can’t) ask for or accept help and support.
It’s about identifying what help or support you want or need, and where you can get that help. Simple practical things such as shopping online or or outsourcing something, for example paying somebody to do the ironing.
5 – The Feminine
When work-life balance is feeling like it’s, well not balanced, sometimes it’s because we’re trying too hard to be something we’re not. We’re trying to match up to a male-dominated society’s expectations of what success looks like. The Feminine element is accepting, embracing and actually enjoying being a woman, and the opportunities that brings. But it’s also recognising and acknowledging the challenges and the limitations.
It’s about learning to ‘lean in’. It’s being assertive without being aggressive. It’s knowing how and when to speak up at meetings AND get heard. It’s not about being shy to celebrate your achievements.
Your next steps
If you feel you have a broken work-life balance but you’re not sure how to fix it, start by considering each of these elements in turn. Some of them you may already know are important (or bugging you!) and others you might not have considered. By looking at them all one by one, you’ll see where you need to focus.
You might think that one element is the problem element, but when you dig deeper, you may realise that it’s not what you think.
For example one mum I helped thought Work was the issue. She was working too many hours and felt constantly stressed. But as we started to explore each element, she realised that she hadn’t taken a proper break for a long time. She was always ‘on the go’. She rarely sat down and did nothing. She wasn’t taking care of her wellness – which in turn was affecting her energy levels and her resilience to deal with crises at work.
Leave a comment below
Do leave a comment below and let me know which of these 5 elements (contribution, wellness, work, family and the feminine) is the one to focus on first to fix your broken work-life balance.
p.s. if you’re an ambitious woman who wants to balance work and life more confidently, you’ll love The Confident Mother 3rd online conference. It runs from 16-27 January. All the 25+ interviews are available on 48 hour catch-up (or you can grab yourself a copy of the boxset to keep the recordings forever). Plus it’s free to register and you can do that here to get access to everything including the bonus workbook.
If today's the day, you want to put your head in your hands and cry, know you are not alone. Why not check out these tips on how to cope with overwhelm.
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