So here’s the thing, you CAN have it all. Just not all at the same time. The thriving career or bustling business, the kids, the social life, it is all yours for the taking, but walking the tightrope of the work life balance is one that is not easily mastered.

What is your work life balance?

A dictionary definition of work life balance is useless when for each of us it is very a different proposition. For one person it could be going to the gym 3 times a week, running a successful small business, working from home around the kids and having the whole weekend free for family time. For the next it could be working in a part-time job, being at school to pick up the kids each day and leaving Saturday nights for socialising.

If you can define what work life balance is for you, you are halfway there. What is a goal if you can’t define it?! Start by drawing out the values you hold nearest to you and then build a picture of work life balance around that. Grab a pen and paper and jot down your answers to these questions:

  • What mark or legacy do you want to leave on the world?
  • How do you want your kids to remember you when you are gone?
  • What do you most want to achieve in life?
  • What makes you happy and fills your cup?
  • What does your ideal day or week look like?
  • What are the non-negotiables that you need to fit into your day/week?

Getting real

Once you know what your ideal work life balance looks like, it’s time to see how you can make it work. Robyn Amott, founder of Bless this Mess Organising and former Judge in the National Business Brilliance Awards Best Juggler category, shares a few tips for getting real and into the nitty gritty of establishing a routine.

  • Do a time audit/schedule to establish an understanding of where your time is being spent and determine how much time you are actually working with once all the non-negotiables are taken care of
  • Establish limits on the amount of activities each family member takes part in – that goes for everyone
  • Create set dates for your own socialising & health – make them a ritual – Health two mornings a week, friends Fortnightly or Weekly dinners or lunches on rotation, whatever works for you. If you don’t book it in you’ll allow something else to fill your time – book in advance
  • Share the load where you can with your partner or other parents for pick-ups, drop-offs and activities
  • Simplify your systems and processes – you can often achieve the same end result without all the time consuming steps

You are going to drop the ball

You aren’t perfect and no-one expects you to be. You have multiple balls you are juggling and sometimes one of them is going to come crashing down, perhaps in spectacular fashion. Kids get sick, meetings run over time, life happens. The trick is to have a plan in place for when balls drop and to be kind to yourself when it happens.

Helen Ebdon, Business and Executive Coach at Affirming Business & Executive Coaching is the sponsor of  the 2018 National Business Brilliance Best Juggler Award and recalls when she was running a full time business while running a home and caring for my two small children. “What was I thinking? I was overwhelmed, exhausted and unhappy. I know now, it’s not possible to have a full-time job and be a full-time mum, eventually something will give, whether that’s your physical or mental health. A mum’s health is integral to the wellbeing of their family. If they’re not effective, things can fall apart. When mum’s take care of their own needs everyone wins.”

Ease the pressure

It seems like the expectations on mothers are higher now more than ever before. Social media has a role to play but as do shifts in society in general. Robyn suggests altering your expectations – both on yourself, your kids and your partner –  and also recognising where any expectation comes from. Is the expectation coming from society, your partner, family or friends? Focus on what you expect from yourself and make your expectations realistic.

And as Helen says, “Recognise that your situation will change, it will not be like that forever. I wish I had known that when my children were small. My biggest regret is not being available to my children, sure I spent heaps of time with them, but my brain was always somewhere else, the latest client, project, dinner, etc. Now that my children are both adults, my time is again my own, if only I knew that when they were small. Take the pressure off and enjoy this time, it is but a whisper.”

Learn to say no

Why is it that those two little letters are so difficult to say? We tell our kids “no” all day long, and yet when we are asked to do something that we really don’t want to do, we say yes. True work life balance can’t be achieved until you start to say no to the things that you can’t do.

Helen’s advice is to give a firm (but polite), “No thank you”, or “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have too much on my plate right now”, when turning someone or something down. If you’ve always been a yes person, this will take lots of practice. In the beginning, it will feel uncomfortable, but like any new habit, it will get easier.

What are you doing right now that you need to start saying no to? Sometimes it is the things we can stop that make just as much difference as the things we can say no to.

Build a strategy

You are standing at the edge of the tightrope about to step out, but what is your strategy for making it to the other side without falling off? Of course you will have wobbles along the way, but it is your strategy that will keep your feet solid as you navigate the balance.

Robyn’s tips:

  • Break everything down into smaller achievable tasks. We can’t do it all, but we often drop those balls when we are in too much of a hurry to achieve the end result.
  • Often our perfectionist gene prevents us from even starting in fear of stuffing it all up. Action creates momentum which leads to more action – rather than a race to the finish line cut it back to what you can achieve today.
  • Oh and turn off your social media – it’s a massive time waster – you can’t say your working when your just scrolling!

Helen’s tips:

  • Be realistic with your time. There’s nothing worse than pretending you have more time than you actually do. Keep that up and you’ll drive yourself crazy with every commitment you keep adding to your pile.
  • If you’re dropping kids off to school at 9am and picking them up at 3pm … you don’t have 8 hours to work on your business, if you take time out for lunch, you have less than 5. Each day decide how much ‘available time’ you have, prioritise what you can do in that time and stick with it. Everything else can wait. If it can’t wait, it should be a priority.

Nominate a juggler you admire

The National Business Brilliance Awards are now open for nominations. You can nominate yourself, or another mum in business who is nailing the work life balance. The awards are now running for their fifth year, recognising the amazing achievements of mums in business. I guarantee that any mum you nominate won’t be able to wipe the smile from her face!

Do you have any great tips for managing work and life balance?

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how to walk the tightrope of the work life balance