Debunking the Work-Life balance myth once and for all

The notion of perfectly balancing your ability to perform effectively at work with being a good friend/family member/civil servant outside of your career is an idealistic one, but not necessarily a realistic one.

If you strive to be the absolute best at everything for everyone all the time, you’ll fail miserably. Or kill yourself trying.

Especially if, like me, you find it difficult to say no to other people.

One thing I read recently that resonated with me was the idea that saying yes to someone or something inherently means saying no to something else. It’s a choice.

Another thing that’s problematic about the concept of balancing work and life is the implication that work is bad and life beyond work is good, and so you need an equal amount of both to be happy.

This mindset gives people an excuse to take zero action towards achieving better happiness for themselves in the workplace. I would argue that an important aspect of everyone’s working day should be trying to do more of what you love about your job, and less of what you loathe.

So…. we shouldn’t aim for balance. What we should aim for is integration. Harmony. A full bucket.

I’m using the bucket metaphor to refer to your energy levels, your love tank, your sense of fulfilment and peace.

Here’s a few things you can start doing right now which will affect the fullness of your bucket:

1. Work while you’re at work and play when it’s time to play.

What I mean by this is to choose to be productive during your working hours. Write a TO DO list, prioritise what needs completing each day and check off what is essential. Then start again- during office hours- the next day. Some things can wait.

Don’t get too sidetracked by tempting procrastinations. These include things like checking your social media, tidying, “pottering” around or chatting to your colleagues. Don’t try to multitask.

Go to work early or stay back late only when you must, and do everything you can to protect your home time. That time is for yourself and for your family and friends.

2. Do fewer things, well.

Teachers, especially primary school teachers, like to try to be a jack of all trades. But by trying to do everything, you end up doing nothing particularly well.

So choose something that you’re passionate about, something that motivates and inspires you, something that you think is important, and make it your compass. Once you have this and use it as a reference point, you’ll find it easier to say no to things that aren’t in the scope of what you most value.

By doing this, you’ll get better at postponing, delegating- and even shutting down- things that just don’t matter any more. Which suddenly gives you more time to do what’s truly important while you’re at work. And, subsequently, more quality time at home.

3. Never sacrifice your health or your integrity for your pay check.

Keep in mind that in your workplace, you’re replaceable. To your friends and family, you’re not. You only get one chance to be healthy and to be happy. So make that your priority.

Try not to base your whole identity on what you do. You are more than an educator and you are more than a sister/mother/aunt/best friend. You are a human being who is on a journey of discovery. You are always learning, always growing, always evolving. So be kind to yourself.

4. To practise self-care, closely guard: what you watch, what you read, what you listen to, who you spend time with, how you talk to yourself and what you visualise.

Get the calibration of these things right and you’ll notice a difference almost immediately.

5. Plan your leisure hours like you do your office hours. We all put so much effort into planning our productivity at work, why don’t we do the same for our free time? Schedule those pedicures, book in dinner catch ups with your friends, allot regular chunks of time to your hobbies; those pastimes that get you in the flow. Also intentionally leave spaces blank. It seems paradoxical, but you can actually plan for spontaneity.

Remember that sometimes we are exhausted not because we do too much, but because we do too little of what truly brings us joy.

6. Throughout all of this, cultivate gratitude, let go of what you can’t control and trust that everything happens for a reason. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2020/10/24/accepting-things-you-cannot-change/

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