Having started my new job in back in April, I still don’t feel like I have my work life balance nailed yet. But, what exactly is a perfect work/life balance?
To give some background, at the start of this year I was in the post-graduation slump of needing to know what was next, what did I want to do, without having any real plans or goals set (after deciding in the final year of my degree that teaching wasn’t it and knowing that my previous job of 5 years wasn’t on my career list either). All in the midst of moving out of my parents house and in with my boyfriend of 3 and a half years really having no clue what I was doing. But all the while feeling the pressure to know what was next, and to get on it quickly, all while smiling sweetly at my mum as she helped me unload car-fulls of my life into my soon-to-be new home and trying to ignore the we-mean-well questions from family about how and when I was going to start paying off the twenty-plus grand of student debt I had just graduated with that past July.
In a society that defines success by speed and not always by quality, we are told to do things faster; eat fast, drive fast and keep busy climbing the career ladder, before we’ve even stepped on the first rung… gone are the days of the slow and steady wins the race pearl of wisdom we heard as children. We are expected to know, and know quickly, what are aspirations are, and how we’ll get there. To know what our dream job is, and be knees deep in networking to get it, all while we’re still just learning to iron our own clothes and are starting to manage our own money.
Yet in the same breath we’re told to look after ourselves, take a breather, take it easy, and just do our best.
Being the perfectionist that I am, I am always striving to do more and do it better without actually realising the pressure I’m putting myself under to get there. I know what that sounds like, but the pressure doesn’t come from pushy parents or some inbuilt superiority complex and a need to always be on top of the game. I guess I’ve always just had it in me, to want to know, that whatever it is I’m doing, that I’m doing it right and I’m doing it well. To be on top of my own game. This in itself had started to dawn on me a few months ago, that in striving to be at the top of my game at work, the game was on top of me when I got home. I was stressed, tired, overwhelmed and anxious and it was starting to affect my home life. I wanted to, needed to know what this work-life-balance thing was that everybody else seemed to have nailed, and how to get there, so that I could start to enjoy the new and exciting things; my relationship, my new house, my new job, and to start to actively create a work-life balance that was sustainable. One hat meant in leaving work to come home, I would actually leave work, and not bring it home with me. I knew something had to change. It was the ‘its not you its me’ cliché in action and it needed to be cracked, and quickly.
In my mind, working until nine most nights and so wanting to lie in bed until ten most mornings just wasn’t going to be conducive to fitting in any real ‘me time’. Or is it? When the pangs of jealousy started to hit, that most people, your average Joe’s working a 9 to 5 (**insert Dolly Parton lyric here**) are home by five thirty and I’ve still got another few hours to go. I just needed to take a minute, to realise, that my mornings aren’t spent squeezing onto the busiest commuter trains or travelling home in rush hour, that in starting work later I get a lie in most days, meaning that my Sundays can be productive, rather than a chance to catch up on sleep. That its up to me to create my own ‘me time’, rather than complaining at the apparent lack of it.
Time to get back to basics and think, really think about what I enjoy doing. What happens when the work is done, the house is clean and I just want some ‘me time’?
What makes me happy?
1. Enjoying a coffee
Now this may sound really #basic and not something to be enjoyed, more than a commuters caffeine fix at ungodly o’ clock, but I find having a coffee really relaxing and comforting. Whether it’s enjoying my morning coffee over brunch with my boyfriend of finding a cute and cosy coffee shop to while away hours in with my mum, putting the world to rights, I find taking the time out to sit and chat over a warm drink really helps me to recharge. A caffeine boost to boot, but also time, to take time off and just talk with someone you care about, about something you both care about. And with winter in full swing, what a better excuse to get out of the cold that a good ol’ cup of coffee. Syrups optional.
2. Pamper time
Whether you chose to have your favourite facial at a spa, get your nails done or add a few drops of Radox to your bubble bath after a log day, I think its really important to pamper. Since starting my job and moving in with my boyfriend, I’ve become more aware the last few months, how important it is to take time for myself. Physically being in the same house can sometimes be enough closeness. I think it’s good, for both of us, to have separate time-out, even thirty minutes to enjoy a bubble bath, put some relaxing music on, enjoy a favourite drink and just….be. Just a little while to de-stress, wash away work, unwind and refocus. A little ‘me-time’ is sometimes all that’s needed to relax and feel reenergised, ready to take on what’s next.
Its true what they say, that music feeds the soul. I never really understood the saying until I thought about my dad always used to have music on in the house while I was growing up. And I mean in the house. As in, no ear buds and no headphones. The music filled the house, the neighbours could have probably heard it. I always remember the hi-fi being on in our living room, growing up to The Eagles and Lou Reed and Alanis Morissette. And although it might be slightly different now, and what’s playing has changed, I still find that music can lift me out of a funk or help me wind down. There’s nothing better than blasting out your best Sasha Fierce when getting ready in the morning to feel like your best #bossassb*tch self ready to tackle any cold Monday morning, or putting on your favourite car songs to liven up that weekend drive.
As a child, I always kept a diary. Several in fact. I remember finding them in the sheer clutter that was my room when I moved out and laughing at some of the things I had said. For those that know me, they’ll know that I can talk. A lot. And also that I can get very nostalgic, so I like to write my thoughts and ideas down. I fid a lot of the time when I’m on a long haul flight I like to jump into my notes app and just write things down, like a stream of consciousness or a quite literally a brain dump, but I find it helpful to write down my thoughts, aspirations and inspirations, plans for the future, or sometimes an open letter to someone that will never be sent. I need to write things down. Either to get things off my chest or to track progress and plan, or just to write. I find writing therapeutic, which is one of the reasons I started my blog, to write, whether it would be read or not, to write for me. A place to say whatever I want. See I’m waffling even now, so I’ll stop.
Over the course of the last few months my management of my work life has got a lot better, I’m less stressed at work and so less stressed at home. I feel like I’ve broken the incessant repetitive pattern that was to get up-got to work-come home and go to bed, only to wake up the next morning and do it all again. And this, is largely due to the things I’ve talked about. To understanding that in order to make things better both for myself and in my work life, that something needed to change. I’ve learnt that there is time, for down time, and that I have to make it happen, and enjoy it, and not just wait for it. I’m probably still waffling, but I hope, in reading this (and if you’ve read this until the end, thank you for sticking with me!) it has given you some ideas ad tips as to how to spend your down time, or made you think about your own work life balance and how to manage it, or even made you think about what inspires you?
What makes you happy?