I am a huge advocate of a good work-life balance and I like to think that I have not only intellectually bought into the idea but I am also 'living it'. After all, I work a four day week, have flexible hours and a large amount of autonomy in how I structure my working day. It's all fantastic, but that in itself doesn't automatically lead to a good work-life balance. When I reflect on whether I am truly 'living it' I have to be honest and say that I regularly fail to put work down when I should in fact be prioritising my family. Of course, it's not intentional - work just seems to creep up on me and all of a sudden I have unavoidable commitments to meet, so I find myself taking calls late in the evening or on my day off, working through the weekend, constantly keeping 'an eye' on work etc. When I also reflect on how I have let that happen, it is mostly down to poor planning. All too often I make the assumption that working flexibly instantly equates to a good work-life balance which means I don't work hard enough at achieving it in reality! Creating a good work-life balance requires a lot of work, specifically a lot of forethought and planning.
I'll share an example to illustrate the point. During the summer I was particularly busy at work with lots of training sessions in my diary and meetings planned with clients to talk about future work. This was all great but I found that as a result of limited time I was accepting meeting invitations and agreeing to run sessions without thinking carefully enough about whether those commitments would work for me. As a result, I failed to notice that a work commitment I had made clashed with my twin daughters' sports day at school. When I finally noticed, sports day was only 24 hours away and it was too late to rearrange my work commitment. The end result? I had to miss my daughters' sports day (about which they were terribly upset). I cursed myself for my poor planning - had I just slowed down a bit, applied more forethought to the situation I could have easily carved out time for both the sports day and the work commitment.
What have I learned from this? Firstly - that I'm terrible at planning ahead! Secondly - obviously I need to get much better at it to ensure I am giving time to my family when they need it most. Third - good planning and forethought are mostly about slowing down a bit, especially in our busiest moments - that in itself is a hard job. Finally, it has taught what work-life balance really means to me - making sure I am fully available to my family (and not distracted by work) when they need me most. This helps me to plan better and think more carefully about how I achieve my person work-life balance goal. It's still not easy and I still mess it up from time to time but as they say, practice makes perfect!