Don’t feel guilty- life is just as important as work

Elderly couple looking at a laptop

Written by Editor

03/03/2022

 

By Mpume Ncube-Daka, Founder and CEO, Change Conversations

 

Most working adults grapple with achieving that elusive equilibrium between the various aspects of their lives. In my day-to-day work as a career strategist, the topic of work-life balance is always high on the wish lists of my career coaching clients.  

I ask them what work-life balance looks like in their lives. Is it enjoying the sunshine on a beach while staring at a device? Does it mean that Mondays to Fridays are dedicated to work and life is for the weekend? Or does it mean never having to work outside of work hours?

My clients are usually a little surprised by my response, because in my view, the concept of work-life balance is unbalanced. The term implies an either-or scenario and that life and work are two different things. Work is very much part of life! 

The other implication is that if you are achieving your life goals, you are slacking at work or vice versa. Everybody wants to be a devoted spouse and family member AND a high-performing leader or business owner. 

Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a philosophy that makes sense to me. He says that if he is happy at home, he comes into the office with tremendous energy. And if he is happy at work, he goes home with tremendous energy. 

Every day is different in terms of our expectations, our desires and those of others.  Work-life balance is not a point you can reach, it is much more flexible than that.

In my view, it’s all about alignment and prioritising what is important to you at a particular point in time. Sometimes, work feels like a hurricane and other times, the pressure subsides. There are times when your personal life trumps anything else in your world. Recognising that your reality is a rhythm made up of different seasons in your work and personal life is a step in the right direction. 

That is not to say that I don’t advocate a healthy balance between your work and your personal life, I just don’t think you can plan whether there will be cycles of stress in each area. We all need to balance responsibilities with the many roles we assume in our lives. 

 

Practical tips

  • Ditch the guilt! You feel guilty that you’re not home during the day, then guilty that you’re enjoying yourself when you’re not working. Instead, be present wherever you find yourself, and tune in fully to the people who are with you.
  • Ask for help. You cannot possibly do everything yourself, so when you need a hand, don’t see it as a weakness. Sometimes things simply don’t go according to plan and you are surrounded by people who would probably be very happy to step in if they knew how they could help.
  • You can give 100% at work and 100% in your personal life. Instead of visualising your reality in terms of two axes, imagine that you are at the centre of everything you do and care about. You live some of your life at work and some of it at home. 
  • Acknowledge that it takes effort to be happy and satisfied – these things don’t just fall into place. Do the work to identify problem areas and explore how to reduce the stress you feel.
  • Prioritise. If you are seeing everything as urgent and important, you are fighting a losing battle. Critically examine your to-do list – both at work and at home – to avoid focusing on something that shouldn’t be a priority at that moment. 
  • Take a closer look at how you spend your time. We often spend time thinking about work when we aren’t there, which can lead to an unhealthy mental relationship with your work. Talk with your nearest and dearest about ideas to manage the occasions when work encroaches on your personal time.
  • Take a moment to centre yourself when you’re moving from work to your personal life and vice versa. This will allow you to transition more easily. For instance, make a mental (or physical) note of the tasks you need to tackle at work before you leave, so that they don’t dominate your thoughts when you’re home or out with friends.

 

Work and personal fulfilment can and must coexist. Embrace the changes in focus when work is your priority, or your work needs to align with needs in your personal life. This fluidity is present whether you’d like it to be or not, so stop fighting it and participate in your own, unique version of a balanced life. 

 

Mpume Daka-Ncube is a career and change strategist, speaker and facilitator, board member and entrepreneur. Having held senior roles at JSE-listed companies and multinational companies, Mpume brings credible gravitas to discussions. She is passionate about working with women in Africa and has been involved in programmes at both MultiChoice and Ericsson with this focus.

 

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