Work life balance or Design your life?

You’ve probably heard a lot of people moaning about struggling to find a work-life balance- particularly those who are running their own business – and especially in the last couple of years.

With more and more people working remotely from home, it’s true that the boundaries between work and everyday life are becoming blurred for a lot more of us, and it’s not really a surprise, is it?

If you’re working in the same space you eat, sleep and watch TV in, you’re never leaving the office, are you?  I bet if you take a look at what’s been going on in your house since you started working from home you’ll notice that you’re working later than you would if you were in the office…or replying to email at ungodly hours…and working weekends?

Thought so.

So, you’ve probably convinced yourself that in order to be happier, what you need to do is find a good work-life balance, right?

Luckily you’ll find a million articles on the internet on how to create a good work-life balance with tips like set specific work hours and stick to them, create a designated work space, get dressed for work etc etc….but the problem with this is, it’s all bollocks. I don’t believe that these tips work.

Why? Because there is no magic formula that will work for everyone, because everyone’s priorities and life plans are different; what will work for your mate’s life and career might not necessarily work for you.  Also, work is a part of life – not something we should be treating as a separate entity; a problem to be solved.

Instead of figuring out ways we can ‘work less and live more’ – which seems to be the core message of most ‘work-life balance’ advice, what we need to do is redesign our lives.

January is the time of year where people start making new resolutions, but only 5% of people actually achieve them, largely because making concrete plans for the future – particularly ones that involve your business or career – is bloody difficult.

We’re constantly growing and evolving, and what we want from the different areas of our lives is constantly changing, so who knows who we’ll be or what we want – personally or business-wise – in 6 months’ time.

We might not have yet experienced something or met someone who we’ll collaborate with in the future that will completely change everything and set us off down a different path.

It’s one of the reasons that making concrete plans and refusing to deviate from them doesn’t work. We need to be able to adapt and roll with the punches. By making a new year’s resolution, you’ve already got the year ‘locked down’ in your head and decided what the answers are going to be. And that prevents a growth mindset. It’s like deciding to decorate your living room in grey and white like everyone else because it’s ‘on trend’, when what you’ve always fancied is bright pink walls and a lime green sofa.

This is why I suggest design thinking instead. You can literally design your way to a happy and more fulfilled life – one that easily incorporates work and personal life.

And these are my top tips towards making that happen:

1. Work Out Where You Are

When you start looking at designing your life, split it into four areas:

  • Health
  • Work
  • Love
  • Play

Health and work are pretty self-explanatory and will include your lifestyle and fitness goals and any plans you have for your business and career. Love encompasses friends and family, dating, and your spouse. Play is your leisure time and your hobbies. I’ve probably oversimplified that a touch, but all of the areas in your life will fit into one of those four categories.

How would your life look if you stayed in your current situation for the next five years? If you stayed in your current job and relationship. How do you like that design? Does the thought make you feel happy?

The trick here is not to worry about balancing them. Only you will know what your priorities are right now in regards to each area, and you can reassess that as time goes on. Perhaps you are single with no plans or interest in meeting a romantic partner for the time being….you have no children, and few family members that you only see on high days and holidays – and you’re pretty content with that arrangement.

Forcing yourself to make ‘love’ a more important area in your life in order to ‘balance it’ with the other three is pointless – because that’s not where you are.

Perhaps you are a new parent and so ‘love’ is where you’re at right now, and this is the area where you want to do the most refurbishment. You don’t need to start spending less time with your kid so that you can ‘play’ more with your mates if you’re perfectly content at the moment with the way things are.

Perhaps you work a 9-5 and have absolutely no desire to put in more hours or work towards a promotion, because you enjoy your ‘play’ time and want to spend more time travelling and indulging in your hobbies. There’s no law that says you have to make sure both of those areas are equally balanced if it’s not going to make your life design more aesthetically pleasing.

You get the idea: as long as you are happy with where you are, and you’ve designed each area of your life according to what works best for you, life will be much more fulfilling than if you’re desperately trying to balance everything time and focus-wise and causing yourself stress because you society tells you that should feel guilty that you’re spending more time at work than you are in the gym.

2. Assess What You Want From Life – And When

The best part about designing your life, is that it’s never done; you can create larger or smaller areas in your life for these four categories as and when you feel like it – knock down or brick-up walls, build an extension, or upsize and downsize, as what you want from life changes. All you need to do is determine what it is you want out of life (including work), and then assess if what you’re currently doing is working for you. Getting a great coach or mentor is an excellent way to help you design your life.

What you want is going to change over time of course, so you’ll be constantly assessing what you want from life; and the great thing is that designing your life is a flexible process, not confined to rigid ‘rules’ like making new year’s resolutions tends to entail.

Let’s say, for example, you want to earn more money this year; well then you need to design a larger area in your life for work, maybe by downsizing your ‘play’ area for a while. If your health area needs more room devoted to it, you might have to borrow some space from ‘work’. Remember that none of these areas have to be balanced – it all depends what it is you want out of life at that particular time.

3. Reframe Your Problems

The reason a lot of people often feel stuck in a rut is that they fall into the trap of thinking that there’s only one answer to their problems. 

One solution to this is reframing the problem. Instead of making the problem into a question (Do I need a different job? Who is the right partner for me? ) reframe it with design in mind.

Now imagine the scenario if you chose a different option – exclusively dating the person you’ve been casually seeing….taking that job you’ve been offered. How does that look? What about if you started the dating game afresh, or took a break from it altogether…what about retraining for a new job or starting your own business? How does the decor look now?

Nothing in life is set in stone; there’s nothing that says we have to make sure every aspect of life is balanced in order to achieve happiness. Focus less on making sure you devote equal amounts of time and attention to all areas of your life, and more on designing your life to the dimensions that suit you.

Not everyone’s vision will look the same – and that’s ok. So ditch the new year’s resolutions (let’s face it, you’re unlikely to be in the 5%), and redesign your life to suit YOU and what you want right now. You are the creator of your own destiny.

Do It Now!

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