Work–Life Balance

10882339_10153401905280828_8366416532843201845_nI’ve been experimenting with improving my work life balance for decades and my approach has mainly been one of work-life integration; where I seamlessly integrate work activities with ‘life activities’ through the day.  But the idea of balance had gradually asserted more prominence in my approach; it no longer seems reasonable to me to do long blocks of any type of activity, they are too tiring physically or mentally.  Too tiring physically and I risk nudging myself towards a flare; too tiring mentally and I find my productivity crashing, my discipline evaporating, my eyes drooping or my brain desperately seeking distraction by entering the email, Facebook, Twitter checking loop.

On thinking afresh about balance my approach has been to consider each period of the day (morning, afternoon and evening) to be a balanced unit of 5 hours.  In each period I need to have a decent mix of activities: housework, socialising, exercise, relaxation, creativity, research and reading with a bit of travel and an hour of random activity to fill in the gap.

If I consider my average daily targets to be:

  1. 8 hours of sleep
  2. 1 hour of housework and household admin
  3. 1 hour of personal hygiene, shopping and food preparation
  4. 3 hours of creative work
  5. 90 minutes of work related research/training
  6. 90 minutes of non-work related reading
  7. 2 hours of socialising
  8. 90 minutes of exercise
  9. 30 minutes of meditation
  10. 2 hours of relaxation (including TV)
  11. 1 hour of travel.

Then if I plan out the rough periods of my day then I get:

Morning from 6:30 – 11:30
Afternoon from 11:30 – 5:30 (includes the extra ‘random’ hour)
Evening 5:30 – 10:30

Each of these period will look something like:

Morning from 6:30 – 11:30

Catching up with Debbie
Housework and a short walk to my health club for a swim and relax in the sauna
Breakfast at my favourite beach cafe
A short period of socialising with family and cafe regulars
60 minutes of research followed by 30 minutes of relaxation and reading
Another longer walk with some body weight exercises on the promenade benches
15 minutes Vipassana Meditation and more housework

Afternoon from 11:30 – 5:30 (includes the extra ‘random’ hour)

A solid 90 minute block of creative work
A 60 minute lunch while watching a conference video
15 minutes Yoga Nidra meditation and a few body weight exercises
Another 60 minute block of work
A short cycle to Caffe Nero for 60 minutes of non-fiction reading

Evening 5:30 – 10:30

30 minutes Catching up with Debbie and the kids
60 minutes scanning RSS feeds and social media for news/research to read tomorrow
30 minutes family dinner and then washing up
60 minute evening walk into town and fresh food shopping
60 minutes family TV time
60 minutes relaxing in the bath and fiction reading

Sleep 10:30 – 6:30

Of course no day will ever look like this in reality, sometimes I will be working in the local office, which means a 90 minute commute and lots of meetings, other times I will be doing a big supermarket shop, still others a long walk, or an evening out.  The general principal of seeking balance still applies. 

I’m also able to multi-task physical and mental work, for example I can listen to podcasts and audiobooks while driving, walking, cycling or doing housework, I can watch conference videos or attend audio conferences while on my exercise bike and eating lunch.

I wrote this post while on hospital duty, looking after Jennie who’s currently taking a nap.  This illustrates nicely the impossibility of planning my day as described above, but also demonstrates how the idea of balance works.  I still spent my morning following the pattern described, took exercise and relaxation breaks while at the hospital and enjoyed a mix of exercise, relaxation and housework in the evening after visiting time ended.  The photo is of Cleveleys beach, just a short hop from the hospital, Debbie and I enjoyed a lovely brunch at the beach front ‘Cafe Cove’ yesterday.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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