Is work/life balance a load of BS?

Jen had been in her own business for just over two years. She was enjoying it, she was getting excellent results, she had been nominated for some awards, and was trailblazing in her space. When I asked her why she thought she needed my help, she told me that she didn’t think the results were enough, that the work she put in far outweighed the results she was experiencing.

Typically, people come to me and they think that they are dealing with one issue, but scratch the surface a bit and the real need pops out. In Jen’s case, it was a serious issue of zero balance. Her hubby and kids felt like they only got the “end of the day bits” of her. She was so engaged in the work that she had allowed her relationships to falter. She did not catch up with her friends any longer, stating she was bored if she wasn’t talking about business, and she knew that she was boring, BECAUSE she only wanted to talk about work.

Our sessions had nothing to do with results.

What it came down to is that the work itself was so satisfying to Jen that she had wrapped her self-worth around it. So when she wasn’t working, she felt guilty, she felt like she was losing time, she felt like she should be doing more. Her brain wasn’t letting her rest for a second.

She was kicking goals in her business, but being so driven and wanting to achieve massive results had meant having no life outside of work. She was not sleeping well, she was not eating well, and she was working wayyy too many hours Her family were very unhappy. She knew that something needed to change, she just didn’t want it to be at the expense of success (or how she saw success).

It’s ironic when I get to serve these types of clients, do you know why? Because this was me when I first started my business, so passionate about it, so much to do and yet so unsatisfying because when there is no balance in your life, it all can turn to crap so easily. I was well placed to help our friend Jen out!

Jen worked really hard to uncover a practical plan that would work for her. I have to say, Jen (and she would be fine with me saying so) was very unhappy with the plan but understood the common sense behind it, knew that something drastic had to change, and I was able to demonstrate to her what the benefits would be if we changed her lifestyle around. What this turnaround took though, especially at the start, was Jen’s blind faith in me.

First up, Jen analyzed a life in the week of her business and was able to identify how many hours she was working, what she was spending her time on, and how her energy felt throughout the day. To Jen’s surprise, she was constantly putting in a 16 hour day. That’s 16 hours out of 24 hours, every day, Monday to Sunday! Wowsers!

I have seen some clients who pull these hours, normally they are for a project and a limited amount of time, and after that time, they get their life back. To constantly be “on” with no finish line in sight is unsustainable. Jen didn’t realize that she was doing more damage to herself by working these hours.

We put some simple steps into place to help Jen.

  1. We agreed to the outcomes and how we would measure them
  2. We made a 30, 60, 90 day plan
  3. Jen spoke to the key people in her life

The outcome that we wanted at the end of the 90 days was Jen working 6 – 8 hours a day; giving her family the good bits of her and not the left over pieces; finding time for friends; and for success to continue (we had to work on our mindset about what success looked like for Jen). Our measure was around her family’s happiness, her having more of a balance, and the plan being practically implemented.

We made a plan. We broke the plan down into 30-day pieces to make the transition a little easier and to ensure Jen could commit to each item.

The First 30 days:

  • Jen spoke to her family about what her plan was, acknowledging that things needed to change and that she was very keen on making it work but that she would need help to stick to the plan. She shared her 90 day plan with them.
  • They committed to helping her and she committed to not beating herself up if she slipped up for a day.
  • We agreed to stop working 16 hours a day and start working toward 8 (ouch I know!), rather than go cold turkey on this, she left her office at 5 everyday, closed the door, announced to her family that she was “home” and she was not allowed to head back into the office.
  • Jen blocked her calendar with the important things and began to stick with the appointments she created for herself.
  • We outsourced. We found her a virtual assistant to manage her calendar, a bookkeeper to manage the invoicing and a cleaner to manage her house.
  • Jen went to the Doctor and had some tests run to ensure that all the stress on her body hadn’t done any permanent damage.

The results:

  1. Jen had withdrawals from working so much. On the one hand she knew that it was going to be beneficial to everyone around her, but on the flip side, she felt “lazy” for not working the kind of hours that she had.
  2. She slept better. Not immediately, but after about week two she told me that because she was switching off so early (read: a bit bored), she had well and truly wound down by bed time.
  3. She was now present with her family. They had taken to playing card games after dinner and this family time made everything else seem like it was easier.

The second 30 days

  • Jen did another analysis of her diary now to see what progress she was making. By outsourcing the calendar and invoicing, she had gained back approximately 10 – 12 hours a week.
  • We continued with the same things from the first 30 days
  • Jen looked for more things to outsource, she found that once her calendar was sorted out (some tidying needed to happen first), the virtual assistant could also take on certain kinds of email, so she outsourced that.
  • She began to put time in her calendar to catch up with friends, we slotted in a two-hour window, once a week where she could catch up with a friend.

The results:

  1. Jen was pretty focused prior to our working together, but she learnt that taking breaks made her think more clearly and she used her time very well in smaller spurts.  
  2. She found herself using some of the hours managing the virtual assistant, but also spending time getting her systems in place to make that easier for both of them.
  3. She was happy her relationships with her friends were feeling prioritized.

The final 30 days

  • Jen embedded all of the things from the first 60 days. We spoke about what was working and kept it, what wasn’t working and got rid of it.
  • She used pockets of time better (instead of listening to the radio, she would call a client or listen to a podcast).
  • She asked her family for feedback on how they thought it was working and if they had any suggestions for her.

The results:

  1. Changing habits after a number of years is not the easiest thing to do, but the benefit to change certainly outweighed the pain for Jen. She was very disciplined once she was clear on how to make this work for her.
  2. Her family have seen a massive change in her, she knows that she is more present with them now and has seen the relationships shift in 3 short months.
  3. She is now carving time out of her diary to manage her energy, she changes this up with running, meditation and walking. She puts it in the diary and keeps the appointment with herself.

The verdict:

Having zero balance is not fun. We all know it, we just need a plan to make some lifestyle choices and ensure that we don’t fall back into old habits. Once Jen was clear on what she needed, what she would not negotiate on and what she needed to change, the change itself wasn’t tough.

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