Good work-life balance can sometimes feel elusive and unattainable, so we’re breaking it down into its six key pillars
Poor work-life balance can snatch life’s joyous moments away from us, and be detrimental to our mental health and wellbeing. But levelling it out isn’t usually straightforward. Here, with the help of Dr Kirstie Fleetwood Meade, we’ve identified six key pillars of work-life balance on which to lay your new foundation.
It’s pretty impossible to set off on any journey if you don’t know where you’re heading, which is why working out what you’re seeking should be your first step.
“Spend some time visualising what an ‘ideal’ work-life balance would look like to you,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “It may be that this visualisation seems really out of reach right now. If it currently feels like it’s a three out of 10 in terms of how aligned you are with this ideal, how could you nudge it up to a four? Focusing on the little steps can make this seem more achievable.
“Next, ask yourself why it’s important to you. If it’s to feel less stressed, why? Does it allow you to be more present with your family? The clearer you are in your ‘why’, the easier it will be to say ‘yes’ to the things that lead you closer to it and ‘no’ to the things that don’t.”
Your values and priorities
Once you’ve explored your ‘why’, Dr Fleetwood Meade recommends shifting your focus to your key values. These are the beliefs that help guide us to live a life that is meaningful to us, she explains.
“Being crystal clear on your values makes decision-making around work-life balance easier,” she continues. “Some example values are: adventure, curiosity, power, fitness, freedom, fun, compassion, self-development, connection, love, equality – but there are many, many more.”
What role do your values currently play in your life, and what would a better work-life balance do for your values?
Your barriers or derailers
“Changing habits, making decisions, and saying no can all be emotionally draining,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “Which makes it all the more important to be able to pre-empt your likely ‘derailers’ – the things that will throw your work-life balance off track, or get in the way.”
Spend some time thinking about what exactly these might be for you, and consider how you can address them, plan for them, and get support with them.
Your worth and your infallibility
“It’s so important to look after ourselves just as well as we look after others, but if that’s challenging for you, I often reference the classic ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’,” Dr Fleetwood Meade says. “In my therapy work, I’m also a big fan of the idea of the ‘both/and’ – the idea that two things that may seem opposing can actually be true at the same time. Often we get sucked into black-and-white thinking – e.g. if I am the best colleague I can be, that means I need to be always ‘on