A stone seesaw perfectly in work-life balance

The real truth about work-life balance

May 2020
‘OMG, I’ve got so much to do. There’s my project deadline. The kids’ school work. Sarah’s birthday present. I must ring the mother-in-law. My shoes need re-heeling. I’m exhausted. I get no time to myself. What I’d give for a quiet coffee all on my own.’ Is this what you’re thinking?
Do you ask yourself: ‘Where’s MY time in all this craziness? What about ME?’

My thoughts ran like this, and I felt trapped. Then one evening, glass of Malbec in hand, my best friend Sarah said, “perhaps you’re over-thinking it. Why don’t you just ask him?” Her comment jolted me. In that moment, I realised I must act. No one was going to do it for me. So on Monday, I did. I asked if I could work four days a week.

He asked just one question: “What will happen if you have an urgent deadline and it’s your non-working day the next day?” “I’ll work late, or work my non-working day and take the day in lieu. I don’t expect anyone else to do it”, I said.

He said he’d talk to HR. That he thought it’d be okay. Within nine days, I had my first day off. I spent it making a cream, checked, fabric box. It was 2004. I was an international tax manager in a FTSE 50 company with no flexible working policy. But I’d got the work life balance I wanted.

Work-life balance - let’s examine the phrase for a moment. I don’t like it. It implies something is either work or not-work; that we have binary choices; that there’s an ideal balance to be strived for. What matters to you, I imagine, is having enough time for what you enjoy. Feeling happy. I prefer the phrase ‘work-life blend’.
Okay, so what is the real truth about work-life balance?
I’m not going to sugar coat this. It’s…

YOU need to take full responsibility for YOUR life.

To create the life you want.

No one else will do it for you. No one else even notices that you’re out of balance. Not for more than a few minutes anyway.

At this point you may be thinking, ‘BUT I AM taking responsibility?’

Are you? Are you really? What about when your boss says the client wants it today? When your partner looks disappointed when you say you’re going out on your own? When your kids won’t go to bed? Do you let what you want slide?

Diane thought she was taking responsibility. She wasn’t. She was making assumptions and making excuses.

“Something inside of me woke up”, she says. “People in London questioned me. When I said, I’m meant to be the main carer they said why? When I said, I have to take a lower paid job, they asked, why? I ended up getting myself a global ‘Head of role’ for two days/ week. I’d leave home for London Monday evenings, be back by tea on Wednesday. It was just what I wanted.”
"The only people who get on this world are the people who get up and look around for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them."
George Bernard Shaw
If your company, doesn’t offer flexible working, you need to leave and get another job. If your boss says the client wants it today, you phone the client and agree a new deadline. If your partner doesn’t share household chores, you need to have the ‘difficult’ conversation.

You have the power. More power than you think.

‘Okay, I get your point,’ I hear you thinking. ‘What now then?’

The most important thing is to consciously tune into your thoughts as it’ll be your unnoticed thoughts that are preventing you taking full responsibility for yourself. From getting what you want.

What is it you’re secretly telling yourself?

I have to work hard, or else…? My partner will think I’m lazy? The kids will be disappointed? I’ll have wasted my education? My friends won’t like me.

Your unnoticed thoughts are what’s getting in your way, and you’ll need to learn to disarm them.

Here are my 8 top tips:
1.   Journal and reflect
Get yourself an A5 notebook and carry it around in your bag. Spend 5-15 mins each day reflecting and journaling on what you’re telling yourself inside your head. Ask yourself if your thoughts are actually true. Could it be you’ve internalised someone else’s beliefs? Could it be they’re false?
2.  Promise yourself
 I was telling myself I had to do everything perfectly. I realised this was ridiculous. What is perfect anyway? Who says? I promised myself I wouldn’t do it any longer. I promised myself an ‘80% good enough job’ was fine. So I practised consciously doing everything to 80% of my internal standards. Guess what? No one noticed. This freed up time for me.

My big promise to myself was to leave tax and start my own coaching business. To get there, I made small promises to myself such as, leaving the office at 5.30pm each day unless someone was going to die!

What promise will you make to yourself?
3.   Develop a ‘go-to’ phrase to guide you
Mine is: It’s my life.

Diane reminds herself what’s important. She says: “If I’m giving up time with my kids, then it’s got to be amazing. Otherwise, I won’t do it.”
4.   Say ‘no’ and stop doing what you don’t want to do
There are many online resources and short courses that teach you how to say ‘no’. In my experience, if you find saying ‘no’ difficult, it’s probably because you have an unnoticed belief in the way. For example, if I say ‘no’ they won’t like me. Or, they’ll be cross. Underneath such thoughts, you’ll have a deeper belief. I had ‘I’m not good enough’. When you unearth your belief and up-root it, everything changes. You will be able to say ‘no’. If you suspect this is you and you’re ready to change, get yourself a coach.
5.   Schedule your priorities
"The key is not to prioritise your schedule but to schedule your priorities. "
Stephen Covey
This is brilliant, life-changing advice.

It also requires you take responsibility. To stop making excuses.

Book a 30 min meeting with yourself each lunchtime to go for that walk. Set a reminder on your phone at 10pm to read in bed. Book two hours with yourself on Saturday to go to yoga and have a coffee after.
6.  Use ‘dead time’  
Next time you’re waiting for the train, don’t automatically check your emails AGAIN. Use the time to do something related to your promise. I read my book or practice Spanish on Duolingo. You may want to balance on one leg to improve your core stability. Whatever it is, do something for you.
7.  Be 100% present to the moment you’re in  
What do I mean? Well, you’ve decided to spend ‘quality time’ with your family but find yourself thinking about your to-do list as your partner tells you a new idea for the garden. Notice how your thoughts are distracting you. Breathe. Consciously bring your attention back to your breath. Visualise your thoughts floating away. Re-focus on your partner. This is mindfulness.
8.  Take responsibility  
Really GET that it’s only you who can create what you want. Stop making excuses. Stop thinking, ‘if only he or she would….’. No, it’s down to you.

Also know that you won’t create the work-life blend you want in one go. It’s a process. You’ll need to stay focused on your promise to yourself. And make small changes one by one.


Do you relate to me and Diane? Do you want to feel happier? Do you know you need to be brutally honest with yourself but feel scared? Would having a structure within which to think about everything, help? If yes, click on the image or button below to get your free copy of my Rethink Your Life Toolkit.

Use my Toolkit as your guide. Work through my 7 step Rethink Your Life system, the very same system I use with my clients, and answer the 7 questions. When you follow my structure, it won’t feel so scary, and you’ll have stepped forward. Stepped towards feeling happier and more fulfilled. Click on the button or image below to get your free Toolkit today.
About Jo Maughan
Jo Maughan is the founder of YourThinkingPartner. Her first career was as a FTSE 100 Tax Director. After suffering a fall and a significant brain injury, she overcame her fears to follow her calling as a coach and artist. She is now living the life she was meant to live, inspiring successful mid-life professionals at or near the top of their careers to rethink their careers & lives for more balance, fulfillment, purpose & joy. She and her clients use her 7 step Rethink Your Life system. Jo is a sought after speaker and is currently writing her first book.
Career coach, Jo Maughan, in a red coat, smiling.
Quite Interesting....
  • 50-80% of people in the western world are unhappy in their jobs. Don't let this be you!
  • Your mind takes just 1/12 of a second to interpret something and jump into its automatic thought pattern.  
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