The work – life balance is a dilemma that plagues everyone in the working world. It’s the concept of properly prioritizing between “work” (your career) and your “life” (health, leisure, family time, etc). As a consultant, you are putting in about three times the amount of work vs life. Why is this? You don’t have one job. You have multiple jobs and clients at once. There are multiple projects you are working on and only one life to balance against it.
Having a proper work – life balance is essential. It affects everything from your health and happiness to the way you perform at your actual job. If you work, work, work and allow no down time for yourself, you are going to get burnt out. Achieving a proper work-life balance can seem impossible at times. Your check list is what it is. Your list of tasks need to get completed whether or not you’ve scheduled in a little time for real life. Technology doesn’t help in this day and age. We don’t leave our desk and leave all of our work behind. Our phones and other devices continually relay email messages, calls and more. For the most part, we’re always on the clock.
It’s important to force yourself to balance.
Experts agree: the compounding stress from the never-ending workday is damaging. It can hurt relationships, health and overall happiness. [T]echnology has helped our lives in many ways. But it has also created expectations of constant accessibility. The work day never seems to end. “There are times when you should just shut your phone off and enjoy the moment,” says Robert Brooks, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School […] phone notifications interrupt your off time and inject an undercurrent of stress in your system. So don’t text at your kid’s soccer game and don’t send work emails while you’re hanging out with family, Brooks advises. Make quality time true quality time.
As consultants, we have a separate set of demands put on us from separate clients with separate needs. Add to this the separate needs in our personal life (family obligations, personal self-care, friendships) –and you have a recipe for a high-stress juggling act. Designate specific family time, focus and try to be as productive as possible when it’s time to work, unplug when necessary. Take the time to implement a strategy that minimizes your stress and maximizes your chances for success. While it’s important to focus and be productive while working –don’t neglect yourself during these times. If you need to go to the bathroom, get up and go. If you’re thirsty, take a moment and get a drink of water. These small changes and additions will not affect your work performance, but they will affect your mental stamina.
Think of yourself as the car. Each of these responsibilities and things you need to balance is a place you need to go. In order to get there, you have to maintain your vehicle. If the car breaks down, so does everything else. You can be accessible to clients, but figure out what your limits and boundaries are. Ignoring calls and emails after 7pm? Stick to that.
The key is consistency over time. Set up a plan that is manageable to your life and work. Start small and grow. If you do something drastic, that isn’t easy to maintain, you won’t keep with it. Having five clients that need your attention every day and a family that wants to see you and spend quality time every day requires patience. It’s walking a tight rope to feel like you’re doing everything well while not being stretched so thin that your stress level is through the roof. Make small improvements. Eat lunch every day. Schedule uninterrupted personal and family time. Don’t waste time by working as productively as you can.
The elusive work-life balance is not easy to achieve. You won’t be successful all of the time or even most of the time, but it is a necessary objective. How do you find working as a consultant and trying to balance life to be? Is it a different type of balance than a more conventional career? What are your tips and tricks? What is most essential? Comment below!