Striking a work-life balance

Sometimes our work-life balance can become so skewiff that the scales completely break after too much being plonked on the work side of the scales for too longm necessitating emergency repair work to rebuild the very structure of the scales after we crash into a burned out messy heap. So how do you avoid that happening in the first place? Below I share two top tips for keeping the scales in balance.

Assume a role
How many times a day/week/month do you say to yourself "That's not in my job description!" but regardless begrudgingly complete it, particularly if it's been instructed by senior management because you don't want to rock the boat or single yourself out as being unhelpful. You may even have other pressing tasks that are part of your role and have an have a looming deadline that you then temporarily abandon and suffer the consequences later. Sometimes such tasks can be beneficial for your personal or career development giving you an opportunity to expand your skills and network. Other times you've just picked up the burning hot rock that others have managed to avoid or have thrown at you.

I recommend that you take a pen and paper and write down your job description. Not a carbon copy of the one you saw before your interview, many roles are organic and develop with time and experience. What are the regular tasks you are responsible for? What are your areas of expertise? Who is in your network of contacts? etcetera. When you've thoroughly completed that, take a new sheet of paper and write out the key areas you wish to develop in, the people who are not currently in your network of contacts but would like to be. Repeat this exercise as regularly as you need to, perhaps once a quarter, so that you can see how you have developed and what areas you would still like to see a progression in.

Now that you'll have your exact role clear in your head, assume that role and become an expert in that role, know your boundaries and be firm with them. If you are presented with a task that makes you question whether it's in your job description ask yourself whether it will help you expand.

If someone is asking you to complete something that threatens or even steamrolls your boundaries tell them no, why you are saying no and perhaps suggest another staff member who would be better suited to complete that task (without throwing them the hot rock). Consider how your relationship with the requestor will change by you saying no.

If you have a good relationship with them they will be able to understand and accept the rejection. Otherwise, as Mark Manson, author of The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck said, "anywhere there is an unhealthy or toxic relationship there will be a porous sense of responsibility on both sides, and there will be an inability to give and/or receive rejection", and that porousness may even have its origins in the relationship they have with other staff members, especially with those who are higher up the ladder. People with healthy relationships will be prepared to say no to one another and in a work environment will assume their individual role without traipsing on that of the other. Make your boundaries watertight so nothing can be permitted to leak in. Teach others how to treat you by having enough respect for yourself to decide what you will and will not accept.

If there is no other option than to act upon the request, ask the requester to be specific as to the urgency of its completion and the deadline. Once you have this information, use this alongside the Eisenhower Decision matrix to see where it fits into the grid and be prepared to identify that with the requestor:

Important and Urgent: Tasks with specific time pressures/deadlines that must be done first, usually within the same day

Important and Not Urgent: Tasks that must be completed, but not right away. You can schedule these on your calendar to work on later

Urgent and Not Important: The tasks you can consider delegating to someone else

Urgent and Not Important: The tasks you can probably eliminate

You can read my more details post about this called Smash Your To Do List.

If you have sloppy, or worse non-existent, boundaries and are regularly skipping your lunch break, pulling 60-hour weeks, never getting enough sleep and have stopped doing the things you enjoy eventually you will break. Eventually, you will completely burn out and your body will tell you that enough is enough.

Self-care is a vital part of achieving work-life balance as it keeps you refreshed, healthy and able to manage your responsibilities as productively as possible. Make self-care non-negotiable. It shouldn't end up in the not urgent and not important box. Stop putting all your energy into others, and take time for you. Make sure you get a break, get some fresh air at lunchtime, schedule things in that you can look forward to, get some exercise, make time for your hobbies and interests, take a week off. In doing so you will rebalance the work-life scales.

Alongside this, respect sleep hygiene by making sure you are giving yourself optimal conditions for sleep: where possible go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, minimise blue light exposure in the evenings, makes sure your room is at a comfortable temperature, make your bedroom a peaceful environment and maybe even invest in blackout blinds.

If you can dedicate even just ten minutes a day to self-care, it will be time well spent and it will help to keep the scales in a harmonic balance.


  1. Great blog really amazing looking also great content

  2. Self care is so important! I'd never seen that Matrix before and it helps me think differently about my own to do list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I really love it, it’s so helpful for visually seeing where your priorities are and can also identify what can be deleted/delegated or deferred.


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