Rebel Replies: Does work-life balance exist – AKA can we have it all?

Julia Davies is a life and business coach based in Worthing, Sussex. In a broken society that rewards toxic productivity and hustle, Julia is a quiet rebel. She believes instead that a successful business is built on listening to our own intuition, and that self-care needs to be part of the business strategy.

Here, she answers your questions on life and business when you are self-employed, from the perspective of a quiet rebel. Today’s question is from a small business owner pondering work-life balance, asking “does work-life balance exist?”:

I’m really struggling with the whole concept of work-life balance. I’ve never experienced it and I honestly don’t believe it’s possible to have a genuine balance between life and work. What does that even mean?! I know I want to work less and enjoy more “life”, but currently I want to keep growing my business so it seems like an impossible goal to also do more things outside of work. I already don’t feel like I have enough time in the day!

Thanks so much for writing in! Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that work-life balance looks different to each of us. As a quiet rebel, it’s all about finding out what’s going to work for you rather than trying to replicate an outdated interpretation of what society says work-life balance looks like. The traditional method of getting balance by working 9-5 and then having evenings and weekends to do the “life” bit is useless in a world where our phones keep us permanently connected to our emails, and apps like Instagram totally blur the line between life and work if you have an online business.

So, does work life balance exist?

If you ask a selection of people “does work-life balance exist”, you will almost certainly get passionate answers, both from people who think it does exist and from those who believe it’s a myth. Personally, I believe it can exist for most people – of course with the usual current caveat of the pandemic, which certainly has shifted the delicate balance for many people.

Nobody who wants a better work-life balance is wondering how they can work more. So, let’s think about this in a different way – what is it that isn’t working for you right now? What do you want more of? What do you want less of? And my favourite question of all: What do you need right now? Those are big questions that require some substantial thought if you are to create an intentional life and business that meets your own wants and needs. (You can click here if you’d like my support with that)

What can I do to have a better work-life balance?

I wonder if you might find it helpful to consider calling it work-life harmony instead. Harmony to me suggests that work and life are delicately intermingled and they work in tandem with each other, whereas balance suggests that you can only have one or the other at a time. Particularly when you work for yourself, the boundaries between life and work become blurred – it’s virtually impossible to separate work and life when you have your own business.

Perhaps it would serve us to recognise that some days we will feel like we have nailed that dream combo of work, rest and play – and other days we’ll feel like we are surgically attached to our laptop. And that is part of the rollercoaster of working for yourself. Work-life harmony reminds us that the parts of our lives are interconnected, so work will flow more easily if life is being given the attention it needs, and vice versa. If you give yourself a chance to rest, you will thrive at work too.

Can I “have it all”?

Knowing what you want your lifestyle to look like overall is key. Once you know this, it’s easier to say no to things that might detract from that vision. Also, if you’re going through an intense season of work it’s totally ok that “life” might take a backseat for a while, but burnout beckons if that intensity of work becomes your new normal. If you are one of those people who says “next week will be less busy” every single week, it’s time to question what changes you could make to ensure you don’t burn out. Look at your current lifestyle – could you maintain that in the long-term?

If the answer to that is no, some ruthless prioritisation is required. Everything can’t be your priority at the same time. If you genuinely want more time for fun and relaxation, these need to be nudged up the priority list. Although it might be scary to consider working less (especially if you are working towards goals that excite you in your business), remember that you will come back to your business with renewed motivation, creativity and energy. It seems counterintuitive that working less helps you achieve your business goals, but my own experience and the experiences of my clients have proved over and over again that there are massive benefits to our business if we take more time to take care of ourselves, if we spending quality time with our friends and family, and if we allow ourselves to do things just for fun.

Give your life goals the same attention you give your work goals

The word I repeat over and over again to my clients is “intention”. Without intention, it’s very easy to end up heading in a direction that doesn’t feel meaningful to you. One of the key things to being a rebel is not following the crowd. While many people set business goals regularly, setting intentions for our life outside work is unheard of. And I believe this is often why work ends up bleeding into non-work time – it is seen as less important in some way. By working out what you want your lifestyle to look like and putting in place goals and actions to help you achieve that, you’re making a statement that your life outside work is as important as your business time.

QUESTIONS FOR A QUIET MOMENT

If you’re struggling with this too, here are some questions for you to consider. Maybe you’ll discuss these with a business buddy. Maybe you’ll use them as journal prompts. Or maybe you’ll take the questions on a walk. What matters is spending the time getting clear on your own thoughts, and then taking action. As cheesy as it sounds,  nothing will change if you change nothing.

  • What do I want my average day/week/month to look like?
  • Is my current lifestyle sustainable in the long-term?
  • What are my current priorities, inside and outside work?
  • How could I tweak my boundaries so they help support my preferred lifestyle?

In your opinion, does work-life balance exist? If you’re struggling to work out what changes you need to make to achieve a work-life balance that feels good to you, book a discovery call to chat about how I could support you.


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