Expert reveals how to actually achieve a work/life balance

mum working kids playing
Feel like you're struggling to have a life and also succeed at work? You're not alone. Photo credit: Getty.

The old adage 'Work-life balance': it's a concept I've so often set out to achieve but very rarely managed.

During New Zealand's COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown, many of us managed to take time for ourselves and pick up hobbies, exercise or creative pursuits that we swore we'd keep up. But if you're anything like me, 'back in the real world' those have fallen by the wayside and now I'm just trying to juggle a full-time job with not eating an entirely beige diet. 

So how can Kiwis manage fulfilment in both work and life, especially when the economy and news coming in from around the world is pretty grim? 

Frances Bearne, director of Human Focus Consulting, says this topic is one of the most frequent discussion points she comes across in her coaching practice.

"How do I be the best I can be at work, grow my career and achieve satisfaction (and dare I say, fulfilment) at work, while also having a life?" she says people ask every day. 

Francis Bearne Human Focus Consulting
Frances Bearne says she often sees people struggling to achieve fulfilment and enjoyment in their work. Photo credit: Supplied.

The culture and capability consultant and leadership coach says lockdown and global changes in business and beyond have offered people a chance to reflect on what they really want to get out of life and work, particularly in the areas of flexibility, health and wellness.

Bearne has put together her top five tips on achieving fulfilment in both work and life to help you try to achieve that 'balance' we all dream of. 

Prioritise values when making decisions 

Everyone’s different, so as individuals, we need to do the work to find out and truly understand what drives us and what our values are. Values are our dearly held core beliefs and the things that are important to us.

While these may change over a lifetime, they are generally static and will remain integral to us throughout the years. In knowing our values, we find a deeper understanding of our purpose and are able to prioritise how we spend our time accordingly. 

An example of values-led decision making: Someone can decide whether to accept a promotion based solely on the importance of what that means as an achievement as part of a wider set of long-term career goals. Or alternatively, someone could consider taking the promotion, but negotiate less money and more flexibility because they have identified that taking more time to themselves to focus on health and wellbeing is central in finding fulfilment both inside and outside of work. 

Set goals based on your values 

Once you have clarity over these values, set yourself goals that align with them for work and home, but also other important aspects of your life such as your relationships, personal development, finances, health and wellbeing. 

Find ways to motivate yourself and keep yourself accountable along this path. You can do this by writing your goals down or sharing them with a friend, mentor, manager or coach and celebrate your successes along the way, not only at the finish line. 

Enhance positive emotions 

We must make sure that we incorporate having fun, whatever and however that works for you. Laughing, sharing, focusing on gratitude and learning new things builds and encourages a positive mindset which sets the foundation for everything that you do - at work, at home and everywhere in between. 

Stay connected 

Staying connected is also essential. In a work sense, people often feel isolated, particularly if they are working from home and seeing colleagues less. Many businesses have seen restructures and have lost whole teams of people, meaning individuals may have lost their ‘tribe’ in their work environment. In this busy world we live in, it is also common that people feel they are expected to do more with less resource and/or time, so they don’t prioritise friends or family like they used to. Make sure to set time aside to connect with the people that matter the most. 

Prioritise wellness

The foundation of fulfilment is having good health, both physically and mentally. The pathways to building internal resilience include getting a good night’s sleep, exercising regularly and eating a variety of nutritious foods. Without good quality sleep, we lose our ability to handle life’s ups, downs and challenges, of which there are plenty. Exercise and nutritious food give us vitality and energy to get things done, without undue distress caused by ill-health. 

Building mindfulness into our day also encourages wellness, whether that is through mediation in the traditional sense, using guided meditation apps or getting outside in nature. Nature has been proven to be grounding for people as it enhances positive emotions hugely, which is integral to building resilience and equipping yourself so that you’re able to handle life’s challenges in more constructive ways.