From a very early age I’ve always been able to get up and out of my bed very early in a morning. It started with a paper round as a boy and just continued from there. The thing is, despite being a morning person, I need this time in solitude. I need it to be able to function correctly for the rest of the day, it is my personal reset function if you like.
For the last 8 years I have shared this solitude with my faithful dog, he and I got up between 5.30 and 6.30 every day and walk off into the Pennines, no matter what the weather. 50 minutes to an hour later we returned and my personal defragmentation was complete. The to do list was mentally structured, the presentation recited, the sales calls organised, the latest blog post thoughts noted, the list goes on; and as such I started my work day very early.
During the course of this morning activity I occasionally encountered one or two other people and there appeared to be a mutual nod, and sometime a verbal, recognition of unity but generally speaking that was about as far as it went at that time in the morning and this suited me perfectly, like I said I need the solitude.
Upon my return I had to put work on hold, as the family required my full attention. A cup of tea for the wife and I, freshly ground and brewed coffee into our amazing Starbucks Thermos mugs for the mid-morning and then upstairs to greet my wonderful family. Up to this point in my morning routine little has changed for the best part of 8 years, other than the addition of the 2 children during that time who now demand their share of my attention.
However since October this year the routine has changed somewhat. My morning companion is very sadly terminally ill and he can no longer entertain the full hour so we’ve cut the walk in half and having recently begun to listen to podcast during that time I decided to play them at 1.5 speed to get the same input of content as I would have done in my previous walks despite the reduced time-frame, it works and I wished I’d done it sooner actually.
Fortunately I have also managed to change my mind-set a little over the last few months and it does mean that I now have a special 30 minutes time to read on those 3 days a week when the house is void of my family due to the early start for them on Tuesdays through until Thursdays.
This ability to be able to switch modes between work and family and ensure that my priorities are aligned with what’s important to me has played a key role in this change and whereas so many talk about work-life balance, I personally tend to agree with a more recent line of thinking “a work-life mix” (or blend).
So isn’t this just the same but using different words?
Not at all, in fact the use of language here is very important. If it was truly a work-life balance I would spend the exact same amount of time each day working and the same amount of time with my family and hobbies, notwithstanding the prerequisite of sleep of course. If ever something cropped up on one side or the other requiring a an increase in time the balance would be offset; and by default it wouldn’t be fair. Your mental well-being is then put under undue stress as you constantly strive to “re-balance the book” and you spend an excess amount of time worrying if you’ve got it right as opposed to just getting on with life.
By using the word mix, or blend, you instantly change the parameters surrounding the whole situation. A mix doesn’t have to be balanced. It doesn’t always have to be equal. In fact it invariably isn’t equal. You invest your time in what is important to you and in line with your beliefs. Yes you have to ensure that you put in the required hours of work to fulfil your commitments and you have to ensure you do your job to the best of your ability but equally you have to ensure that your family knows who you are and that in their hour of need you are there for them.
Working in sales this mix is not easy to manage, quite often I am accused of working 24/7 but that is certainly not the case. I sleep, I ride a bike, I walk my dog, I take my kids to school and I attend various council, club and school meetings alongside various other activities. Yes whilst doing some of these I’m also working, but that’s where the mix comes in to it. I can have a conversation during a club bike ride and start talking about business, I can attend a parents’ evening at school and strike up a conversation about business and even on a family day out whilst sat in a café drinking a cup of hot chocolate with the kids, there’s always a chance of a chat with some other like-minded person to talk about business.
So using this art of blending everything together does help me to get my priorities right. I probably dedicate more time to work as a result of it, hence the perception that I work 24/7, but this is never to the detriment of my family. Family, life, my own well-being and work have all benefitted from this way of thinking and I don’t have to waste time worrying if I’ve got the balance right, because the results, on all sides, are proof enough that I have.
My advice to all of you, who are still trying to get that work/life balance right, is just stop! Work out where you priorities lie, work out where you are the most efficient and then blend it. The results speak for themselves.