At 40, Nigel was “the classic corporate warrior.” He says, “I was working too hard and neglecting the family.” For the next seven years, Nigel set out to identify the thorny issue of the work-life balance. This is what he learned.
Nigel found that while things like dress-down Friday really help towards improving culture and “flexi-time” gives people a little more freedom, he feels they “mask the core issue”. Certain career options are incompatible with having a young family or other time-demanding commitments. So when we are honest about the reality of our work lives and our wider situation, we can start to make the right changes.
Most of the time, working for someone else means we can’t control how we spend most of our time. Nigel says that even the nicer companies with great cultures are interested in maximising productivity—that’s just how businesses work. Taking control means “enforcing the boundaries we want in our life” to make time for the things that enrich us. “If you don’t design your life, someone else will for you… and you might not enjoy their idea of balance”.
After writing down his idea of an “ideal balanced day,” Nigel realised it’s impossible to fit everything he wanted—and needed—to do into 24 hours. This pressure to be everywhere and do everything at once causes stress. We need “a middle way,” a longer timeframe of weeks or even months in which to judge our how we balance work with the things we love. That could be a family vacation or progress on a personal/professional project.
Nigel found that keeping in shape can have impact on work-life balance, but it could become a time drain too. He says we need to make time to address all of the areas of life including our intellectual, emotional and spiritual sides and firmly believes the small things matter. Small, manageable changes, like making the time to pick up your kids from school once a week can have a major impact on your work-life balance.
Taking control of your time can help you “radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.” Start mapping out the ideal balanced day and then start to work towards it. Make time over the coming weeks for the things on your list. “If enough people do it we can change society’s definition of success. Away from the notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.”