Creating a healthy work-life balance requires careful planning. You may have to trade off a less-than-perfect score in one area of your life to achieve a better one in another
This is a dangerous time of the year for anyone interested in ensuring a healthy work-life balance. It is, of course, traditionally the time for new beginnings, when we resolve to cast off the old, eat and drink less, exercise more and go to the theatre more often.
Those new year resolutions - combined with the fact that the weather is just so miserable at this time of the year and there's frankly nothing much to look forward to, apart from Valentines Day, until the clocks go back in March - often result in people changing jobs just for the hell of it. According to a recent survey, 42% of us will be looking around for new positions this month.
My advice would be: think twice. Unless you really are miserable in your current job - in which case you owe it to yourself to get out now - changing employers is something you should approach strategically, not on a whim powered by one-too-many cloudy days. It's not even a particularly good time to be looking around - the jobs market effectively closes down for a month over the Christmas period and doesn't really get going again until late in January.
A much more sensible approach is to invest in a good book such as John Lees' How to Get a Job You'll Love or Take Control of Your Career. They are packed full of questionnaires designed to help you identify what your priorities are in life and what you should be looking for in your job.
One simple but very powerful tool you can try for yourself is the Wheel of Life, used by many business and life coaches. You draw a wheel with, say, eight spokes coming out from the centre - one each for your health, income, work-life balance, family, friends, career development, learning/professional development, personal growth or whatever you think is important to you.
Taking the centre of the wheel as representing absolute zero and the outside edge as perfection, you plot where on each spoke of the wheel you feel the various aspects of your life are now, and where you'd like it to be in, say, three years time.
A really interesting refinement is to plot where you think you were three years ago - it can throw up some really interesting perspectives on how your life and career has moved on, where it may be stuck, or where you may be choosing to leave it where it is because it may not be perfect, but overall the balance is right for you.
After all, very few of us are lucky enough to score a perfect ten in every aspect of our lives, and sometimes we may have to settle for a six or seven on the reward front in order to get an eight or nine in our quality of life. That, after all, is what work-life balance boils down to in the end.n
Steve Crabb is editor of