Work-Life Waves: Is it possible to get true work-life balance?

Balance is key to health, wellbeing and mental clarity. But it’s not an exact science. Is the 9-5 work schedule is incompatible with work-life balance? Or should we look at it more as a work-life wave?

Work-Life Waves: Is it possible to get true work-life balance?
Work-life balance is a state we strive for. To grow and excel at work, whilst still living our “best lives” outside the office. It’s important to progress our careers, but there’s more to life than work. We need to work, but we also need to rest. Balance is key to health, wellbeing and mental clarity. But it’s not an exact science. And sometimes you might feel like your work-life balance is completely skewed. So is there such a thing as the perfect work-life balance?

Does true balance exist?

Balance is an art that we learn as we grow. And the things we balance (and in what degree) change as we move through life and our priorities change. Often, we suffer the effects of imbalance before we change them (hello burnout), so the state of balance is ever-changing.
Everyone experiences balance differently. What you priorities will be different to others. And this changes week, month or year of your life. If you’re at university, you might be prioritising studying for 10 hours a day, and your social life might take a hit. Or if you’re busy at work one week, you might have to skip a few social plans to make sure you still get enough sleep.
So it can be safe to say that true balance doesn’t always exist. Life is constantly in flux and things are always changing. If you constantly strive for exact balance, you might find yourself feeling guilty or more stressed as you try to do things in equal measures.
But general balance DOES exist, it just might not be balanced every single day. As long as you have your pot filled with the things that make you happy, it doesn’t need to be exact balance every single day.
Life is constantly in flux. If you constantly strive for exact balance, you might find yourself feeling guilty or more stressed as you try to do things in equal measures.

Work-life balance Work-life waves

Instead of stressing yourself out to find a rigid balance (I must hard-stop work at 6pm to get work-life balance), try looking at it as work-life wave.
Imagine your work life and personal life as the ocean – each wave is a new priority or goal in your life. One month, you might be prioritising work or study and you have to give more energy and focus to that. Another month you might be going on holiday, so you’re prioritising relaxing completely and having fun.
The power of the waves can also differ, depending on the surrounding circumstances. Sometimes it might be a gentle lap, other times, a wave crashes in, demanding your full attention to ride it out. The balance happens between these waves - you don’t have to do everything at once to be balanced. Your work-life balance adjusts as your priorities change.

The traditional 9-5 might not suit us all

This wave metaphor isn't just whimsical. It reflects how our energy and focus naturally ebb and flow. Sometimes, you're a brainstorming machine, churning out ideas like a North Sea storm. Other days, the thought of another spreadsheet makes you want to bury yourself under a duvet.
Plus, the traditional 9-5 working day might not suit a lot of our working styles. If you’re a wolf chronotype (a night owl) , and you work more efficiently at night, then you should be able to do that if you want to. You shouldn’t feel guilty for working between 8-9pm, because you’re not balancing work and play correctly in the ‘normal’ sense.

The power of presence

The key to riding the work-life wave isn't just about when you focus on work, but also how you focus. It's about being present in whichever area of life you're currently in. When you're working, banish distractions and give your tasks your full attention. When you’re resting, switch off your phone and be entirely immersed in recharging.
This present state, in both work and rest, allows you to balance your life and experience it in its fullest, without adhering to ideals that are set by others.

So how can you ride the work-life wave?

Firstly, try to recognise your personal wave pattern. Do you work better in intense blocks, or perhaps you prefer a more consistent work pace, with clear boundaries between work and chill time every day.
  • Balance is personal and ever-changing. Every week is different, so remind yourself you can still live balanced, even if your routine is varied. Just make sure you’re staying true to your priorities that make you happy.
  • Identify short term and long term priorities. By knowing what you prioritise, it’s easier to find the balance that works for you. If you have a big presentation coming up, it might mean you won’t get to socialise as much.
  • Be entirely present. Wherever your focus is, be entirely present. Don’t try to mix work and personal life at exactly the same time so you can give each its full attention.
  • Time Management Techniques: During your focus bursts, try the Pomodoro Technique – 25 minutes of focused work followed by a short break. Batch similar tasks together for maximum flow.
  • Boundaries: When the wave recedes, set clear boundaries. Silence work notifications, close your laptop, and resist the urge to check emails.
  • Flexible Work: Explore flexible work arrangements – part-time hours, compressed workweeks – that can accommodate your natural work-life rhythm.
Remember, ditching the rigid balance and embracing the wave isn't about slacking off. It's about being entirely present in each area of life and balancing your life to your priorities. You don’t need to have an exact amount of work, socialising and rest every single day - just listen to your body and mind and make sure you’re filling your cup up, not pouring it out.

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