Building a business is tough and there are often a lot of sacrifices you need to make to grow and get the business where you need it to be. But in order to manage your business, you need to manage your life, and that includes the all-important work-life balance.
But it can be challenging. Work demands, family and friend demands, finding the time to exercise, socialise, do the housework, get an early night, walk the dog, spend quality time with your other half… the list goes on. And that’s before you’ve factored in social media.
Of course, it’s not just business owners who are doing it tough. A recent weekly poll by Essential found 49 per cent of full-time workers don’t have enough time to keep in touch with family and friends, while 51 per cent agreed with the statement ‘I find it difficult to balance work and other responsibilities’. Meanwhile, 63 per cent of full-time workers feel the stress from juggling work and other responsibilities is impacting on their physical wellbeing.
As a nation, stress seems to be infiltrating our daily lives. “I hardly see anyone who doesn’t have a significant heart problem or any other major health problem when it’s not around some sort of life stresses – whether it’s stress at work, whether it’s stress at home, or whether it’s that work-life balance, which is so important for us all. So I think stress plays an enormous part.” Who said this?
And it’s not just in our home life where a lack of work-life balance can have a negative impact. Working harder, not smarter, can be detrimental on your health too. Take the advice of renowned Australian cardiologist, author and TV identity Dr Ross Walker: “The most important asset of any business is the person running it. And if that person isn’t sharp and on their game in all aspects of their health and their life, the business doesn’t go well. So it’s about putting the responsibility back to the person.”
Yes, the somewhat harsh reality is that achieving a healthy lifestyle and better work-life balance comes down to you, and only you. But it is achievable, of course. Dr Walker reminds us: “As Confucious said, a journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step – it’s taking those small steps every day but for the rest of your life.”
Here are six steps to help you on the way to better work-life balance.
1. Make lifestyle changes for the better
Swayed by Paleo? Contemplating a juice cleanse? Toying with trying the cabbage soup diet? Dr Walker is straight up: “Diets don’t work. It’s not the diet, it’s the entire lifestyle program that you have for the rest of your life – it’s a daily thing forever.
“One of the points I make is that life isn’t about making a big decision to be healthy – life’s about making 30, 40, 50 decisions every day of your life, and saying ‘I won’t eat that biscuit; I’ll walk up the stairs rather than get the escalators,’ … and it either takes you towards good health, good life or bad health, bad life.”
Don’t have the time? Make the time – it’s a non-negotiable. If you want a better work-life balance, a healthier perspective on life and better health full stop, exercise is fundamental.
“If you exercise for three hours a week, that reduces your risk of a heart attack by 30 per cent, cancer 30 per cent, Alzheimer’s 30 per cent, diabetes 30 per cent, osteoporosis 50 per cent, it drops your blood pressure and you sleep better,” says Dr Walker. “There is no pharmaceutical preparation known to man that is as powerful as exercise.”
3. Switch off
Technology has made our life much easier, but it’s also brought new complications when it comes to balance. Sometimes it’s easier to just answer that email at 11pm, rather than wait to the morning. But you’re not allowing your brain to wind down from your working day and truly switch off. Allocate designated time in the day to answer your emails and check social media, and communicate this to clients and colleagues. It takes discipline, but it should be a goal to avoid being ‘always available’ – some people wear it as a badge of honour, but it’s not doing anything for your work-life balance.
4. Have a plan for your day
A daily list is a good idea. What are the top three things you need to achieve that day? Allocate the appropriate amount of time to achieving these things. You could keep a secondary list of all the tasks that must be done, but make sure you start the day with the top three things you need or want to achieve that day. And stick to it. But don’t let the list overwhelm you – it should be a help, not a hindrance.
5. Schedule time for play
All work and no play is not fun in anyone’s books. Try having at least one night a week where you leave on time (or at least, a respectable hour), and get out amongst it to experience life! Often easier said that done, but even if it’s just a walk around the park, or a visit to your favourite restaurant.
6. Think positively
In the grand scheme of things, Australians are pretty lucky people. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Clichés yes, but remember the things in life that make you happy and try to focus on those, or think about that when stress or pressure is getting you down.
And for some extra motivation, Dr Ross Walker shares his five-point plan to a healthy, balanced life:
1. Keep down your belly fat. “Cut back generally on what you eat. Eat off smaller plates. Eat smaller helpings. Don’t have second helpings. Don’t have dessert. And don’t graze, we’re not cows. So eat three meals a day but don’t eat huge food. And don’t have processed, packaged muck. If it’s in a box or a container with a use-by date, it’s not good for your body. Don’t eat from a bakery. Don’t have takeaway. Get rid of white foods: sugar, salt, pasta, potatoes, white bread. It’s very simple: eat less and eat more naturally.
2. Have no addictions. “You can’t be healthy and smoke, you can’t be healthy and drink too much grog and you certainly can’t be healthy and snort cocaine.”
3. Enjoy good quality food but less of it
4. Do three hours a week of exercise, at least
5. Get addicted to the best drugs on the planet and this is what most people find hard to achieve: happiness, peace and contentment.