As I embark on a short break away from the lab and the university next week, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about the issue of the work-life balance.
Most of us try to get the balance right, but it doesn’t always pan out the way we’ve planned. For me there are two categories of work-life balance; planning my day-to-day life and taking extended time off (holidays).
Getting work-life balance right day-to-day can be hard. We can all be our own worst enemy, saying to ourselves that ‘we’ll just answer those emails’, ‘just fix that computer problem’, ‘just go and talk to that person before I go home’. And before you know it, you’ve spent 10 hours at work or uni.
But if we don’t complete these tasks right now what’s the worst that will happen? They will still be there tomorrow, or the next day, or even next week.
There is no question, there are some days that are just long, no getting around it. Sometimes, when I’m in the lab I can be at work for upwards of 12 hours per day, but I keep this in mind, and when I’m having a slower day, I make sure I leave work a little earlier.
Although there are days which are long, stressful, and downright not enjoyable sometimes, I’m tough on myself, and make sure that I look after my number one priority, me.
I’m also more tough on my students than I used to be. They often request vast amounts of my time, and I initially thought I needed to be by their side every minute. However, I have grown to be able to distance myself more; but this is a juggle, which I’m still working on.
I love travel, it is definitely a high priority in my life, so much so after I graduated with my PhD I quit my job, sold all my possessions, and went backpacking for a year (stories for another blog post maybe!).
So I’m always planning my next holiday, sometimes I’m even planning two holidays ahead! In terms of this type of balance I usually use all my leave per year, and take well deserved time off.
But this type of work-life balance creates anxiety for me about leaving things, tasks piling up while I’m gone, dealing with a gazillion emails when I return, and not remembering where things were up to before I left.
I probably won’t ever get over this, but I have learnt to manage it more. One thing I do is to make a clear list for tasks to complete when I return; this really helps with the anxiety upon returning to work and not knowing where to start, or not remembering where things were up to. It allows me to spend the first day upon my return achieving small tasks that don’t require much thought.
So, take a break, even if for only a few hours. Put yourself first, you are the only person who truly has you as their number one priority. How do you achieve work-life balance?