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The Ultimate Balancing Act: Your Life

The crowd was hushed – my heart was pounding. Hundreds of eyes were on me. I was arguing for the negative team at a debate hosted by SheSays Sydney. The motion: “Career vs. Life, can you have it all?”

You might think that arguing against this idea is crazy: aren’t we supposed to have it all? But I don’t think it’s possible to have a life and a career. At least, not in the way we’re led to believe.

So, why do I disagree?

The media can give us the impression that it’s there for the taking – that a work life balance is within our grasp if we just plough more time into our pursuits. But if you buy into this belief and fail, you can end up feeling miserable and guilty.

There are 168 hours in a week. How do you choose to spend those hours? Try this exercise: mentally divide your typical week up into a pie chart. You can make bigger slices for whatever areas are important to you: career, life, partner, friends, hobbies, health… But the pie is a fixed size, so when you choose to make a slice bigger, other areas have to get smaller.

So if our pie won’t magically scale, is there a way to cut it and still achieve balance?

Well it depends on how you think about it. If you define balance as “an equal amount of time”, then no – I don’t think you can achieve balance between work and life.  But if you’re willing to look at balance in terms of whether things are in the correct proportion in your life, then your pie starts to look a lot better.

Without much thinking, most people get their first job out of university and are excited to be starting their career that they get on the hamster wheel and just keep going.

And it’s in these situations that we’re passive – there isn’t much thought, reflection, or intent. It’s OK for a limited time – but it’s not sustainable or healthy in the long run. You need to set your intent and choose your FOCUS. You need to prioritise what’s important to you, now.


The first step is to CREATE AWARENESS.

Understand what your typical week looks like by drawing up a schedule. My weapon of choice is Excel (embrace your inner nerd, I say). Don’t forget to include things you’re tempted to gloss over, such as sleep, lunch breaks, or travel time.

Take stock and think about what you’re actually doing in those times. Are you spending your entire bus ride mindlessly trawling through Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Linkedin?

Getting this overview of your typical week will help you to see what areas are unbalanced. Take this information and think about actual changes you want to make in your life. Make them into GOALS.

Now, I completely understand that for some people, the whole idea of setting goals impedes their breathing, gives them hives, and just makes them generally feel icky. I understand I’m married to one of those people. Bear with me.

Goals are important because you need to know your destination. A goal keeps you focused and moving forward to the life you want to have.  Goals let you track your progress on a map, and see if you’re getting closer to your destination.

OK so … let’s assume I’ve convinced you. Goals are awesome! Yeah! Now’s the time to CREATE YOUR VISION.

You need to paint a mental image for yourself so you know what your life will look like once you’ve made it. Write it, paint it, make a moodboard. But document it so if you lose your way, you’ve got an inspiring reminder of where you’re headed.

Now MAKE A PLAN. This is your road map. This is how you will get to your destination. So this is the time to think about what your options are, what road blocks you might encounter and how you’ll deal with them, and how you’ll obtain any support or resources you might need.

This is your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. And just like when you were a kid, if you didn’t like what happened on page 64, you can go back to where you were and choose another option. It’s OK, you can do that in real life too (as long as no-one on page 64 was seriously injured).

This is the stage where you DO IT and REASSESS.  Is this working for you? Is this making you happier and stronger?

If things are going well – it’s time to CELEBRATE. Congratulations, you are the proud owner of a happy and “balanced” life. Well done.

Look it’s not easy but you don’t have to do it all on your own. If you feel like work or life is too overwhelming, and you feel stuck about where to begin, you can consult a life or business coach to help you. A coach uses principles described here to help you to gain clarity, get unstuck, and to ensure you keep moving forward.


Olivia Haigh

Life and Business Coaches for the creative industry

Looking Glass Collective

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