Finding the best way to maintain a healthy work-life balance is an empowering way to get the best from yourself at work and enhance your personal wellbeing. When neglected it is easy to succumb to external and internal pressures and become more susceptible to stress and burn out as well as physical symptoms. It is important to be able to observe and assess your ability to use work-life balance strategies. Implementing a range of work-life balance strategies will contribute to sustaining yourself so you can keep your energy flowing and keep yourself healthy in the long term.
The challenge of ministry work-life balance
The best work-life balance for each person is unique as we each live different lives and have different priorities. There is no perfect, one way that suits everyone and what works for you today may not be appropriate on another day or in another phase of life when circumstances have changed. Achieving work-life balance means you need to develop attitudes, skills and behaviours that support this in your personal life.
What is important is to have meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in four key areas of life: work, family, friends, self.
For parish clergy this can be particularly difficult as so much of life revolves around the church and congregation where there are many overlaps of these four areas. In addition the fact that the home is very often the work environment as well can make it difficult to set boundaries between work and the rest of life and cause frustrations within the family.
This quick quiz will give you an indication of how balanced your life is.
Sustaining a healthy work-life balance
The steps below will help you think through how you can achieve and sustain a healthy work-life balance:
- Reflect – on each of the four areas and ask yourself when you last achieved and enjoyed something at work, with family, with your friends and for yourself. Think of activities in each area that give you both achievement and enjoyment.
- Change – put into action one of the activities you have thought of and plan to continue this so as to create your own best work-life balance. Making sure that every day you are choosing to focus on things that not only give a sense of satisfaction but that also reflect the joy of living will help steer you to a healthy lifestyle that nurtures you and protects you from stress.
- Remember – what is motivating you and what holds meaning for you. Knowing your underpinning values and why you are doing something helps to keep you focused on your priorities and what is important for you.
- Support – pastoral supervision, regular continuing professional development (CPD), retreats and spiritual accompaniment are all ways to reflect on your experience and have personal input where someone else is available for you. Creating and using a strong support network of people who will listen rather than fix things is an important aspect of sustaining yourself.
- Protect your personal time by taking regular short breaks, being unavailable to others at least some time during every day and at least for one day every week. The ability to switch off and relax is a vital skill for maintaining a healthy balance.
- Laugh a lot and don’t take yourself too seriously. Take time out to invest in things you know will lighten your mood and enable you to connect with your humour. This may involve watching comedies, listening to comedians or perhaps reading witty articles or books.
- The Work Life Balance Centre aims to help people who are feeling out of control or whose lives are out of balance by offering information, resources and interactive tools.
- The Change Management Coach has resources and information about the management of change including skills for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are still powerful influential lessons for personal change.
- The Life Coach Directory has a useful 20 Top Tips for effective work-life balance.