Have you lost control of your work-life balance?

‘Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.’ (Hilary Clinton)

Do you agree with Hilary Clinton?

Are you constantly balancing work and life?   

It is unsurprising that I have never coached someone who doesn’t want to achieve a ‘work-life balance’.  It is a well-known fact that a good work-life balance prevents stress and burnout, reduces anxiety, and creates healthy and happy lifestyles.

However, I am sometimes challenged by people about whether a work-life balance is possible and this has occasionally made me wonder whether these individuals are right.  Perhaps it is unrealistic.  Perhaps this is a term that will fade in popularity when we move on to the next ‘in’ phrase. However, whatever name we associate with it, I do believe it is possible.  Over 10 years of coaching individuals who are unhappy in their career has taught me that ‘work-life balance’ does impact lives and I know that when I work with someone on improving their work-life balance, they always become happier and are able to give more thought to making their career more fulfilling.   

Unfortunately, Coronavirus and the ongoing changes to our lifestyle and work arrangements has made maintaining a work-life balance tricky for many people.  One minute we can see friends and relatives, the next minute we can’t.  Many are now facing redundancy or were about to come off furlough, only for it to be extended again.  Many went back to work, now to be told to work from home again.  Plans have been made and cancelled.  Keeping up with changes we have no control over can be mentally exhausting and can impact the control we have over maintaining a good work-life balance leading too stress, fatigue, and a decrease in work performance.

How is your work-life balance at the moment?

I know many people have been reassessing their lives and priorities over the last few months during the pandemic.  Discarding things that previously made them stressed and bringing new elements in that make them happier.  If you have managed to do this, fantastic!  However, if you haven’t please don’t worry, it is not easy.  I really mean that. It is not easy at the best of times, let alone when there is a pandemic and the rules keep changing.  When a client said to me last week that they feel like they have lost control of their work-life balance, I knew they wouldn’t be the only person who currently felt this way.

If you feel this way, why not spend a bit of time doing a little review of your life.  Simply follow these points to help you:

1. Consider the following five areas of your life and grade each area on a scale of 1 to 10 as they are for you now; 1 being poor or you are unhappy with what you are doing in this area and 10 being you are fully satisfied or you happy with this area.

  • Being active/health (e.g. Diet, physical activity, fitness)
  • Relationships (e.g. Family, partner, parents/siblings, friends)
  • Learning (e.g. Books, courses, hobbies)
  • Contribution (e.g. Giving time and energy to others)
  • Relaxation/being mindful (e.g. Ambitions, salary, relationships)

(If you would like to go into more detail, work out how many hours you spend on these categories in a typical week.  A typical week is approximately 98 hours, allowing for seven days each of fourteen hours.)

2. For scores below 9, spend time thinking about what you can do to improve your score in that category. Think about changes you can make to your life to increase the lowest scores. Remember, you do not need to make big changes.   Focus on one category at a time and take small steps towards improving your score.

Remember, once you have started the process of restoring the balance, you will start to feel happier and have more energy to eventually raise all the scores.

Whether or not it is the correct term to use, having a ‘work-life balance’ and keeping it at the forefront of our minds is really important for developing a happy and fulfilling life and career.

Preparing for changes in your career in a post-coronavirus world

preparing for change

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”

(Albert Einstein)

 

We are all now starting to look to the future in a post-coronavirus world.  Some of you may already be putting plans in place for your careers, others may still consider it too early to make any decisions or are unsure what to do next. How do you prepare to make changes in your career in a post-coronavirus world?

I am finding that career change, flexible working and wellbeing are some of the main areas of change being reviewed by individuals at the moment as they consider the future of their working lives.  These are the areas that are often considered when deciding on best-suited career paths.

Career Change

According to recent research by the Adecco Group UK and Ireland, 29% of the UK’s workforce is considering a significant career change. One of the reasons being that many individuals (nearly one in five) felt they were not being treated well by their employer during the pandemic.  There are also many people who, before the time of coronavirus were considering a career change, and still want to pursue this.

Flexible Working

Working patterns have changed over the last few months allowing for more flexibility and working from home arrangements.  This has prompted thoughts on how our working lives can benefit from this flexibility.  Is there more scope for portfolio careers?  Can our working lives work around our family and home life in a more beneficial manner?

Wellbeing

In recent months, we have also had lots of time to think about our wellbeing.  Spending more time at home has enabled us to spend time discovering what really makes us happy and feel good about ourselves. There will be changes many individuals will want to make to their lives now and in the future.

Since March, I have published a series of blogs, articles, and videos to assist you in navigating the impact coronavirus is having on the world of jobs and careers.  These are all summarised below – I hope they will be helpful for you as you start to make decisions about what the future holds for your career as we emerge from the affects coronavirus has had on our lives.

BLOGS

Looking after your career in the time of Coronavirus

This blog was written at the beginning of lockdown to help those worried about their future.

5 ways to get out of lockdown lethargy

To help you manage any uncertainty in your life and career.

Coronavirus and careers – what happens next?

Helping you to navigate the impact coronavirus has on your career.

Making career decisions in uncertain times

Some useful thoughts and ideas on how we start making decisions about our future careers when everything appears so uncertain.

How do we develop ways to get through the hard times in our careers?

Find out how to make career changes during tough times to enable you to move forward happily in your career.

CVs that stand out – this will make you smile!

Just for a bit of fun! Have you ever thought of presenting your CV in the form of a cereal box?  Discover some fun and creative examples of CV writing to make you stand out from the crowd.

ARTICLES

How to adapt to uncertain times to find the career you love

VIDEOS

Making career decisions in uncertain times

Building your confidence for a career change

MY BOOK

‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’

My book provides a structured process to help you move forward in your career. I had had over 700 downloads over lockdown so I’m hoping it is currently helping lots of individuals with their careers!

Whatever your circumstances, this may be the right time for change no matter how big or small.  If you need some assistance do have a look at my website where you can browse through lots of free career resources.

How do we develop ways to get through the hard times in our careers?

Uncertain times

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” (Joshua J. Marine)

We all go through tough times, don’t we?  These times may be due to work challenges or personal struggles.  Challenges are a part of life and learning to overcome these challenges and making decisions to enable us to move forward during these times can be hard.  We can be left feeling we have lost some control over our lives.

We have inevitably lost a bit more of this control over recent months as the impact of coronavirus has been extremely tough for many people.   There is increased uncertainty in our environment and the world around us which, for many, has made decision-making a complex, overwhelming and stressful experience.

Decision-making…

During uncertain and complex times, the way we make decisions changes.  To avoid stress, we tend to try and simplify the complexity around us by making decisions based on our habits and what others are doing in similar circumstances.  Points 1 and 2 below explain how :

  1. Habits

In uncertain times, we turn to our comfort zone and become reliant on our habits that sit within this.  The implications being that we can avoid the stress of the current uncertainty and delay making any decisions that bring about a change to our lives. Unfortunately, this can increase the development and establishment of unhealthy habits.  These are habits that don’t make us happy and are hard to change.

  1. What others are doing

‘I can’t change career because a friend has told me it is too risky.  Other people are not changing career now so I must wait too.’

In uncertain times, we tend to make decisions by searching for information that confirms our existing thoughts and beliefs about the world. We also base our decisions on what other people are doing in the same situation. Unfortunately, accepting the views and opinions of others without question will pull us in the direction of making decisions based on what others are doing or saying rather than based on who we are, our values and what we genuinely want.  The danger is we miss the stories that show what we really want is possible.

Unfortunately, focusing on comfortable habits and what others are doing can cause you to draw the wrong conclusions and subsequently make decisions that are not right for you.  Although, by focusing on these areas, we are trying to gain control and reduce the uncertainty we are facing, we can instead cause ourselves further stress in doing so.

The next step…..

You, of course, want to make the right decisions.  You want to make decisions that move you forward and make you happy in your career and the way to do this is to become really aware of how the situation is affecting your decisions.  Self-awareness is key. Let me show you how through the following four steps:

  1. Be aware of thoughts

‘I can’t change career.’

Be aware of how the current situation is making you think and feel. What is going through your mind? Negative beliefs can make you feel miserable and stop you achieving what you want to achieve. Keep monitoring your thoughts – make a note of them to enhance your awareness.

(Have a watch of my video, ‘Building your confidence for a career change’, if you would like to find out more about the impact of thoughts and feelings on our careers.)

  1. Be aware of habits 

‘I must wait until things become certain before I make decisions regarding my career.’

Become aware of any habits you have developed or become reliant on that keep you within your comfort zone.  What are they? How to they make you behave?  What will be the consequences of these habits?

  1. Challenge your beliefs 

‘I don’t have to wait to change career. (I may be waiting a long time if I wait for certainty.)’

You are likely to have already built up the evidence to support your existing thoughts and beliefs through what others are doing.  Now find the evidence that disproves these thoughts.  Who do you know who has changed career?  What information can you find about careers post coronavirus? Who is advertising job vacancies?

  1. Develop new habits

‘I can change career!’

It’s time to develop new habits that help you move forward and ultimately be happy. It can take 20-30 days of introducing a new habit, to break the old one but the important point here is that it is possible to change them, it may just take a little time to do so.  Be patient and take one step at a time, breaking any activity you want to achieve into small steps and start building change into your routine that will help you make the changes you want to make in your career.

A lot of our happiness is determined by our actions, attitudes and what we do on a daily basis and the four steps I have described are steps you can take that will help you to make decisions regarding you career that make you happy and increase your chances of being successful.

Changes to our existing habits will help us to adapt to hard times, be happy and help us move forward in our careers.

To read more about finding happiness in your career, have a read of my blog ‘The secret to finding happiness in your career’.

Making career decisions in uncertain times

`Tracks

“It’s a whole new track.  It’s not going back.  It’s just all different and it’s different forever…It’s creating my next track…I’m figuring out what I want to do.  What do I care about?  It takes time to process your life and figure out what it all means…”(Michelle Obama)

This was Michelle Obama’s response when asked how she felt about getting back on track to the life she had before she became First Lady of the United States.   A response that is extremely relevant to all of us today as we attempt to look beyond coronavirus and make decisions about our future. We are all starting to create our next track.  The question is, how do we do this?  How do we start taking control and making decisions about our future careers when everything appears so uncertain?

The track of uncertainty

Before the time of Covid-19, we were all moving along our own track, considering, and making decisions and creating a life for ourselves.  There were often bumps and cracks on the track and sometimes we were faced with difficult decisions about our careers, the kind of decisions that can only be made with certainty if we could successfully predict the future, a luxury none of us have!

Covid-19 then happened, and this uncertainty was reinforced as we were all sent on a lockdown diversion from our existing track.  This wasn’t any old diversion; this was a life changing diversion and nothing like anything we had experienced before. The diversion took us in a completely different direction which required us to live our lives differently.  We had little control over this track and its destination, filling our lives with what felt like a new level of uncertainty as we experienced feelings of insecurity, anxiety and stress over a number of weeks as the country tried to control the virus.

As things slowly improve, we are gradually being given back some control.  Undoubtedly this has its benefits, but it also means the time is fast approaching for us to face making decisions again about our daily lives and careers.  It is time to create our new track by navigating the impact coronavirus has already had on our lives and will continue to do so in the future.

The challenges of creating a new track in an uncertain world

Making decisions and creating a new track is easier said than done, isn’t it?  I know many people are reluctant to make decisions at the moment, waiting for when life becomes more certain.   However, we know that even before the time of coronavirus, we could not accurately predict the future.  We could not have predicted in March 2019 that we would be subjected to a lockdown in March 2020.  If we wait for a time when things become certain, we will be waiting a long time.

To help stop the waiting game, we first need to tackle one of the initial challenges which can stop us from making decisions and that is lack of confidence.  A lack of confidence can have a huge impact on our ability to make decisions.  How do you now overcome this to enable you to forward and create your new track?

The creation of your new track

There are two areas to focus on here: mindset and imagination.

  1. Mindset

Lockdown has triggered negative thoughts for everyone.  These thoughts will impact how we feel and how we behave.  If you are experiencing negative thoughts at the moment, it is okay.  You may still be feeling anxious which is totally understandable given what our minds have been exposed to and had to process during the pandemic.  You may have been experiencing a lack of confidence prior to lockdown and this has not gone away.  You may have been wanting to pursue a career change prior to lockdown and now feel it’s not possible.

There will always be things, some of greater impact than others, that happen in our lives that make us feel this way. What is important is that you notice how you are thinking, feeling, and reacting and consider whether your reaction will help you move forward constructively.  Remember, negative thoughts have the power to stop you achieving what you want to achieve.  When you are ready, start believing you can make decisions and move on to point 2 to help you to start working out what you want to achieve in your career.

(For further reading on mindset, have a read of these previous blogs, ‘Four rules you need to know for career success’, ‘5 ways to get unstuck to make a career change’,  ‘Showing negative emotion is not the done thing’, ‘Six reasons stopping you getting the job you will love’ and ‘Does looking at past events help you change career?’.)

  1. Imagination

Using our imagination can helpfully guide us with our decision making.  Imagining our ideal future forms a positive basis for our decisions, opening ourselves up to opportunities.  Yes, we can’t account for future obstacles that fall in our way, but these obstacles will continue to shape our future.  A vision provides a starting point for your future plans and enables you to build in flexibility where required to allow for unforeseen events.

(For further reading have a read of these blogs,Making your dream career a reality’ and ‘The best kept secret to career success’. Imagination is always an important focus at the beginning of my career coaching programmes and there is a section on this in my book, ‘The Tea Model: Slowing down in a fast-paced world to find the career you love’.)

How do I know this can work?

I can speak from personal experience with my own career change journey.  I left my job as a solicitor in 2008, having decided to take a career break.  I had been wondering what else the world of work had to offer me but knew if I carried on working as a solicitor I wouldn’t discover other possible opportunities. I didn’t know exactly what the next part of my career path was going to be, and I could not accurately predict my future. However, I had saved enough money to get me through a set period of time and if nothing happened in that time, I would return to law. As it happened, opportunities started to open up to me when I left and to cut a long story short, I have now been running my career coaching business for 10 years.  You can find out more about this in my blog ‘Tessa’s Career Change Journey’.

I know I was not experiencing a world pandemic during this time, but the key principles are the same.  It wasn’t the perfect journey and many of the decisions I made were based on uncertainty.  However, the initial steps were all about mindset (believing I could do it) and using my imagination. I created a long-term vision of what I would love my career to look like and I am still enjoying slotting all the pieces together.

The uncertainty of today is inescapable, we can never say for certain what will happen in the future.   We don’t know the answers to all the questions and we don’t know what the future world of careers is going to look like.  What is important is how we deal with this uncertainty so that we continue to move forward and be open to opportunities. It doesn’t matter if you have to change or adapt your plans along the way.  What is important is that you are creating a track and starting to move forward with the flexibility to adapt and change if necessary.

Coronavirus and careers – what happens next?

butterfly release

2020 has brought an unexpected change to all our lives, a change that will be with us for the foreseeable future and remember forever.  The cause was the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak which, on 11th March, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Stress, confusion, and uncertainty started to fill our lives as we faced an uncertain time of illness, loss of income, job insecurity, isolation and change to all aspects of our daily lives.

Schools, shops, restaurants and many businesses closed and working from home systems and methods of online learning were quickly put in place. Parents became teachers, individuals were furloughed, the risk of future redundancy increased for many, some experienced big pay cuts and others were categorised in the newly evolving definition of the ‘Keyworker’.

Home took on a different meaning in our lives becoming our place of work, our children’s school and our place of relaxation.  We couldn’t see friends or family and relied on video calls for contact with the outside world.  We couldn’t go on outings and had to create our own home entertainment.

Whatever your circumstances, we have all been affected by Covid-19 in some shape or form and are all reacting to the unpredictable disruption to our lives in our own way.

Will life go back to the normal we used to know, or have we now got to get used to the inevitable ‘new normal’ that will lead us into 2021 and beyond?

The questions now facing us are profound:

  • How do we develop ways to get through the hard times?
  • When can we start making decisions again about our future?
  • How will the way we spend our time and energy change?
  • Will there be an escalation in working from home?
  • What will our commutes to work look like in the future and will we reconsider long distance travel for meetings?
  • Is this the time to be reinventing our lives and our careers considering options such as a career change?
  • Will people consider portfolio careers as a safer option against aligning themselves to a single employer?

Over the next few months, I will be publishing a series of blogs to help you start piecing together the answers to these questions.  I admit I do not know all the answers, if only I did!  However, what I can provide is help based on my many years of experience in career, confidence and performance coaching combined with what I am currently witnessing in the world of careers.  As we continue to face disruption in our personal and working lives, I hope I will be able to provide you with some consistency, calmness, and support to help reduce anxiety and stress, raise positivity and encourage aspirations, enabling you to discover ways to move forward happily and confidently into your ‘new normal’.

In the meantime, think about the best next step for you to take that will help you adapt to any concerns you currently face, focusing on the things that are in your control now as you start to gradually see and experience the world outside your home again. Start reintroducing feasible aspects of your life that you enjoyed before and can enjoy again, no matter how small.  It may be a walk with a friend or trip beyond your home and surrounding area.  Think of new ways to look after yourself.

Lockdown can be an opportunity for us all to reset, rethink and re-establish our lives as we emerge into the new world of careers.