Striking the Perfect Work-Life Balance in the Modern World.

Last week I spoke on a panel for Women in Recruitment on the topic “How To Have It All – Striking Balance Across Personal and Professional”. While the other speakers strongly felt that “Having it all” is, and I quote, “bull***t”, I prefer to think about it as having YOUR all. It’s not a universal IT, because IT is different for every one of us and IT changes, perhaps not day to day, but over time. What I wanted in my 20s is very different to what I want now in my late 30s and I’m sure is nothing like what I will want in my 50s.

Compared to the other panellists, on paper I have a more traditional version of “Having it all”. I live in Hong Kong and enjoy an expat lifestyle, I have a great job as APAC CEO, my husband and I have a beautiful 9 month old daughter Charlotte (who is finally sleeping through the night – and I tell you that alone is having it all!), I am President of the Hong Kong Netball Association and play at the elite level and finally, but for me so important, I have an amazing circle of friends and a supportive family. And while that is my version of “Having it all”, to others I know it sounds like an absolute nightmare! It’s not easy to balance all the above and I rely heavily on my husband and full-time helper, Grace, so I can work full-time and balance my other activities. I regularly doubt myself and feel like I’m letting people down on a daily basis, but ultimately, I believe that I am a better mother because I work and have other commitments, and I am a better employee for the same reason.

Having it all doesn’t need to be what society or family tell you, and it doesn’t even need to be what you thought you wanted when you were younger. “Having YOUR all” is about being happy with the balance you have created for yourself. It’s choosing where to invest your time, money and energy to ensure you feel fulfilled in life. And it’s about being brave enough to acknowledge when you were wrong about what you wanted and flexing it as your goals and desires change.

Before Charlotte, I found it much harder to say no to work, to social events, to whatever. Protecting my boundaries has been a major learning curve for me but something that is so crucial to my happiness. It has also made me think about how I behave as a business leader. Am I role modelling the right behaviours? We all know the lines between work and home have blurred due to the pandemic, but now I think twice about emailing colleagues out of hours or messaging while they are on annual leave, because if I want my team to have a proper mental break from work, I need to lead by example too.

So here are my hot tips and key takeaways:

  • Sometimes good is good enough. You don’t always have to strive for perfection.
  • Sleep is non-negotiable. Know how many hours you need to function at your best and protect it fiercely.
  • Stop judging! Both yourself and others! The kindest thing we can do for one another is to stop comparing ourselves.
  • Make time for yourself. Schedule in whatever it is you need to find balance. Could be exercise, lunch with friends, a long bubble bath, or hanging out with your family.
  • Look for opportunities to be more efficient with your time and kill 2 birds with 1 stone e.g. exercise with your friend, use your commute to listen to a podcast, or even hire a cleaner. Whatever will help reduce stress and increase happiness!
  • Say no more often! It’s amazing how empowered you will feel.
  • Learn to be ok with uncertainty and ambiguity. This is key to becoming content.
  • You can be grateful for what you currently have without compromising on ambition or wanting more.
  • Everyone is winging it to some extent, so try to combat your impostor syndrome appropriately!

Take the time to think about what you really want, then go about trying to get there. Life is a journey and although you may never reach the nirvana of having IT all, just make sure you enjoy the ride!

Let me know if you agree or disagree!

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