The Sur­pris­ing ‘Sway’ to Achieve Bal­ance

Look, it hap­pens to the best of us: the late-night birth­day party that ends a lit­tle too close to the early-morn­ing meet­ing with the boss, the last-minute project that keeps you at work well into din­ner plans with your squad…

Cosmopolitan (South Africa) - - WORK - BY ASH­LEY FET­TERS

Some­times (all the time?), it seems im­pos­si­ble to achieve that much­hyped but elu­sive goal: work-life bal­ance. That’s be­cause it is. Giv­ing 100% on and off the job ev­ery day just isn’t re­al­is­tic. Yet women in par­tic­u­lar are sold the idea that they need to find this pro­fes­sional-per­sonal nir­vana, says Shawn Burn, a psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor at Cal­i­for­nia Polytech­nic State Univer­sity. ‘Th­ese too-high stan­dards mean you’ll be do­ing a lot of “should­ing”,’ he says. As in, ‘I should per­form per­fectly at work. I should be the per­fect best friend. I should ex­er­cise ev­ery day.’

Sound fa­mil­iar? The truth is that very few peo­ple can ‘have it all’ in this way. For ev­ery­one else, it’s time to stop stress­ing and start sway­ing.

The term means shift­ing your pri­or­i­ties in a new, not-al­ways-equal way – swing­ing back and forth be­tween your work and non-work life over longer pe­ri­ods rather than try­ing to bring them into har­mony ev­ery day, says Jeanne Thomp­son, head of work­place so­lu­tions thought lead­er­ship at Fidelity In­vest­ments. For ex­am­ple, you might spend two weeks hyper-fo­cused on a work dead­line, ig­nor­ing ev­ery­thing else. The next week, you’re on a beach hol­i­day with no e-mail ac­cess, or putting in less ef­fort on the job so that you can plan your par­ents’ sur­prise an­niver­sary party.

Sway­ing lets you de­vote at­ten­tion and en­ergy to one thing at one time, mak­ing you more ca­pa­ble of pour­ing your­self into what you’re do­ing in the mo­ment. ‘You’re ad­just­ing your fo­cus to help you cope emo­tion­ally with the stress­ful de­mands of your life,’ says Burn. So how do you sway be­tween work, friends, fam­ily and a world’s worth of po­ten­tial dating-app matches? Here are some tips:

1 Study the big pic­ture.

you know that dream of get­ting to work at 9am and clock­ing out at 5pm? yeah, not al­ways go­ing to hap­pen. so stop wish­ing for it ev­ery day. in­stead, take a longer view: how much time have you spent at work and at play in the past week, month or even year? iden­tify pat­terns, and try to an­tic­i­pate them for next year. For ex­am­ple, un­der­stand that when you’re swamped at work in the run-up to the end of the year, your love life (and gym rou­tine and bFF hangs) may take a ma­jor hit. and that’s okay, says thomp­son – as long as, come De­cem­ber, you pri­ori­tise hol­i­day­ing. Hard. at the end of each month, see where you might need to sway. ask your­self if you worked enough hours, and whether you should see your sib­lings. per­haps you made bank – but you missed your fam­ily.

2 Plan ahead.

a few years ago, Hai­ley, 33, a se­nior project man­ager, de­cided she was ready for a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship. but she knew one wasn’t pos­si­ble if she didn’t carve out time from her very de­mand­ing job. so she started to sway. at the be­gin­ning of ev­ery week, she’d de­vote a cou­ple of days to stay­ing late at work and fin­ish­ing big as­sign­ments. then she’d take one night nearer the week’s end to date. ‘i couldn’t spend a lot of time dating, be­cause of my job – but i planned ahead so i could make it work,’ she says. she also blocked off ad­di­tional time else­where to catch up on what­ever she missed at the of­fice when she left early to meet a ro­man­tic prospect. ‘it made it far eas­ier,’ she says. she ex­celled at her job and found love: she’s now been boo-ed up for more than two years.

3 Sway to­gether.

‘many peo­ple who have prob­lems man­ag­ing their pri­or­i­ties don’t like ask­ing for help,’ says burn. ‘they feel they should be able to do it all.’ but sway­ing works best when you call for an as­sist. ali, 28, who works in pub­lic re­la­tions, at­tended eight wed­dings last year and needed col­leagues to cover for her when she was out of town. months be­fore each shindig, she asked them po­litely and of­fered to do the same for them. it worked, al­low­ing her to be present for her loved ones. if your peers aren’t as ac­com­mo­dat­ing, dis­cuss your com­mit­ments (and your in­ten­tion to sway) with your boss, says man­age­ment con­sul­tant Christie lin­dor: ‘this dif­fer­en­ti­ates you as some­one who can make de­ci­sions from a place of strength.’ ■

Yes, you can leave work early – guilt-free!

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