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“I’m Fine Thanks” – Adjusting Your Work Life Balance

“I’m fine thanks”. How many times have you heard yourself say that to someone when really you want to shout out loud, “Actually, I’m tired”, “I want to sleep in my own home”, “I want to eat dinner with my family”, “I want work to be 10 minutes from my house…” I wonder how many claims consultants reading this began their working week at an airport on the first flight out, or on a motorway with a few shirts or skirts hanging up in the back of their car? The consultancy world is one that really is fraught with anxiety and poor work life balance.

Many news articles today talk about mental health and wellbeing and I absolutely understand why, but for the freelance consultant what is plan B? If you take time off sick you are unlikely to earn money, if you tell the contractor why, you are likely to find yourself replaced. None the less your work life balance does need to be addressed. Having lived the life of the consultant e.g. working silly hours, living in a hotel and constantly under pressure, I do know that most suggestions sound unreasonable to achieve. So here’s a few that have worked for me:

1. Spend at least 15 minutes of your day outside – walking (not having a fag!). Breathing fresh air is one benefit but changing state e.g. moving from one situation to another, gives your mind a rest and enables you to think clearly.
2. Say thank you when someone does something for you – no matter how small. It is proven that both showing appreciation and receiving appreciation has a positive impact on the brain cells that make us feel good.
3. Reduce the amount of tea or coffee you drink. Swap it for water. This discipline is quite hard to do but it is amazing how much better you feel and how much more clearly you think when you are properly hydrated.
4. Plan for a feeling of achievement – you can do this by having a set of actions mapped out for your day. As you tick them off, allow yourself two minutes to recognise that you are structured, professional and good at what you do. Be proud and stop taking yourself for granted.
5. Do a puzzle – a crossword, Sudoku, a logic challenge – you can do it whilst you have a drink before dinner or another glass of water…It really lets your mind focus on something else and it keeps your brain charged! (It is when you come to do this that you may realise how dehydrated you are – how your brain is in a fog, unfocused, unhappy and unhelpful.)

All you can do each day is to try and give yourself a little bit of breathing space and adjust your work life balance. Don’t set the bar too high for yourself as you are likely to face failure and that is really not a positive emotion.

Penny Whitelock



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