NCT publication Oct 2014

Work-life Balance - a coaching perspective

This is the second of a series of articles for Babble which I hope you will enjoy and find useful.

Whose life is it anyway?

It’s Monday morning and you’re on the tube and someone pushes into you & treads all over your lovely new shoes – arghh!! I don’t normally SHOUT at people I’ve never met, but sometimes I DO, and very loudly! This poor person looked at me and my 5 foot 1 inch frame in alarm & was rendered speechless! (Either that, or was deciding whether or not to punch me… I rapidly moved down the carriage after my outburst). Or perhaps you are late for a Doctor’s appointment with your child and no-one makes space for you and your pushchair on the bus…when you’re stressed with 101 things on your list to do as it is? Don’t these people realise how crazily busy your life is? When you’re out of balance and in stress mode you are likely to react more forcibly, out of character and emotionally in these situations. The same principles apply at home too!

We hear so much about work-life balance and its importance, but how on earth can you achieve it in this day and age when everything happens at 100 mph, expectations are high and you barely have time to breathe. For each of us, it will mean something different. Maybe your stress levels have just risen reading these 2 paragraphs, or maybe you’re just curious to read more?

If you are a working parent your “balance” may fluctuate and there will be times when you feel like your head is going to explode and body is at the point of collapse with the amount of things expected of you and the heaviness on your shoulders; other times it might feel like it’s too good to be true that things are actually working in harmony for a brief moment in time. You may be reading this thinking “but I have no balance, just a constant repeating cycle which I’m trapped in and have no power over”.

For those who are not working in the sense of a paid job, you may be “working” in other ways, either in a voluntary capacity, studying, as a carer for older or younger members of your family, or working to manage everything which makes your household & family tick over and function…

The good news is that you needn’t feel trapped in a repeating cycle, and I’ve put together a brief “Ask Caz” Q & A column below, which reflects some of the many questions Clients have raised with me over the years, and some of the ways in which, with the help of coaching they have changed the way they think or behave in order to regain a balance which is right for them and which they feel more comfortable with.

Q: “How can I make more time for myself when everyone else has expectations of what I’m going to do for THEM?”

A:If you are having trouble making time for the things you love, then looking at your week as a block of time, where you allocate slots of time for certain things is a great way to start to effectively manage time. If you work an average work week of 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, then you are left with 72 hours of time to manage. Where your 72 hours goes is up to you and will be different for everyone. There will be some spent on daily chores like cooking, washing, cleaning etc…Work out how much time you want to allocate to these things and then prioritise the other things you want to fit into your life.

Many of us waste time by doing things we don’t really want to do, other people demand our time and we often feel obliged to give it to them. If time were money, we might be more reluctant to do so. Try to view your time as your most valuable asset before you make decisions about where you are going to spend it. This should help you prioritise and manage time more effectively, allowing you to be essentially making time for yourself. Do a “cost-benefit” assessment of where you are spending your time. What can you let go of or stop doing?

Identify your priorities – Once you have worked out how much disposable time you have, you can start to think about what things you would like to fill that time with. If you only have around 4 hours per day of time for yourself, it will be easier for you to say no to that nagging friend who you don’t really want to see and spend time with your children instead, or help you turn down that unpaid overtime at work.

Q: “I feel overwhelmed with the amount of different directions I get pulled in and sometimes get confused about what is really important & of value to me”

A: Sometimes it can be a good idea to draw yourself a “Wheel of Life”, where you split a wheel into 8 segments (see example below) which cover the main aspects of your life. Consider each section – how satisfied are you with all these areas of your life? The centre of the wheel is 1 and means you are totally dissatisfied; the outer edge is 10 and represents full satisfaction and achievement. Decide your degree of satisfaction from 1 to 10 and mark it on the relevant segment.

How balanced is your life?

Which areas make you happy, satisfied and fulfilled?

Which areas need improvement?This can help to more clearly have a visual picture of how your life is currently balanced (or not). From here, you can take each segment at a time and ask yourself some more coaching questions, which I’ve suggested below.

The wheel can actually be a “Wheel of Anything” which you’d like to take a closer look at, and can cover specific areas such as Professional Development, Fitness, Home, and Career where a deeper dive will help you to gain perspective and balance.

Additional coaching work on Values can also be incredibly helpful in focusing your mind on the important things.

Q:“So how can I self-coach myself around my satisfaction levels on the wheel, and to find improvement in my work-life balance?”

A: Here are some questions you can ask yourself, or perhaps buddy up with someone who can work with you as a Coach:

  • If you look back in 50 years, what would you like to be remembered for? (or if you’re feeling morbid – what would you like to hear at your memorial service or see on your gravestone?).
  • What “habits” have you fallen into, which don’t necessarily have to be that way? (My next coaching article will look at habits and how to break them!)
  • What is within your control and what is not? Focus on what is.
  • What 3 fundamental values do you have in life, and how are they being fulfilled at the moment; how much time are you giving them?
  • What is important to you about your values and goals?
  • What are you willing to do or give up to achieve your goals?
  • How do you want to feel about certain areas of your life? How do you feel right now? What options do you have (get creative!), what steps can you take to make changes?
  • Focus on what is important for you including your physical, emotional and general health and well-being. A balanced diet, exercise (just going for a short walk can help) and doing something that makes you happy will all have a positive impact on your life.
  • Acknowledge your daily achievements, no matter how small they seem to you – keeping a journal, noting all the things that went well in your day and how happy this made you feel, helps immensely. Keep the focus positive and short so it’s fun. Writing it just before you go to sleep will leave you feeling positive.
  • Try something completely new – take up something creative that you are interested in doing or learning.
  • Smile! As you read this just smile and see how you feel. Smiling takes less facial muscles than it does to frown. Plus, smiling makes you feel happy.

Q: “Is there anything I can do while travelling to work, or in between jobs at home which might alleviate my feelings of being out of balance and trapped with no power?”

A: Yes, breathing exercises, visualisation and mindfulness can all help to ground us and help us feel more centred and in control.

  • Make time for yourself. Spending just 10 or 20 minutes a day, perhaps before going to bed, or while your child is napping, or on the bus or tube. Just focus on your breathing going in and out or repeating a positive affirmation in your mind for example on the in breath “I am calm” and on the out breath “I am confident”. If thoughts come into to your mind allow them to flow in and then flow out by concentrating on your breathing again.
  • Visualise something which helps you to feel calm, happy, in control – see it, feel it, smell it. Go to this visualisation whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Have a look at Mindfulness, where complete focus is given to your breathinghttp:


As we travel through life moving from one thing to another we can find ourselves doing the same old things that have always worked and make us feel safe and yet still feeling like something is missing. Following some of the suggestions above will increase your energy and balance allowing you to enjoy life more.
So, in summary, remember that you are in control of your life. You are the playwright, the author of your life story. Enjoy it and don’t live someone else’s!

Caz Hawley(PG Cert in Business & Personal Coaching, Member of the Coaching Circle, ICF, MNCP, MCIPD).
Hawley HR & Coaching Ltd
079202 73361 or 07753 213635

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