NPW Self Curious: Dancing with your (work/life) self

I like new year resolutions. The beginning of the school year often feels even more like a fresh start than 1st January.

What’s your resolution for the (unofficial) new year?

A lot of the conversations I have in my work life centre on this, and a repetitive theme is time.

“More time for myself.”

“More time for development.”

“More time with other people.”

“Keeping within my hours.”

“Maintaining a good balance on my flexitime so I get good quality time at home.”

A few weeks back I wrote about why it can be helpful to think about our energy budget and not our time budget – worth checking out if this is something you’re into here.

Time management (or energy management) is sold to us like a skill. A set of rules to follow to be an efficiency ninja. In real life that isn’t how it feels.

It’s helpful to think about why we want more productivity dollars in the bank? For me, it’ll usually be for people and experiences. It’s often about wanting to feel a certain way, and that isn’t something I need e-learning and a quick reference PDF guide for.

Regardless of how flexible our work is, each of us has to lean on a different blend of our strengths at work than we might in our personal lives. It’s for good reason: by and large, we don’t spend our personal lives in the same network, and with the same “operational” need to get things done.

In the mental workspace we channel our thoughts and energy into connecting with colleagues, focussing on our work challenges and making progress on the things we need to do to get to our workplace goals. Unless you’re the owner and Global Chair of your own company, you can influence those goals but probability says most of us do not ultimately choose them.

Outside of that time it’s different. We can ponder what to cook for dinner, where to go on holiday, whether we need to buy new socks (and how wacky their pattern will be) and how the people who share our lives outside of work are getting on. That free space is the part where we have the most control, the one where we are ultimately the CEO.

There are so many opinions out there on work-life balance, work-life blend, on/off, ‘thinking like an entrepeneur’, ‘work to live not live to work’… You could paper the outside of Media City with all the motivational posters that talk about your time an ‘having it all’.

Trying to carry thoughts, reminders and pieces of information between our mental workspace and free space can weigh us down. Trying to pivot between a focussed and productive work life and doing all the things you want to do and be for yourself and your friends outside of work can be exhausting.

And ultimately the answer is to leave the work phone switched on, just in case. Or to have the personal phone by your desk. Just in case.

But what if you could split yourself in two?

Work Claire has Life-CEO Claire’s number. They WhatsApp each other links and ideas. Thoughts and reminders. They have access to one another’s Trello boards. If the work firewall would allow, they’d share their calendars and would swear a lot less in the office (sorry, lovely colleagues). Sometimes they schedule a 30 min handover over 0730 coffee between the commute and the office to exchange the scribbles in the margins of their notebooks when the lines seem blurred.

Work Claire and Life-CEO Claire are also allowed to be proud of one another. (Work in progress…) They are generous friends. Learning gets applied from one to the other. They learn from one another’s mistakes. It’s a long distance friendship in some ways – they don’t always see one another’s friends in one big pub meet-up – but they share similar passions.

Both Claires love to travel. They both know when they have had enough coffee, though whether or not they stick to it is another matter. They are both confident introverts who need a balance of fact finding and engagement time face to face and those stretches of time where nobody sees them or talks to them.

It’s not a balance: neither has to compromise their time for the other. It’s a relationship, where give and take comes with understanding, spice, and a whole lot of bromance. Or whatever the gender neutral version of bromance is. It’s a dance. And what a fabulous
dance it is.

Claire Eadington geeks out on workflow management, performance and wellbeing. Claire’s TEDx talk about barriers to performance for exceptional women kicked off the 2017 TEDxWhitehallWomen event in London.

Claire writes a weekly blog, Self Curious, on NPW’s website.
Read more blogs here.



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