Forget balance. How’s your work life rhythm?

I haven’t had a 9-5 job for a long time. But I don’t think many people do these days, even if they are supposed to.

Ever since I became a mum 9 years ago, I’ve been juggling and experimenting with different working patterns – from 2 mornings to 3 days a week, evenings, weekends, random nap times, and varying combinations of nursery, childminders and amazing supportive friends.

I never knew how to answer the question “how many hours a week do you work?” because every week was different.

When my youngest started school last September, I found myself with 5 days a week to work again. And this too has been an experiment.

There have been short days, where I find myself saying:

“What? 3 o’clock already?!”

And long days:

rhythm-crazy

Indulgent days off, because if I don’t make these things happen, they never just happen:

rhythm-indulge 

And slightly more random ones:

rhythm-random

It doesn’t always work out:

rhythm-doh

At least not in the way I planned:

rhythm-allchange

I learnt to say no:

rhythm-ruthlessness

So that I could say yes to what really mattered to me.

Like the day I did a workshop first thing in Birmingham, came back to Stafford to watch Punch and Judy and eat ice cream with my daughter to celebrate the end of her reception year at school, before jumping on another train to London…

Friends think I’m crazy. “What a nightmare!” said one of my Think Productive colleagues.

But on the contrary, it’s my dream in progress. As I told them, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get to do work I love, with people I love working with, and be there for the people I love. Yes it’s hard work, yes it’s a juggle, yes it’s messy.

And no, I wouldn’t call it balanced at all. And that’s ok. Because I’ve never really believed in balance.

Instead, I’ve been learning to find my own rhythm.

And it is most definitely an ongoing experiment. But here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. There will be highs and lows, ebb and flow. Life isn’t uniform, so don’t try and make it that way. Generally speaking, flat lines usually indicate an absence of life.

2. Allow yourself to run with life when it speeds up, and you’ll realise you can indeed run. You might even find it addictive – don’t say I didn’t warn you!

3. Create pauses. Don’t wait for the music to stop. Be deliberate about creating moments to stop, pause, take a deep breath, recover and recharge.

4. A steady beat holds everything together. Develop habits and structure to give yourself some constant.

5. Don’t try to work out all the steps before you start. The only way to find your groove is to start moving.

6. Learn to speed up and slow down. There is beauty and brilliance in both. Much of my learning this year has been in soaking in the slow moments as well as enjoying the thrill of the rollercoaster. Don’t wish any of it away.

7. There is a season for everything. Whatever you choose to do with each moment, do it wholeheartedly.

8. There is life at work and life outside of work. Don’t forget to live it.

9. Play with your rhythm. Make it up as you go along. Sometimes you’ll fall, sometimes you’ll fly.

10. Everything is negotiable. It’s ok to create your own rules.

Over to you – what do you think? Are you a fan of balance? Or are you ready to create your own rhythm? Let me know your take on things in the comments below.

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