How I measure my work life balance and why you should do the same

Have you ever had a week where you’re happily plodding along then suddenly something really rubbish happens? Your boss dumps something on you at 5pm on a Friday night; you have a massive row with your partner which leaves you so angry you don’t want to talk to them. Or maybe it’s just that you wake up one morning after a crappy night’s sleep feeling too exhausted to go to work that day.

It happens to us all and I am no exception.

As a working mother I have a vested interest in finding better ways to improve my work life balance. And what I’ve noticed over the years is how easy it is for just one bad day to overshadow everything else in my life that is going well.  I forget the good, and focus only on the bad.

This is a problem for anyone who is striving for the holy grail of a balanced life. No matter how flexible our working day, how healthy we are or how well our relationships are going, there’s always something that can happen to throw you off. And when it does, it can feel like you’re whole life is out of whack.

So I decided to do a little experiment. I decided to measure how I was feeling about the different areas of my life at the end of each week, so I could get a truer picture of how balanced my life was and how happy I really felt.

I made 3 discoveries. 1) from week to week, there was almost always a part of my life that I didn’t feel 100% happy or satisfied with; 2) from week to week, there was always a part of my life that I felt extremely happy or satisfied with ; and 3) as long as more of my week fell under 2) above than 1) above, it was enough to make me feel that on balance, my life was, well, balanced.

These discoveries were a major breakthrough for me. They helped me to recognise that all aspects of my life didn’t need to be 100% satisfying 100% of the time in order for me to be happy. Which meant I could stop focusing on the bad, and start to enjoy the good.

So now I’ve made measuring my happiness a regular thing and I highly recommend you do the same. Here’s how I do it:

I have a name for the key areas in my life that really  matter to me, and I give each area a score out of 10, where 10 means in the crudest terms “absolutely brilliant” and 1 represents “completely rubbish, something needs to change”. Here are my categories:

  1. Work – how motivated I am and how fulfilling it has been
  2. Body – how much sleep I’ve had, how well I’m eating, how moderately I’m drinking and how much exercise I’ve done.
  3. Relationship – how well I am getting on with my husband Paul, how much fun we’ve had and time we’ve spent together (having fun, not criticising each other or giving orders!)
  4. Identity – how much me time I’ve had, meaning time dedicated “selfishly” to me.
  5. Kids – how much quality time I’ve had with the boys, where there is more laughing than bossing them around!

So at the end of each week I give each one a score out of ten and add them all up. This gives me my Balance Score – a number out of 50 that is a concrete measure of where I am. I’ve decided that as long as my Balance Score is over 30 I could consider the week a success, and then turn my attention to what I would do the following week to increase my score. When the score is below 30, I take that as a sign that things are way out of whack and I need to create some changes.

Why not give it a try and let me know what you think. Here’s a step by step guide to measuring your balance:

1.Choose your categories.

Which areas in your life need to be working for you to feel that life is good and balanced and fulfilled? What needs to happen in your life for those categories to be perfect.

2. Establish your range.

If you score yourself 1 out of 10, what does that mean? what does 10 mean? What is the minimum you need to score to feel balanced in a particular area? You will probably find you don’t need it to be a 10. I know if I score 7 out of 10 for Identity one week I am pretty happy because it means I got some time to myself. There’s room for more, but I’m satisfied.

3.Calculate your Balance Score

Set aside time at the end of the week or at the weekend to score yourself in each category for preceding week, and then add up your total. This should be at least half an hour when you won’t be disturbed, but at a push can be while you’re doing the washing up or on the train into work.

4. Learn from your score

The most important bit, is what you then do with the information. Ask yourself the following:

  • What do the individual scores tell me about my life and where I need to focus my time
  • What will I do differently next week to improve my score in a particular area
  • What does the over all score tell me about how balanced my life is?

Answering this last question is really important. It shows how balanced your life is over all and it shows that you’ll soon discover that not everything has to be perfect or brilliant every day of every week to give you balance. If you have had a lousy day at work, but you’ve had great fun with your partner, some magic moments with your kids, and found time to have a bath on your own, by measuring your score you can come out feeling that your life is balanced and that you are in control.

Being able to enjoy and appreciate the little things and acknowledge what these are can transform your experience of your world. You may have a better work life balance than you think.