Published in Issue 12  (December, 2015) of International Coaching News magazine


Personal Coaching is all about helping each individual make one or more changes to their life.  As a coach one of the things that we have to be aware of is the time that it takes to make a change.  Often this starts with trying to find time for the coaching session, then trying to find time to do the actions that the client says that they will do, all the while trying to keep a balance of life around them.

scaleThe phrase Work/Life Balance is one that we’ve all heard for many years, but what is Work/Life Balance?  Some say that it’s a modern day dream which comes from the minds of overworked professionals who want to ‘have it all’.  They want to be able to work, have a significant other, have a family, have a great social life, go on fabulous holidays, maintain a healthy lifestyle, while cramming it all into 24 hours a day.  How can you have a balance between work and the rest of your life if work always has to be the priority?  It is said that in the USA, one five people work from home, so ask yourself ‘what happens with those of us who work from home?’

What is Life?  What is Work?

life-exchange-rateThe standard coaching Wheel of Life allows each person to segment their life and often you will see ‘work’ as one segment, but really work is multiple elements.  So in this example I’ve split the Wheel of Life into two halves – Work on the left and Life on the right.

When you consider that of the 168 hours you have each week, you spend 40 hours at ‘work’.  That is less than one quarter of your time – 23.8%.  If you sleep on average 8 hours a night, you are sleeping for about a third of your life – 33.3%.  That totals to 57.1%.

The challenge though with work today is that using today’s technology it is hard to switch off ‘work’.  Emails come through on your mobile, on your iPad, on your laptop, and on your desktop computer.  Social media is the same.  Years ago I had a mobile phone which allowed me to set ‘switch off’ time.  It was fabulous.  It meant that after 7pm in the evening, no-one could get hold of me unless they had my home phone number.  No work encroached on my personal life.  Today though sadly this feature is no longer available and I have to remember at 6pm each evening to switch off my mobile and I do!  Added to which – shock! horror! – I do not have emails or social media on either my mobile or my iPad.  I’ve been asked many times: ‘how do you survive?’

Well I go back to the days when I used to walk out of the office in London, catch the train and read a book, then get in the car and drive home; I had a clear defining line between work and my personal life.  ‘If the world was so successful in those days, what’s changed today’?  Nothing more than our impression of importance.

There is a wonderful quote from Henry David Thoreau.
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”

There is an expectation that we can have it all, while giving a larger amount of our time to ‘work’.  I’ve sat next to people on trains and in planes who have to be available!  They have to be doing something that demonstrates to their boss that they are ‘working’.  Why?  With technology today, there is an expectation that you are available.  Who set this expectation?  Your boss?  Your colleagues?  Your clients?  No! You!  I know that people can’t believe when I tell them that I work between specific hours and that, for example, I am never available in the evening.

life-exchange-rate-1One episode provided me with a clear understanding of how much time I spent at work and how little life I had.  So when I used the Wheel of Life to determine where I was spending my time, I got this result.

I did the calculations and realised that I was spending over 80% of my time working and sleeping.  Taking into consideration that I was sleeping for on average 6 hours a night – you can see that the majority of the time was spent at work.

My life exchange rate was definitely not in my favour and if I had still be investing in the money markets I would be losing. 

How do you become aware of your own life exchange rate?  Simply doing the same exercise.

Take a standard Wheel of Life and enter into the segments all the places you are actually spending time, where you need to be spending time and where you want to be spending time.  It can include things like ‘watching TV’, ‘reading a book’, ‘chatting to friends’, and ‘playing games with my children’.  It is important that you are true to yourself when you determine where you are spending your time, where you want to be spending your time, and where you need to be spending your time.

Then rate each segment, where 1 is no time at all or not enough time, through 10 where you are spending exactly the right amount of time.  What does your life exchange rate Wheel of Life look like?

It’s easy to say that technology is to blame, and although technology is making it easier to be accessible; technology is not to blame!  You make the decision to prioritise your time and often you will be re-acting rather than considering.  What do I mean by this?  Each person has their mobile phone within easy reach.  Each time it bleeps, rings, beeps, or makes a sound; there is this intense need to pick it up and see the reason.  It works based on a ‘fear of missing something’ and has brought into this world an urgency which is disproportionate to its priority.  Although technology has created the opportunity to feel that everything that is happening is urgent, it is your relationship with your technology that is off-balance.  Go back to what I said about automatically switching my mobile off at 7pm or physically switching it off at 6pm – what happens to those messages?  They are still there the next time I switch the mobile on!  The world hasn’t shut down.  They haven’t disappeared. 

life-exchange-rate-2My learning of how much I exchanged my personal life for work was not a comfortable learning and it cost me a lot to realise this, both in terms of my health and financially.  To re-balance my life, I gave up living in a dream location; I gave up my business; I gave up living in my comfort zone (or box); I gave up my home; I gave up some of my dreams. 

The advantage though of ‘giving up’ a number of things that I thought were important was that having made these changes, I can now create a Wheel of Life which shows how much time I spend at ‘work’ and in my ‘life’.

Ask yourself or your client the question ‘how much of your life are you exchanging for work?’  

Some people, and I know past clients of mine, who will tell you that their work is their life.  If it is and they show a positive life exchange rate, a balance life, and it is one that they are enjoying, who are we to say that it is wrong?  Simply living a more holistic and balanced life is a life that will allow you to enjoy every minute of it.

Thinking about Henry David Thoreau’s quote “The price of anything is the amount of life you change for it”, how do you understand your life exchange rate?  Simple!  Identify where you are spending your time, need to be spending your time, and want to spend your time.  Clarify if this is balanced!  Confirm that this is where you want to be spending your time.  If your life is not balanced and you are spending too much time at ‘work’, then now is the time for you to make the decision to have a positive life exchange rate!

Living the personal and professional balanced life of your dreams
is a journey of self-discovery and achievement!

© Barbara J. Cormack

© 2015 Barbara J. Cormack.  All Rights Reserved.


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