The jigsaw of life
Our lives are often full. Parenting, admin, hobbies, family, chores, money, relationships, work…and the list goes on. And often this can feel overwhelming, like we’re constantly running from one thing to the next, trying to fit everything in, like we can’t get a grip on quite what we’re trying to achieve.
And often work can be at the centre of the overwhelm, it can easily take over the rest of our time. Which I guess is where the term work/life balance stems from. I’m most definitely not a fan of the term work/life balance because it implies that work and life are separate things. Work is simply part of ‘life’ along with a myriad of other things. I think we need to stop thinking of our work as something that defines us and realise it’s just a part of our lives. We (our life) are what sits at the centre of everything, and often our challenge is how to fit all of the component parts together so that they complement each other and we can function well, be happy, and grow.
Instead of work vs everything else, I prefer to reframe and think of our lives as a jigsaw, with ‘work’ being just one piece. All the pieces will be unique to you, and the challenge is to make it all fit together nicely. This isn’t always easy, and takes some practice. There will be times when it feels too difficult to get everything to fit snugly, but other times when it all feels like it’s flowing well together and clicking into place.
There are a couple of things we need to be able to do to understand how our jigsaw fits together.
Firstly, we need to be able to get out of the day to day detail, step back and take a look at the bigger picture (see what I did there? Am I taking this analogy too far?). Think about the things that are important to you and are part of who you are. Your list may (or may not!) look something like this:
- My family
- My work
- My exercise
- My home
- My friends
- My time for myself
Then think about how satisfied you are with each of them, and the amount of time they take up, both physically & mentally. How big is each piece? Is that the ideal size or is it taking over? Is it too small? Ask yourself where the stress points are. Ask yourself which elements overlap and where you can make efficiencies. Then think about what the ideal pattern would be.
The second thing we need to do is learn to understand that our priorities (the relative size of our pieces) will change, daily, monthly, yearly. Stuff comes along that means we have to change our focus (a child sent home sick from school, a missed train, a big pitch at work) and if we understand how our jigsaw fits together, we are more able to cope with this change of focus in a low stress and resilient way – we know what can give, what to send to the bottom of our list for a while. The overall size of your jigsaw won’t change, afterall there are a finite number of hours in the day and we have finite capacity as individuals, the sizes of the pieces within it will fluctuate.
It can be really difficult to do sometimes, but I would encourage you to take a step back and look at your jigsaw. Learn how the different components of your life fit together and how and when to prioritise different elements. Getting organised, physically and mentally makes us happier in all areas of our lives and more able to grow.