In spite of the vast array of modern time-saving technologies we all have less and less free time.
Many people find themselves constantly torn between the pressures of work and personal life. We need to earn a living, but we also want quality time for our partners, our family, our friends and for ourselves. It can often feel as though there just aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week. And while we rush around trying to fit more and more activities into less and less time, it is often our relationships that suffer.
Why time is so important
Time together is to a relationship what water is to a plant. It's how a relationship is nurtured and cared for. It's the stuff that makes it stronger and helps it to grow. To stay connected, you need to feed your relationships with time. Time to keep in touch with what's happening in your everyday lives. Time to share your hopes and dreams as well as your fears and failings. And time to have fun.
How to re-align your work/life balance
Accept your life stage
There will be times in your life when you have even less time than normal. For example, when you have very small children, have just started a business or are caring for an elderly relative. There may be very little that you can do to change your circumstances in times like these. But simply learning to accept where you are in life and knowing that this is a phase can help you to feel less stressed and to look forward to the future.
If you're feeling stressed at work, talk to your manager about your workload. Sometimes it can help to review priortities together to help you schedule your work. Employers need to be aware of where pressures lie in order to address them.
Look after yourself
Take proper breaks when you're at work, regularly skipping lunch or not drinking enough water during the day will only make you feel worse. Exercise helps to reduce stress levels so join a gym or go for a long walk after work. Taking time out to have a long bath or watch a film can also help you relax and disconnect from work pressures.
Smart phones and tablets are great for staying in touch but they also mean we can be online 24/7 - even when we're not at work. Try to set a deadline each day to switch off your work phone and stop checking emails. When you're on holidays try to avoid taking work calls or picking up emails. Before you go on leave, make time with your manager or line reports to plan cover for work while you're away. If there's something really urgent you need to deal with, try to agree a short window of time when you can respond and stick to that.
Expand your timetable
If it's simply not possible to fit everything into one week, consider expanding your timetable. Rather than stressing and ultimately failing to manage that meal with your partner or a meet up with friends, consider scheduling on a fortnightly or even monthly basis. It may not be ideal, but it may be more realistic and less likely to fail.
If you're going through a particularly demanding time in your life, get as much help as you can. There are a multitude of ready meals and partly prepared dishes available as well as a host of technological miracles from online shopping to the dishwasher. Ask a friend to help with errands or ask a sibling or grandparent to babysit. You'd do the same for them if the situation was reversed.
Don't be a perfectionist
Remember that when you're very busy it's better to let your standards slip than your relationships. Any meal tastes better when it's eaten together and you can't see the clutter by candlelight.
Schedule time together
Lots of people feel it's far too formal to schedule time together as a couple or as a family. But sometimes setting aside regular time to see each other is the only way to make it happen. Agree a regular day when you have a meal together or go to the cinema, knowing that you have to be somewhere by a certain time also helps you leave work on time. Similarly, planning to meet friends after work helps you stay in touch and a good chat can help you de-stress if you've had a tough day.
Think quality, not quantity
It's a clichÃ©, but it's true. If you only have a short period of time to play with, then make every second count. Book times when you can talk as well as times when you can crash out together on the sofa and watch a film. And remember that nowadays it can be easy to keep in touch during the day. Get into the habit of exchanging texts, making a phone call, or meeting for lunch if you work near each other. Do whatever you can to keep in touch.
Consider your priorities
If you've tried everything above and you still don't feel you have enough time as a couple, then you may have to have a long hard look at your priorities. Are there activities in your life that you should seriously consider dropping, at least for the time being? Sacrificing something you enjoy doing is always difficult - but are you willing to risk your relationship instead?
How we can help
If you're finding it hard to manage your work/life balance and you're worried it's damaging your relationships, there are various ways we can help.