Personal Development

In an always-on world, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between work and relaxation, but here are eight tips to help you tip the scales. For many in the workforce, achieving any type of work-life balance can be a myth – especially since technology allows us to be accessible around the clock. So how do we do it? I found myself back at work after maternity leave with a 10-month old working full-time and sharing a business with my husband. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and hugely distracted. To overcome this, I devised a list of top tips for balancing work and life. STEP 1 Firstly, take a deep breath. It will all be ok. STEP 2 Work life balance doesn’t happen automatically. It involves making deliberate choices about what you want out of life. Having a roadmap plan and committing to it. Realising what is important to you and working smarter not harder to ensure you can spend your time how you want to.  STEP 3 Communication is key. I still don’t believe we talk to each other enough. You need to be open about what’s working and what’s not. Work will always be there; however, you need to have your personal life and routine in check as a strong foundation. If you feel like you’re veering off course, reach out and talk to someone. STEP 4 Set aside time for your interests, family and friends. Make a point of planning and booking time off work to do the things that are important to you. Don’t wait to see what time is left over as I can guarantee that there won’t be any. Your list of tasks will never be complete and there’s never a good time. STEP 5 Set your own parameters around what success looks like to you. Having a strong sense of who you are, your values and what drives you will help you better understand what makes you happy and to get more of that in your life.  STEP 6 Turn off your distractions. It’s learning the skill of turning off the technology and enjoying the quality time. STEP 7 It’s also important to align your goals in pursuing your passion. Those that do achieve this balance usually have a defined plan around timeframes and what they are willing to sacrifice to get what they want in the end. Don’t let the situation control you, take hold of it head on. STEP 8 The most important tip to achieving work-life balance is building your A Team, also known as your support network. People who are successful and achieve good balance have a strong support network who help them through the tough times. Sorcha Pollack is an Audit Senior at EY Ireland.

Mar 06, 2018

Your job search after you qualify is full of compromises. Before you decide that you can’t live without a steady nine to five, make sure to find out what ‘work-life balance’ means in your new office writes Lisa Hughes. When training in one of the Big 4, it was not uncommon for me to muse on the idea of work-life balance, especially at the height of busy season. Long hours, the occasional (or not so occasional!) working weekend and never being able to really ‘turn off’ were cited as the most common symptoms of a lack of work-life balance. In my time with Barden Recruitment, I have met many recently qualified Chartered Accountants coming out of training contracts who carry this desire for balance into their job search. For some, this can dominate their search, resulting in candidates passing on offers with companies where there is an expectation of more than a 9am to 5.30pm routine. What is work-life balance? Work-life balance is a strange thing. It is not quite what people think it is. For example, I have similar working hours now in recruitment as I did in my training contract, but it’s a different environment. I don’t feel as if my life is being curtailed because of the job I do or the hours I work. In fact, I could nearly go so far as to say that the line between work and life is slightly blurred because of how engaging and challenging I find my role. Recently, I have reflected a lot on the idea of work-life balance and have drawn the following conclusions: Work-life balance in a billable hours environment is very different to work-life balance working in a non-billable hours environment (in other words, outside practice). Work is more structured; there are typically internal, rather than external, stakeholders and busy cycles (month/quarter/year-end), but there are also more steady periods. Working in a training contract is simply incomparable to working as a qualified accountant outside of practice – it is like comparing an orange to a grapefruit and concluding that they are both the same! Those of us who have trained in practice over the last seven years have had a more challenging time than most – in particular from 2012 to present. Understaffing, coupled with huge client demands (especially in some departments), have created a situation that has ultimately  resulted in “tougher” training contracts and a slightly skewed perspective on work-life balance. If you find a job you enjoy, a team you love to work with, a consistency that allows you to build your career and a company you feel a part of – it changes everything. You can make the transition from trainee accountant to qualified accountant work for you. Be sure, however, not to dampen your potential by reflecting a perception of what work-life balance means in a training contract onto the reality of working as a qualified accountant. Spend your time wisely Working in finance is tough. It’s why accountants get so well paid. The 80,000 hours you will spend in work will make up a majority percentage of your waking hours. Those hours shouldn’t be spent wishing for 5.30pm so that you can “get on with your life”. These hours are a big part of your life. Spend them wisely and they will feel a whole lot different. Don’t mistake an orange for a grapefruit. Try them both and then make a call.

Mar 01, 2017

The happiest people in the world are busy but don’t feel rushed, according to author Daniel Pink. Introduce balance to your life in five simple steps. Striking a sustainable work/life balance in today’s ‘always on’ environment isn’t easy. While you will be keen to make a good impression on your colleagues and superiors, it’s important to embrace the ‘off’ button too. Work/life balance is different for each individual, and will alter as you go through life’s many stages. Whether you’re a trainee or FCA, the following tips will help you establish a routine that allows you to excel at work while investing in the people and experiences that are important to you. 1. Technology Technology is a great servant, but a terrible master. It will absorb vital hours each week and sabotage your sleeping habits unless you set clear boundaries, particularly for social media. And when you’re not in the office or on annual leave, use the time to unwind. Avoid ‘checking in’ or reading emails and instead, give your brain a chance to rest and recuperate. 2. Prioritise A key life skill is the ability to differentiate between the urgent and important, and act accordingly. Know how to add value for your employer and also, know what’s important for you personally. Make deliberate choices in life and ring-fence that personal time – be it for family activities or your favourite sport. 3. Control A loss of control can lead to anxiety, so be clear on what’s required and what’s possible. If there’s an expectation gap, talk to your superior. While everyone must work through busy periods, the idea that you will get everything ‘done’ if you work long and hard enough is a myth. Pace yourself, work hard, and know when it’s time to clock off. 4. Play to your strengths Peter Drucker, the famous management consultant and author, advised individuals to understand what only they can do well and step up to the plate in those areas. The rest, he said, should be delegated, outsourced or neglected. While it might not be wise for a trainee to neglect a task, it’s important to let your colleagues know where you can add the most value and expertise. You will enjoy your work more and your productivity will rise accordingly. 5. Reward yourself Some people strive to achieve every day. While ambition is a laudible trait, it’s important to reward yourself for your hard work and take time off when it’s due. The training contract is a demanding programme but developing a single calendar for work, study and family will help you achieve a degree of balance between all three. Conclusion This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means but to get to the root of your ideal work/life balance, list everything that competes for your time. When complete, decide with ruthless vigour what to keep and what to discard. You don’t necessarily need to work more to get things done, or less to have a better work/life balance. The real key is taking control of how you use the time available to you.

Sep 01, 2016