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Learning to keep your balance
  1. Adrian Nelson-Pratt


Balancing your work and your life proving impossible? Finding you have no time to offer yourself the care you offer others? Adrian Nelson-Pratt says the first step to rectifying the situation is to consider just how you are spending your days.

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Adrian Nelson-Pratt is a vet and an accredited performance coach. He is the founder of EMERGE Veterinary, which uses coaching and networking to help support personal development, career diversity and mental wellbeing within the veterinary profession

Is work-life balance a mythical beast to you? Are work and life the opposite sides of the same coin, juggled until you find a sweet spot where your time is comfortably divided?

Work-life integration is an alternative approach. It blurs the demarcation between work and everything else, while allowing individuals to retain control over their time. It has been supported by the rise of technology, which has allowed us to stay connected and theoretically ever-more productive while awake.

However, for many vets integration is challenging because work doesn’t flex. Long working hours, defined place of work and high levels of responsibility, such as on call or business ownership, can leave you less able to psychologically detach from work and gain vital rest.

In addition, while the intention of technology may be to make us more efficient it can often consume our attention without adding value.

Feeling time poor or habitually busy has become normal for many

The consequence is feeling time poor or habitually busy has become normal for many and has negative consequences for wellbeing and mental health.

To get a sense of how well you are currently balancing or integrating your work and your life, take a piece of paper and draw a big circle in on it. That’s your 24 hours and everything has to fit inside this big bubble. Take a typical day and, inside the 24-hour bubble, draw a bubble that represents your work. Make it proportional: for example, an eight-hour work day fills one third of the big bubble.

How do you fill your 24-hour bubble?

What else do you need to fit in your day? Sleep usually comes second, so draw a sleep bubble. Now let your brain go. Think of how you spend your time and draw all the different elements of your day inside the 24-hour bubble.

Did you fit it all in? What did you forget? Have you been honest with yourself? How long do you spend on the loo? Or scrolling through social media?

If your 24-hour bubble overflowed and you creatively squeezed elements of your day into it, then it’s likely you’ve set yourself up to do more in a day than there are hours.

There are two ways to respond to this. The first is to rebalance your bubbles. The second is to make your 24-hour bubble bigger. That sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? You can’t create more time in the day but relatively speaking you can work out where you’re losing time and win it back.

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