Let’s Talk About…Finding Balance in Life and Work

Q: I want next year to be better than the past year, balancing work and life and getting what I need from both. Where do I start?

Now is a great time to plan for next year and beyond. Imagine how much more you’ll enjoy the end-of-year festivities knowing that you’ll emerge next year with your wheels already in motion!

I find it interesting how we generally speak of Work and Life seperately, almost giving permission for one to battle the other. But Work is surely just a part of Life, alongside many other potentially fulfilling areas? For many, Life is nonetheless felt to be trailing humbly in Work’s wake. Why? Two core themes have stood out to me so far. Firstly, the working world is built on regular situation analysis and goal-setting. That is, it is driven by strategy. Secondly, in Work we seem to hold a more active fear of disappointing ourselves or others (boss, peers, or clients), rational or otherwise. Outside Work, strategy is far less evident, and disappointing ourselves or others due to work-related demands has sadly become accepted. If only friends and family could pay us a salary!


If your boss (and maybe that’s you!) has given you a clear, timetabled vision of what you’re aiming towards in Work, but you haven’t provided yourself  with a clear, timetabled vision of what you want to aim towards in Life, then where is the foundation for a bit of ‘healthy competition’, or even just ‘balanced co-existence’? What do you actually want? What do you mean when you say “better”? Clarify and define, then do it again! Forget about what you don’t want. Forget vague, broad-sweeping statements. Picture the goal, not what you’re trying to get away from – this change alone has an important subconscious impact.


Like a business, name your departments (Family, Friends, Work, Finances, Self-development, Hobbies/Interests, Health, …) and start monitoring progress for each.  What does each area do? What should it be doing? Score each of them out of 10. What score, realistically, would you like it to have by end of next year? What needs to happen next  year to move satisfaction in the area of Family from, say, a 6 to an 8?

Take time to strategise, and write rather than just thinking. “Where would I like to be in a year?” is an alright question. “What steps will get me there?” is where the magic happens.  Make sure your goals are SMART (specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, timed). Make sure you understand the smaller objectives you need to achieve within each goal. If the goal is a wall, the objectives are the bricks – smaller, they make the process less overwhelming,

For example, a goal “To manage a team by January 2024” might contain objectives relating to communicating your goal to your manager, understanding skill gaps, setting up a training/coaching plan, monthly progress meetings this year…

A goal “To help my son make a good college choice next year” might involve defining together what you mean by “good”; understanding his desires for his future student/working life; discussing his strengths, weaknesses, interests, motivators and natural talents; getting him talking to people in different careers…


No area of Life works in isolation. Changes to one may impact your time, energy or cash availability for another, so be realistic about the true impacts of each change you consider. Some change is of course manageable; a change overdose is not recommended, however high your enthusiasm levels might be! Aim for 2-3 goals for next year.

Above all, don’t forget to regularly check your goals for actual progress. Life rewards action, not intention.


This Q&A was first published in Irish Tatler magazines.

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