18th October, 2022

How to Balance Life and Work

With Dr Claire Kaye

Photo of Dr Claire Kaye

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On this episode

Does having a healthy work-life balance seem so unattainable that you’ve given up trying to acheive it? Work takes up most of our time, leaving only spare time for our other commitments. Maybe you have tried doing everything at once, only to end up resentful. This may be because you’re aiming for the impossible.

Dr. Claire Kaye joins us in this episode to discuss why we should never aim for work-life balance, and why you should aim for life balance. We talk about the importance of prioritizing your needs and the things that give you joy. We also teach you practical ways to cope with burnout and create balance in all aspects of your life — career, socials, family, well-being, and hobbies.

If you want to know how to get the life balance you need (and desire), stay tuned to this episode.

Show links

About the guests

Dr Claire Kaye photo

Reasons to listen

  1. Find out why achieving a perfect work-life balance will always fail.
  2. Learn how to do a life audit to work out your priorities.
  3. Get useful tips to cope with burnout and overwhelming situations.

Episode highlights


Life Balance


Different Definitions of ‘Balance’


Building Your Priority List


Find What Gives You Joy


Managing Your Energy


Work-Life Equation


Prioritize Yourself


Coping With Burnout or ‘Unbalanced Life’


Doing Reality Checks


Helping Others ‘Get Unstuck’


Top Tips for Life Balance

Episode transcript

Dr Claire Kaye: When you think about work-life balance, it makes me feel like on one side of the equation, you’ve got work and the other side, you’ve got your life. Whereas actually, life balance is about having a balance in your life — of all the different aspects in your life — which is really powerful. So I just think that’s why it’s so important that the work and life are not on the opposite sides of the equation for me. We are a whole person; we are not two separate people, two shut together, we’re one thing.

Dr Rachel Morris: Do you feel that achieving a good work-life balance is so far from achievable that you’ve given up trying? And do you take it for granted that in your particular line of work, this would just be self-indulgent and potentially career-limiting? The phrase work-life balance is problematic, and often, the seesaw seems so totally unbalanced with work taking up most of our time, and then family commitments expanding to fill any spare time we have, and we give up trying to achieve anything like what feels like a balanced life. But what if we’re looking at it wrong?

In this podcast, Dr Claire Kaye, former GP and career coach, joins me again to discuss how separating life and work and putting them on the opposite side of the equation just doesn’t work. We talk about how achieving balance in life is a dynamic situation with different things taking priority in different seasons rather than carrying on regardless, as life balance seems so elusive. We think about how we could actively pursue this by taking just a short amount of time to think about some key guiding principles.

It doesn’t need to be the case that we have to stop doing the things we love, massively curtail our work or ignore our families. We really can do everything we want to, but perhaps not all at once. So listen to this podcast to find out why trying to achieve a perfect work-life balance will always fail, the barriers that stop people from making the changes they need to, and how to do a life audit to work out what your priorities should be right now.

Welcome to You Are Not A Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer, and speaker. Like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late. But you are not a frog; burning out or getting out are not your only options. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues, and experts, and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier.

I’d like to let you know about a webinar we’ve got coming up all about the three crucial conversations you need to have with your team right now to help them deal with their workload and beat the feelings of stress and overwhelm that many people are feeling at the moment. It’s totally freend it’s particularly for leaders in health and social care. So if you want to build a robust team through difficult times, without burning out yourself, then do join us by clicking on the link in the show notes to register.

Rachel: It’s wonderful to have you back with me on the podcast today, Dr Claire Kay. Claire, welcome back.

Claire: Thanks for having me.

Rachel: It’s great to have Claire. Now, she’s been on the podcast several times before. Claire is an executive coach who specialises in career development and she’s a former portfolio GP. So Claire knows a lot about career crafting, and also, you specialise in self coaching, don’t you, Claire.

Claire: Yes. Don’t get me started. It’s my special interest. So once I start, I won’t stop.

Rachel: We did an episode about self-coaching quite recently, didn’t we? And there’s a lovely guided self coaching thing that you can do at the end of that. So if you’re interested, check it out. But today, Claire, we’re talking about work-life balance, or should I say life balance? Because I’m thinking the phrase probably work-life balance gets you a bit riled.

Claire: Yes, definitely. I wanted to introduce the concept of life balance to the listeners. It’s not my concept, but I think it’s something that’s really powerful and potentially life-changing, actually. When I found out about it really was something that changed and shaped my thinking. So hopefully, it’ll be really quite a powerful concept for people.

Rachel: Now, I have heard it described as life-work balance rather than work-life balance, but is there such a thing? Can you actually achieve that? Or do we need to be looking at it in a completely different way?

Claire: So I think we need to be looking at it a completely different way because I don’t know about you, but I don’t get up and have part of my life as work and part of my life is my life. My life is my life. And part of my life is working. And part of my life is all the other things that I do. And so I kind of see it as when you think about work-life balance, it makes me feel like on one side of the equation, you’ve got work and the other side you’ve got your life.

Whereas actually, life balance is about having a balance in your life, of all the different aspects in your life, which is really powerful. This concept was first brought to my attention because one of my colleagues Rue went to a talk at the BMJ. There was a gentleman there called Pedro Delgado, and he was talking about this concept of life balance. So it’s started to filter in then. And it’s something that’s really become prominent both in my own thinking, but when I’m working with clients.

Because why is it that we think about work as separate to our lives? It’s ridiculous. It is part of our lives. And if work isn’t balanced, then our lives by default don’t balance, because it’s part of it. So it’s about trying to get that sense that we are a whole holistic person. And part of our lives is work and part of our lives is social and part of our lives is wellbeing and, or whatever else it is important to you: family, friendships, exercise, whatever it is. But they all need to be in balance, not work on one side and life on the other.

Rachel: I totally agree. I think we are really suffering at the moment, and particularly, people that are working from home. Now I know, most of our listeners are actually going into practice in hospitals and surgeries out in the community. But there are a lot of us. And even if you are working in the frontline, a lot of the admin side of things is now done at home, which makes it much, much harder to separate work in life.

And like you said, it is actually very difficult to separate it anyway. But is there not a school of thought that would say actually is pretty good to have boundaries between the two and have separate ways of being at work? Separate ways of being at home? If you don’t have that separation, it’s not good for us? Or are you arguing that actually, it’s really difficult to get that so you just got to look at everything all together always as a whole?

Claire: No, I think, look, the concept of having separation and boundaries is part of life balance. I’m not going to be exercising while I’m at work, necessarily, I’m not going to be necessarily working while I’m cooking the dinner, you need to have separate parts of your life. But I suppose it’s just trying to think about your work as not being a separate part away from your life, it is part of your life.

Now that might be that you might say okay, well, for me to have balance in my life, to have life balance, I need to be working up until 6pm. And after 6pm, I need to be doing whatever else I need to be doing. That’s a boundary within your life, as opposed to a work-life balance boundary, which I don’t know if that makes sense. It’s that sense of, ‘Yes, we can have boundaries. But actually, work isn’t separate to our life, it’s part of our lives, is just working out that there are lots of different facets of our life.’ So we need to be in balance and part of that is work.

Rachel: I was listening to a podcast recently and Malcolm Gladwell was talking on this podcast, and they were talking about a billionaire who is running this very, very highly successful company. And they were talking about the son of this billionaire. So he has no life. All he does is work, just work, work, work. I don’t think he’s very happy because all he does is work. He can’t be happy.

And as Malcolm Gladwell was saying, ‘Well, listen, he probably is happy, because he may be one of those sort of outliers that are really driven that love to achieve, that love to have this amazing career. And that is probably making him happy.’ I think that a lot of us are possibly guilty of the outside of what my life is where I get my satisfaction, where I sort of get to relax and get to have my happy times. And my work is where I get my achievements and my recognition from.

We focus on achievement recognition at work, and happiness and contentment outside of work. And that’s where the the balance and the boundary can be really unhelpful. Would you agree with that?

Claire: Yeah, it’s really interesting what you were saying about that the guy that you were just describing, because actually, everybody is completely different. So my balance might be completely different to his balance. His balance might be, ‘I need to be in work 90% of the time, because for me, I thrive when I’m in work, I’m happy when I’m in work, I’m at my best when I’m in work, and I only have I need 10% of my time to do other stuff. And that’s balance for me.’

Whereas for somebody else balance might be completely different. It might be actually, ‘I need to be working 50% of the time and doing other things the rest of time.’ Just to come back to what you were saying. Actually, there is this concept that we we as you say achieving work and we relax in our lives, but actually, there is plenty of crossover.

When I’m at home and with the family, I’m not always relaxing. Often, I’m achieving. When I’m at work, sometimes it doesn’t feel— a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like work. I feel just really happy and thriving. So it doesn’t have to be this separation. It doesn’t have to be. And that’s why if you can lump it together as, ‘This is my life, what does balance look like for me?’ And that might be ‘Okay, right, I need much more exercise, I need much more family time, I need much more, I don’t know, having some sort of challenge like doing a 100 mile marathon,’ or whatever it is.

Or maybe it’s actually, ‘I need much more time at work, I want to be working 5, 6, 7 days a week, because actually, there is where I grow, that’s where I am at my best. And that’s where I feel happy. And that’s actually good for me.’ So it’s about trying to understand what balanced means to you. And I think that’s what I’d really like to pick today is to try and understand how we can do that as individuals, because it’s all very good, me saying this as a concept.

But I suspect as a listener, I would probably thinking, ‘Well, that’s great but I haven’t got a clue how to balance or what balance means to me.’ And I think one of the things that with all these sort of concepts, when I first hear them, I kind of had this sort of switch off mode in my head where I go, I know what balance is, for me, I don’t need to think about it.

But actually, taking a few minutes to think what balance really means to you is really useful, because it helps to shape, then, what you do and how you build your career and how much other things you bring in to your week, to your year to actually satisfy you.

Rachel: I think you’re right, it’s not at all obvious. I think what balance means to people or me as an individual, even I think often that’s because, well as doctors, you’ve left school, you’ve gone straight into med school, you’re going straight to house jobs. And well, let’s face it, there just isn’t any balance there. And so you actually get a skewed understanding of what reality is and what normality is. So how would you go about helping clients understand what what balance is for them?

Claire: I think the first thing to do is to sit back and, dare I say, have a have a think, have a reflect and from what I’ve said before, I’m not a big reflector, sitting there for huge amounts of time thinking about what I want and what I feel and what I need. I’m the sort of person that says, ‘Actually, let’s do this in chunks and in small bite sized pieces to really try and understand what good would look like.’

I come back to this question a lot, because it’s actually really useful. And I kind of see it a bit like a house. Iimagine if you were renovating your house, what you could do is leave the walls or where they are, and then just leave the kitchen where it is and just redo the kitchen and leave the fitting room and where it is and redo the fitting room. And you might think ‘Oh, well, they’re not really the right size rooms. But hey, ho we’ll just carry on.’ That’s one way of renovating a house.

Another way to renovate a house is to look at the outside of your building. To imagine all the walls have gone and say, ‘Okay, where would I ideally like to put the kitchen? What size would I like it to be within these boundaries? Where would I like the downstairs loo to be? Where would I like the sitting room to be?’ Then to put the walls back in.

And I’m talking about this, though, it sounds a bit odd. But actually, if you start to think about things as far as balance goes, in this way, it starts to help. So what I mean by that is rather than a kitchen, you might say okay, let me just go through all the different aspects of my world that would for me encompass balance. And this is something I do with my clients, every single time we go through this process.

So we’ll look at the different areas of their, their life. So it might be — I’ll just give you some examples — it might be that career is part of your life, it might be socialising is part of your life, well being might be something that’s really important to you, family might be really important. Exercise might be really important. And maybe finances, maybe all sorts of other things might be up there as something really important.

And we’ve looked at the list of between five and eight things and say, ‘Okay, these things seem to be really important to me, I don’t know how important,’ but they seem to be in those your list. And then you say, ‘Okay, overall, without overthinking this too much. How am I doing generally as far as my life being balanced, and me feeling good about my life?’ Usually, what I would do is ask somebody to come out with a number of 10, out of 10, where they’d say 10 is really great, nought is terrible. So you get an overall number.

Then as a quick fire round, I would ask them to go through each of their categories to give me a number out of 10 of how they think they’re doing with each one. So it might be that career, they’re saying on six. ‘Social, I’m about four. Well being, I’m a three. Family, I’m an eight. Exercise, I’m a seven.’ Whatever it is, and then you can start to get a general idea of where you’re at at that particular moment in time.

So you might say, ‘Okay, so these are my numbers now, how do I feel about them?’ So you might say, ‘Actually, my career isn’t quite where I’d want it to be. I’d want to be feeling better about my career. Rather than a six, I’d prefer it was an eight or a nine. I’m not quite sure what that means to me yet. But I prefer it was an eight or a nine. And maybe my wellbeing was a six. And actually, I really want that to be definitely a nine. And maybe my exercise was a six. But actually, for me, that’s okay.’

So you start to look at those numbers and say, ‘Actually, which ones I’m happy with? And which ones am I not?’ Then once you’ve got all that information, it’s a bit like starting to form those, the kitchen and the bathroom and working out where they want to go. Then you can sort of say, ‘Okay, so these are the ones I’m happy with. Fine. These are the areas I’m not so happy with.’

Then you can start to ask yourself questions, ‘Well, what is it that I’m not happy about? What’s the problem? Am I doing too much of it? Am I doing too little of it? Am I doing it in a way that doesn’t make me completely fulfilled, as in I’m doing maybe exercise by myself. And I’d much prefer to do exercise with people.’ Whatever it is, so what’s the issue? If it’s a six, why isn’t it an eight? What would make it an eight, if that’s the number you’ve chosen, you’re aiming for?

Once you start to build this framework, what you can start to do is you start to build categories that feel important to you, then you can start to say, ‘Well, this is where I’m at.’ You can start to assess that, ‘This is where I’m at. Okay, this looks good.’ Or, ‘Actually, I’m not so happy with these particular areas,’ and then starting to work out which areas you need to work on more, in order to give you this perceived balance.

So obviously, that’s a huge amount, I’ve just splurged on you. But that’s kind of an initial framework that I start to do with people. I think it’s really useful not to just do it one off, because it never works one off. But it’s a very much a process of, and I usually say to people to do this on the first Sunday of the month, to spend five minutes just doing your numbers, and literally looking at where you were this month compared to last month.

And if your career is a seven, and you’re happy with a seven, that’s giving you balance. If your career is dropping to a six this month, what’s changed? ‘What might I need to put in place to look at things again?’ So starting to have some sort of tangible touch on what good looks like is a way to start to work out what the components of balance are for you.

Rachel: That sounds like a really helpful, very systematic way of not missing anything looking at stuff in the round. Okay, can I throw in a bit of a ‘yes, but’ here?

Claire: Go on. I love a ‘yes, but.’

Rachel: But I heard this a few years ago that really made me think and I’m not sure I believe it, someone said, ‘Your life is like a four ring gas burner, you only have enough gas pressure for three out of four rings. So you can have a career, you can have a social life, you can have a good family life, and you can keep yourself fit and healthy with well being. But you’ve only got enough gas for three rings, you’ve got to choose as one that you’re not going to be able to get in balance.’

I think a lot of people are probably listening to this going, ‘That’s already very well and good. But all of this life balance stuff, it takes time, and what if I can see that something is really out of balance by just don’t have enough time sit? I don’t have enough gas for my four gas burner rings?’ How would you address that with people?

Claire: I think it’s okay. I think that that is the absolute right. This is hard. It’s not something that you can go, ‘Yeah, I’ve got the perfect life and I’m in balance and it’s happened in a month.’ It’s okay. Because if things are really tough at work, for example, if you’ve got a lot of stuff going on with family, it might be that balance for you is only focusing on work and family for that month, for that six months.

It might be that the thing that for you needs to drop off a little bit is something like the exercise or something else. But I suppose the counter argument to that, and I’m not sure I totally agree with that gas burner concept. But the counter argument to that is, where are your priorities? Because if your priorities are say, for example, you love music, like music gives you great joy, okay?

It gives you so much joy that when you listen to music, or when you play a musical instrument, you feel fruitful, you feel elated, you feel like you have filled up the fuel or giving yourself more gas. Often, those are the things that drop off first. So often when we’re really busy and our life is money.

Say If you love music, often that’s the thing that gets thrown out. So if music was on one of your categories, and if you’d identified that as one of your priorities and said, ‘Actually, so you know what? I know when music’s in my life, when I’m really stressed at work, I actually feel I can cope more. Or if I am managing really difficult things at home, but I’ve got music in my life, it just makes me laugh for two minutes or it gives me an inspiration,’ then actually, music is one of the priorities.

It might be that something else goes up, this is not about being perfect. This is about having an individual priority list if you like for you, that’s totally flexible, that changes as you change. As your week changes, and as your month changes, and your year changes. So I suppose we only have enough energy for a certain amount of stuff. But my list would not be your list, I wouldn’t be able to do all the amazing things that you do, I would feel depleted by doing that, because I’m not you. And I’m sure vice versa, you wouldn’t want or need to do the things that I do for balance. So I suppose my counter argument to that is, it is really hard. But this isn’t about being perfect.

This is about choosing what your priority list is, and putting them as a priority, and ring fencing them. Because once you ring fence that music, it drip feeds into coping better at work, managing the difficult situations at home. And actually, you might not need a huge amount of time for balance. In as far as music goes, you might say, ‘Actually, if I could listen to music, or play my guitar for half an hour, four times a week, that will make me feel so much more balanced in my life.’

But actually, it’s only really been an hour and a half of your week. So I would say I would actually disagree. I don’t usually disagree with you, Rachel. But I would actually disagree with you on that point. Because I think this isn’t about trying to be what it says in a book, this is about trying to understand yourself, giving your permission to yourself to be you and to have the balance that you need. And then to make the time to allow that to happen.

Rachel: I’m really glad you disagreed with that because I don’t like that concept that you’ve got to choose between family and work and social life and well being. So I think that’s a very difficult choice. But I think where that analogy is helpful, and I think this is probably where you do agree is that you only have a limited amount of energy. And then you need to choose where you’re going to use it. I love what you say about prioritising for a certain period in life.

So it might be yes, for these next three months, the family is going to really come up here because the children have got exams at school or something like that. And then the next three months, when things have gone, we’re gonna prioritise socialising and et cetera. I think the problem comes when we try and do it all and then feel resentful, because we can’t do it all. Whereas if we had known, ‘I am doing this, because I’m doing this so that I can X Y or Z.’ They don’t feel resentful about not doing that.

For someone like me, if you told me, ‘I could never ever do that,’ I’d be like, ‘but that’s the one thing I want to do!’ If I know that it’s not being closed off as an option. It’s just not now, we’re not really focusing on that, right now that feels a lot better.

Claire: We can do everything, but just not all at the same time. And that’s fine. That is fine. I’m working with somebody at the moment who has moved jobs and moved house and we’ve been working on their career, because that’s obviously the love of my life. But actually what we’ve needed to do is to switch on working on coping with the move and being in a different place and coping with that in order to then get some balance back in their lives. So that then they’ve got the energy and the focus to cope with their change of career.

What’s really interesting is if we did the numbers for that person, probably they’d say their career is six out of 1, and they’d want it to be an eight, but they don’t want it to be an eight now. They’re happy with it being a six now because they need their social and their home life to be eight before they can cope with with dealing with the six of their career.

So that’s why I tell people to do it as a check in every month, and to say whether you’re happy with them, because you might be really happy with your exercise being a four because you said, ‘Actually, I’m running once a week, that’s fine for now, in six months, I want to be running four times a week because I will have everything else more settled.’

Like you’re saying, ‘I’ve got to cope with exams now or the family stuff now,’ whatever, that’s fine. That’s what I’m saying about balance is dynamic, first of all, and balance is really individual. But work isn’t separate to balance. Work isn’t separate to life. It’s part of our lives. And until we start accepting it as part of it, I don’t think we can ever have balance. Because I know when I was a younger GP and I had young kids and for me that work-life balance kept coming up in my head.

So I thought, ‘Well, if I worked less my life will be balanced.’ It wasn’t and I couldn’t understand why. I’m like working two and a half days and with the kids. And suddenly I realised I was doing two full time jobs because I was trying to do a full week in GP, but in two and a half days, and a full week of childcare in two and a half days. And it all went, like dropping balls left, right and center. So that wasn’t balanced, I had to readdress where the priority was.

At that point, I said, ‘You know what, my career can just float along for a little bit. It floats long, because the priority now is, while the kids are little,’ for me, that was, so what actually when I threw my energy into the family, and let my career float for a bit, I was then able to say, ‘Right. Whenever I’m ready, I might change things around a bit. And I might do a bit more in work or think differently, or add in little bits to keep myself really interested and build it up.’

So I just think that’s why it’s so important that the work and life are not on the opposite sides of the equation. For me, they’re part of the same thing. We are a whole person, we are not two separate people, too shut together, we’re one thing. So that’s, I suppose, why it’s so important from where I’m sitting.

Rachel: Yeah and I think that also with work and life, we get used to treating work as this thing that we maybe make plans, we make goals, we set goals. ‘This is what I want to achieve. This is where we’re aiming for.’ Well, hopefully, we should be doing that in work. And I’m all for setting goals and prioritising and stuff. But then we forget to do that for the rest of our lives.

I always remember, it was the Harvard Business Review paper, where someone was saying that they set goals in their family just like they did for work. Now that sounds really awful. Let me explain. It’s not about, ‘It’s my children will do this and that,’ and well it wasn’t about that. It was like, ‘Yes, we’re moving house this autumn. So our goal as a family is to move and to meet some new people that is our goals,’ or ‘Our child is moving up to secondary school. They’re a bit nervous about that.

So our family goal is to support that child and make them feel really happy, really– well not– you can’t make a child feel happy, really support them and be there for them as they’re doing that transition’ or, ‘Like I said, I’m gonna have double whammy of a levels and GCSEs next year, next summer, it will all be around from probably from January onwards, it will be all about making sure these kids are getting enough sleep, they’re getting fed properly, and are well enough to be able to do their exams, hopefully.’

That is a life goal. And I think it’s good to be really intentional about that. So then maybe some work, things go, Well, maybe the burner for the social life will become turned down a little bit and something else will go up.

Claire: But actually, that’s really an interesting example, isn’t it? Because for you, that will be an all encompassing time, and where the family has got to be the priority. And for you balance, as you said, it might be that work gets turned down a bit. But I would challenge you again, maybe the social, if that’s something that fills you up, is actually not one of the things to go maybe speaking to your friends about the challenges of it all and how’s it going?

What do you– what are you doing support your kids and, what else, that actually maybe that should be a priority? I’m just challenging you. And maybe that’s something that– because it’s again– it’s about– we have to prioritise what we think is going to help us at that point to provide balance. And sometimes what we do, as I was saying before, we throw away the things that actually fill us up the most, because we think that our needs are less important.

But actually, say for example, you’re a social person, and which I know you are, and actually that was something that made you feel good. And you’ve got a lot of support from your friendships and a lot of happiness in your friendships. Maybe that’s when you need it most. Rather than– and maybe the work thing is less important to you. Or maybe that you– there’s other aspects of your life that you will say ‘Actually, you know what, I’m happy just to let that slide for a little bit.’

But it’s– I suppose it’s looking at the different parts of your life, different parts that we talked about on that check list and say actually, right now, ‘I really don’t care about my finances, I’ve got enough to get by, I’m not going to be doing extra hours, I’m not going to be doing taking on a new project or doing something that’s going to really stretch me at work. I need to focus here, but what do I need to fill myself up in order to cope with that?’

And that’s your balance, or that’s my view of what life balance is. So I suppose that’s where I would challenge you and say, does the social need to go? Maybe it does, maybe it’s not important to you maybe it isn’t something that is is valuable, or maybe it just needs to be tweaked maybe it’s– the social comes from whether kids are at school or when you’re in bed by yourself by half nine so that you’ve got the energy, whatever. It doesn’t have to be staying out all night.

So I suppose that’s where I would challenge and actually prioritise, really look at those priorities of the things that you know fill you up. I keep saying fill you up. I always like constantly thinking analogies, that’s how my brain works. But I always imagine it like you’ve got your car. And you cannot possibly do anything in life happily and productively when you’ve got very little fuel in the tank. And it’s really important to fill your fuel tank up, but to know what it is, so that fills it up, what’s your fuel?

So for me, I would say that exercise is important, that really good food is important. And seeing my friends is really important. Those are my things. But it might be something completely different for somebody else. It might be socialising, gardening, music, doing something creative. But just really working out what is it that you’re fuel? Because you can’t then have a balanced world if you’re not prioritising those– your fuel? Because how can your car move? It just can’t.

Rachel: I completely agree with that. What would you say to people, Claire, who said that their job is just taking up so much of their time and energy that they’ve got nothing left, and they, at the moment feel powerless to do anything about it? Short of resigning or having their their work, going part time or whatever, or dropping sessions. What would you say to someone like that? Because I know there are a lot of people feeling like that at the moment.

Claire: Absolutely, and you and I speak to people every day, who are feeling exactly that way. And I think that that is the first thing to say in the ‘aha moment’ in this is, if you are feeling like that, by definition, your life is not in balance. And if you are feeling like that, it doesn’t mean that you have to resign, it doesn’t mean you have to cut down your hours.

What it means is you need to be taking even short five– I’m talking five minutes of time to say, What is it that I need to do to allow myself to get out of this situation?’ I don’t mean physically get out of it. But I mean, to work out what to do next. And it might be something as simple as saying, ‘Okay, I need to speak to a friend, I need to recognise that I’m burning out, I need to have holiday, I need to speak to my superiors and work out if there’s what can we can do in this situation to support me.

I need to recognise that I’m struggling, I read to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with me that I’m struggling, that actually I’m in a system that is really challenging. And actually I’m doing my best. And that is good enough. But actually, if my best isn’t working for me, and my life isn’t in balance as a result, actually, I need something else.’ And that might be as I say, the support, more help, and downloading how you’re feeling, etc.

So I suppose the biggest thing that I would say to your question is if you are feeling that life balance is impossible for you, that is the most important thing, the most important alarm bell to say something needs to change. That doesn’t mean it has to be you in your life, it just means you need to ask for some help. And that is okay. In fact, that is bloomin fantastic. Because the moment you ask for some help, it allows you to create or start to create a life that you want.

And that life might not be the same or is definitely not going to be the same as somebody else that you know, it will be what’s right for you, you might still be working full time, but you might just feel more supported. Or you might be still working at exactly the same place that you are, but maybe you’re doing, and we’ve talked about before, less of something you hate and more of something you love within your role.

So if anybody out there, and I’m sure a huge proportion of people listening to this are feeling this burnt out exhausted, sleep doesn’t cut it, you wake up every morning, you’re still exhausted, this conversation is all great, but doesn’t feel like it’s for you, then this conversation is 100% for you. So even if you can do one thing, the choose one thing to do, it might just be speak to one person you trust. And that’s enough to start because that will help.

Rachel: I totally agree. I think recognising the problem is there is a start. I also think what you said was very important that it is not a problem with you that you are feeling burnt out not coping. So many doctors who I’ve coached are just broken and they’re saying, ‘What is wrong with me? I can’t get this.’ There’s nothing wrong with you. This is your physiology saying this is this is too much, not weaknesses. It’s literally a normal human physiological response to what you’re going through.

And I think we’re talking about life balance. It’s really interesting and I’ve been thinking of it as work encroaching on life. But your point that it’s not a static thing. That as we get older, different things happen in life, and sometimes life starts to encroach on work. And so what you could cope with when you didn’t have a huge family responsibility or other stuff going on, suddenly might become very difficult when you’ve got a really big thing going on in life.

Or suddenly lots more family responsibilities, or, say a child who’s having mental health issues or a disability or illness or anything that goes on in the background, that suddenly you then have to rejigger everything and really look at it in a very dynamic way like you said. I think one thing about working out what the issue is, is to actually start to do a bit of a reality check.

Because and maybe I’ve talked about this before, I know, I do remember coaching one chap who was saying, ‘Why can’t I get a day off?’ And what we did, we just literally plotted out everything he was doing in the week. And it turned out he was doing so many sessions and had taken on so many extra roles within his job that he hadn’t really accounted the time for.

When he actually plotted it out on a diary in a week plan of on a diary plan of his week, it was really obvious why he couldn’t get a day off, because literally he was trying to cram too much in. So that’s also a very good place to start. And we’ll make that tool available to you.

It’s called the thrive planner, where you can just map out what your working week is looking like and what your life week looks like. What is your outside of work? And then probably most of us will look at and go, ‘Wow, I’m doing far too much.’

Claire: And you know what? That’s okay. As I said before, if you want your week to be full of work, and you’re thriving in work, that’s okay. It’s not okay. If you look at your life, and your life is work, collapse in front of the TV, work, collapse and collapse in front of your TV. And that’s not what balance is to you. If balance is to you, doing some amazing exercise challenge or an Ironman or whatever. If that’s part of your balance, and it’s literally nowhere in your week, then there needs to be changed.

And we talked about change last time, didn’t we? That change feels scary. But I would argue that actually, firstly, to look at what’s stopping you? And what would happen if you don’t make a change? Because that’s the other big thing that we talked about before, is it? If you don’t make a change, are you going to be happy with the status quo? If you are great, then maybe your life is in balance. You just didn’t realise it.

So the exercise has been helpful. But actually, if you’re not, if if doing nothing means that you are not satisfied with where you are, and it wouldn’t be good if you were still in exactly the same situation in five years time, then something has to change. And looking at what stops you from doing the change is really useful.

Because those, it might just be that it’s fear. It might be guilt, it might be that feeling of what I’m– ‘I can’t possibly take my time for my music, because actually, I’ve got far too much else to do.’ But actually, it’s that old adage, isn’t it? That when you– people think like when they if they work 15 hours a day, they’re far more productive. Whereas actually, if you take a set amount of time per day to rest, to recuperate, to fill yourself up, and actually you are far more effective and productive in the time that you are working.

So you get far more done. So it’s that thing of– sort of do less to do more. So I suppose what we’re talking about is really big stuff, I don’t want to make it sound like this is really manageable when you’re feeling exhausted and burnt out. But it’s, it’s something that takes time and it’s a process. For some people, they’ll be able to take the monthly check in, they can do it in five minutes, it will feel really manageable.

For other people it won’t. And I would say to those people, then that would be, again, one of those warning bells to say, ‘Actually, maybe I need to talk this through with a friend. Maybe I need to speak to some colleagues about this and see what balance might they get their thoughts on it. So I can have sounding board.’ Maybe speak to your partner. Think about coaching. There’s lots of different ways of coaching.

Obviously, we provide coaching, but there’s lots of free coaching avenues. There’s lots of– I strongly believe in self coaching. And so asking yourself little questions like ‘What’s stopping me? What can make it easier? Where do I think best, even? Just where is it that I do my best thinking? I think this is really another useful thing.

Don’t try and make yourself think about this when you’re exhausted after a 14 hour day, maybe do it on the car- in the car on the way to work, or maybe do it when you’re taking the dog for a walk at the weekend. Or maybe do it where your best thinking places is, do it then. And so I suppose it’s just trying to do thinking about listening to the alarm bells and then saying, ‘Okay, what would make this easier for me to start to look at this?’

And you might say, ‘Okay, I need to spend a day doing this, maybe they’ll go on your retreat and go and really thought thinking, or maybe they need five minutes every so often to just start to meet inroads. And I suppose it just depends on your personality. But what I would say to people, if that alarm bell is ringing, that this feels really uncomfortable for you as a concept, because, deep down that your life isn’t in balance,, don’t ignore it.

Rachel: I couldn’t agree with you enough. But Claire, we’re nearly out of time. In a second, I’m gonna ask you for your top three tips. What just struck me, then, you said, what is stopping people getting their life in balance? I have noticed that one of the major stories people are telling themselves that stops them getting their life in balance is everyone else is working really hard too; everyone’s in the same boat? Everyone’s stressed.

So why should I be the person that is stepping out of that boat and getting my life in balance? And I would just say, just because everyone else is suffering doesn’t mean that you also need to stay stuck. You have you have the ability to get yourself unstuck, and it will be better for everybody. If you do so don’t look around you and go, ‘Oh, well, just because every– why should I get balanced when when nobody else has that?’ That is just ridiculous.

Claire: It is. But also I would argue that actually, if you want things to be better for these colleagues, lots of let’s face it, we’re all caring professionals, that’s why we’re in the jobs that we are. If you are looking around going well, everyone else is suffering. Actually, as a caring colleague, what you should say is, ‘Well, I need to put my gas mask on first so that I can stand up and cope. And I can help my colleagues to help them find balance, because nobody’s saying that balance is quitting your job and leaving.

It’s the exact opposite. Balance might be doing exactly what you’re doing now. It’s just saying, the priority for me is music, is exercise, is family,’ and filling your cup more with that. Because when you do that, you’re able to cope more with the challenges that you’re presented in everyday life. It’s just about bringing some control, some happiness and some joy into situations that right now you will feel or lots of people will feel– that make you feel stuck, trapped. And as if there is no way out.

And the answer to that is, that is not right. Because you and I see that all the time in coach. I see every single day, that once you start to think differently, when you get a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindsets, you’re starting to think about what you can do to take responsibility for the situation to make changes, actually, it can get better.

Rachel: Totally. So Claire, what’s your top three tips for people?

Claire: Okay, so I would say number one, life balance is about working around this concept of the fact that part of your life is work, as opposed to work being on one side of the equation and life being on the other. Number two, I would strongly suggest that you look at the different components of your life, make a list, it will take you approximately 30 seconds.

Then do a monthly check in where you literally grade your check in list every month, it will take you a total of five minutes per month, and concentrate on the areas that you’re not happy with when you look at that list. And number three, think about, ‘What’s stopping me from having life balanced?’ And really take that on board and say, ‘Okay, if it’s fear, how am I going to tackle that? What do I need to put in place? What support do I need? Who might be able to help me? If it’s guilt? Is that justified? d

Should I feel guilty about being happy ,about having balance in my life, when I know that once I’m a more able to have balance, I’ll be able to help more people and support others and feel joy myself?’ So those would be my three top areas to focus on. And I suppose if I’m allowed a fourth, it would just be to say, you know what? Take it easy. Go easy on yourself. Don’t try and do it in a heartbeat. But do it. But make it a priority to do it.

Rachel: Thank you. And I’m just going to add one sentence that I can’t remember who said it, but it struck me a few weeks ago. And this person said, ‘Most of us choose a career and then design our life around that. Actually it should be the other way around. We should choose a life and then design a career around our life.’

Claire: And that’s what we do in coaching isn’t it? That’s– what we do is we look at you as a person and see how it fits together as opposed to plunking it in something and hope it will work out.

Rachel: Brilliant. So thank you so much Claire. If people want to get hold of you or find out more about your work. How can they do that?

Claire: Yes, so I’m all over social media but I’m particularly on Instagram which is Dr. Claire Kaye underscore executive coaching. You can check out my website which is Dr. Claire Kaye.com. And you’re more than welcome to DM me, people DM me every single day. So you can drop me a line and contact me ask me questions or thoughts or just any conversation that you want to have. I love hearing from you.

Rachel: Thank you so much. And we’ll also put a link to the Thrive week planner in the show notes so people can download that and try and think about how they can design their work around their ideal life and that ideal week. That’s great. Claire, will you come back on again to talk about more stuff?

Claire: I love it. Thank you for having me.

Rachel: Brilliant. Thank you so much. We’ll speak again soon.

Claire: Take care.

Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at hello@youarenotafrog.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.