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Be aware of personal time and how not to lose it entirely

By CCIWA Editor 

How do you know if your work/life balance is seriously out of whack? 

“If your dog doesn’t recognise you, then you’ve probably been spending too much time at work,” says Dr Graeme Ditchburn, Academic Chair of Organisational Psychology at Murdoch University.  

It’s obviously a joke, but, like all effective humour, it’s based on a kernel of truth. People with their noses to the grindstone often can’t see much further than the grindstone, Ditchburn explains, so they need to take their cues from those around them. 

If your family or friends feel you are spending too much time at work, you probably are. 

“We’re generally good at knowing when we’re tired and need more sleep. But with work-life balance we often aren’t aware, especially if there has been incremental creep into our lives,” says Ditchburn. 

This can be compounded by working from home. 

“Increasingly, SMEs are operating out of the family home, so in fact they never leave work. Late nights turn into all-nighters which then flow into weekends.’’ 

You miss family events, date nights, parent-teacher meetings.  

“This has far-reaching implications for our relationships with friends and family who, interestingly, provide one of the best protective barriers to our mental wellbeing.” 

Your first year in business can be particularly fraught.  

Finding a balance can mean the difference between powering on or burning out in your second year. 

Ditchburn suggests a simple strategy to check your work-life balance. 

“Ask simple questions, like; ‘When was the last time you caught up with friends and/or family?’ Or for the more statistically-minded, evaluating at the end of each week how many hours were spent with friends and family, versus working,” he says. 

If you think work-life balance is a minor consideration, take a look at some research.  

Occupational psychologists at Australian National University published findings in February 2017, that the maximum hours the average person can work each week before they begin to damage their mental health is 39 hours.  

That’s well under what many business owners clock up.  

And the physical and mental effects of excessive work hours include weight gain, anxiety, depression and heart problems.  

Never underestimate the importance of striking a healthy balance. 

How do you know if your work/life balance is seriously out of whack? 

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