Gaining perspective: On work that fits our lives

When work doesn’t fit with the multiple facets of our lives, we are in danger of losing sight of ourselves

We can sometimes make the mistake of going to extreme lengths to keep ourselves in the career loop when life changes. We try to do things the same way we did before, allowing little room to focus on developing particular skills and industry knowledge. Working endless hours in the office with no real gain, or working at home with a baby yet to settle into a decent routine, while you simultaneously try to get to grips with all the accounting and filing that come with life as a newbie freelancer, does not make for a happy productive mix – the latter being my own experience. It’s true that even when taking the leap to being your own boss, you can still fall into the trap of working to benefit others, rather than figuring out what works best for both of you.

When I look back on those early days, however, I am grateful as it made me realise what I was able to deliver, and pushed me to pursue steadier, on-going projects that really captured my interests. Realising things weren’t going well allowed me to focus and truly develop, and organise my time more effectively, rather than flying by the seat of my pants each day. I’ve taken leaps of courage, and in many ways this has made me a better mother too, as my own routine is more settled I can focus better attention on what my daughter needs from me – simple things such as prolonged conversation, planning ahead for costume parties and all those other important things in a school child’s life.

Perspective and clarity is needed to make those leaps of courage and push yourself outside the comfort zone. You need to be able to look forward (and indeed back) to make those defining decisions; and you can’t do that if you’re only living in the urgent now. And it’s an ongoing process: to be able to periodically take stock to see where you are, where you want to be, and what you need to do to get there, requires work that fits with you and your life. Having that headspace and emotional wellbeing is vital; without it you cannot be in the mind frame to study, train or even decide on the next project that’s going to take you to the next level in your career. There is no point barely scraping through bits of work that don’t contribute to a bigger picture – you don’t do your best work, progress is slower and it can actually be less financially rewarding, as the lack of confidence that comes with it can leave you not feeling in a position to ask for better rates. Perspective makes you able to see your strengths and what you are truly worth, so even if you are still caught up in the daily grind, it really does pay to take the time you think you don’t have to assess whether you really are working in the most effective way – the way that allows you to be as present as possible in every aspect of your life.

For some, there is still the sense that if we allow life to ‘get in the way’, we’ve let ourselves and others down. We can forget that all of life is what makes us, not just our work, as important as that is. We also forget that we are not alone in that situation, that everyone is juggling something; be it young family, care for elderly relatives, spouse illness, or numerous other priorities. The more we are honest and communicate with one another about these things, rather than pretending to be super human, understanding can be found and better teamwork and productivity follows. On the other side, as an employer if you provide a workplace that allows people to work in harmony with the changes in their lives, you attract talent that you would otherwise miss out on, preventing everyone else from getting stuck in the cycle too.

Of course it will never be perfect: there will always be a period of daily fire fighting or unforeseen circumstance. But if it seems like every hour of every day is taking that shape, it may be time to step back and look at what needs to change. You could be amazed at where a little bit of perspective can take you.