making sandcastles on Harlech beach.

This summer, I went to Harlech beach and built a sandcastle.

Well. It was more like a fortified complex – complete with a moat and internal road infrastructure. I don’t do things by halves.

Fresh air. Sand. Sunshine. Quality time with my family. And the chance to do something…well…totally fun.

I felt relaxed and really enjoyed the rest of my week off – coming back full of energy the following Monday.

I’ve thought a lot about the importance of life outside of work since then. How it can re-energise us and makes us even more effective when we’re at work.

What I’m saying is, get life outside of work right, and you can get a lot more out of your working life too.

But it isn’t easy. Life is busy, and balancing time is tough.

digital detox

Employers have been talking about ‘work-life balance’ since the 1970s (maybe longer), and it’s always been a challenge for most people.

Work is a big part of life and we don’t always want to switch off at the end of the day. Work can be fun. It can be interesting.

But – in an age of 24/7 digital connectivity – learning to switch-off and re-energise has become more difficult.

When you leave the office, you haven’t really left the office.

Because it’s in your hand or pocket. It’s on the dining room table when you get home. Or next to the TV when you sit down at night.

It’s in every internet-connected device you have access to. Desktop. Laptop. Tablet. Mobile phone.

Work is just a smart-phone alert away.

And a lot of the tools we use for work, we use for play too. Social media, for example.

So what to do?

Firms that specialise in helping people ‘unplug’ via non-digital vacations and events have sprung up in recent years.

Take Digital Detox.

The company says that it’s “dedicated to creating balance in the digital age.”

A closer look at the website reveals more.

“In an era of constant Silicon Valley acceleration, over-abundant screen-time, always being available, endless networking, information-overload, tech-driven anxiety…many have referred to us as the ultimate decelerator.

“We help you slow down.”

Personally, I don’t feel it’s impossible for me to unplug when I need to. But you can see where they’re coming from.

simple things

For me, work-life balance – and making time for myself and my family – is about doing the simple things.

It’s about more sandcastles. More days on the beach. More time with the family.

But here’s the important caveat. It’s about more of these things over a realistic time-scale.

Just like Nigel Marsh says in the TED talk below, you’re never going to pack everything you want into every single day.

If you try, you’ll just beat yourself up because you failed.

It’s about creating balance over a realistic period of time.

And I really believe that if you get it right – and build those sandcastles – you’ll be happier and more effective in your work.