The School of Life Workshop on Balancing Work & Life
AF attended the workshop Balancing Life and Work hosted at the School of Life
on 30th June. The key takeaways from this interesting evening are below.
The School of Life
is a social enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living. Based in a small shop in Central London, they offer a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well. The evenings offer a mixture of conversation and presentation, and this mixture is the most useful thing for their regulars.
The workshop AF attended was titled "How to Balance Life & Work
". We began with introductory nibbles and drinks, then headed downstairs to the classroom where speaker Mark Brickman hosted the main workshop. Everyone was engaging and curious, it was a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Women outnumbered men and in a room of around 25 people, there was a real mix from entrepreneurs and corporate high fliers, to a doctor on a gap year and a stay-at-home mum.
Mark explained his background as a theatre director, and that the constant global travel forced him to make a decision between his family and his career. He chose his family and ultimately found a more fulfilling career in doing so. He asked us to start with an exercise: he flashed up an example of a newspaper headline, and asked us to each write our own headline about why we were there. We then went around the room and introduced ourselves and our headlines. They varied from "Young professional trying to avoid burnout" to "Career woman on a break trying to get back to work".
We started with some perspective: it is only in very recent times that our idea of self has been linked so strongly to our work. Indeed, the term "work/life balance" has only been around since the 1970s. For some reason, culturally we have shrunk our notions of identity to our working lives. We tend to see failure at work as general failure and this is wrong - we must see setbacks at work as opportunities. The only failure is an inability to make an opportunity of any setbacks. This sounds all terribly high-level, at which point we were invited to converse with the person next to us about any professional setbacks they had overcome. The lady next to me worked in a very male-dominated industry (construction) and was made redundant. She took this as an opportunity to stand up for herself for the first time in her professional life, and she has never looked back, landing a role working on the Olympics. Pretty inspiring stuff.
We looked at competing theories of working life, including those of Madeleine Bunting
, who sees companies' efforts to build brand loyalty as sinister, and Tim Ferriss
, who believes we should analyse our lives according to the 80/20 rule: work out which 20% of our time gets 80% of results, and get rid of the rest, outsourcing everything to lower-paid employees.
Two theories which really stuck with me: the tale of one lady who tried to redefine the way she looked at her life, seeing her hobbies as her true occupation and calling it her "time on", where she was focused on enjoying herself, and her working life as "time off", which she viewed as time she chose to give to her employer. Leisure is not a reward for working, it is essential and we should not feel guilty for taking time for ourselves.
The second theory is that of David Whyte, the poet, who talks about the 3 Marriages
we participate in; between the self, work and our loved ones. We were asked to draw a circle, dividing it up and imagining what each "marriage" would say to the other. Would all the conversations be equal?
The most helpful part of the course was the advice about leisure time, and how the concept of "play" is important - things you do just for fun, for no other gain. Adequate time for play, to develop our own identities, makes us better at work and happier, so we need to build it into our lives for personal and professional reasons. Suggestions for making good use of your time included:
- joining a group (e.g. a choir)
- volunteering - leisure builds community
- idling - e.g. looking at maps. Try The Idler for inspiration. Indulge in an activity with no focus to simply let your mind wander
We will happily raise our glass of Pimm's to that, as we loll about in the sun this afternoon...More about the School of Life:The School of Life
social enterprise offering good ideas for everyday living. Based in a
small shop in Central London, they offer a variety of programmes and
services concerned with how to live wisely and well. They address such
questions as why work is often unfulfilling, why relationships can be so
challenging, why it’s ever harder to stay calm and what one could do to
try to change the world for the better. The School of Life is a place
to step back and think intelligently about these and other concerns. You
will not be cornered by any dogma, but directed towards a variety of
ideas - from philosophy to literature, psychology to the visual arts –
that tickle, exercise and expand your mind. You will meet other
curious, sociable and open-minded people in an atmosphere of exploration