WellbeingHub balancingact

The balancing act – How important is it to take a break from work?

It is a commonly held belief that everyone should seek to maintain a healthy balance between their work and their life outside of work. In July, Boris Johnson strongly expressed his encouragement for the nation to get out and keep fit. However, I am sure that I am not alone, and perhaps now after a couple of months the PM might join me, in suggesting that finding and maintaining a healthy balance is much easier said than done.

Indeed, throughout my entire school life I often focused more, and prioritised my time, on sport instead of work. By tipping the scales heavily in favour of one thing over the other, I found myself excelling in one arena whilst at the same time struggling in the other. This culminated with me not achieving the A Level results that I strived for which left me feeling unaccomplished and that my dream of being a city lawyer was out of reach. If somebody had asked me about the importance of taking a break from work at that time my answer would’ve followed along the lines of “Don’t! Study as hard as you can for as long as you can”.

Thankfully nobody did ask!

I say that because flipping from one extreme to the other would not have had the effect that I desired. Simply replacing all the time that I had spent on the sports field with extra time spent in the classroom would not necessarily have meant that I would have stood a better chance of obtaining a Training Contract. As I would later find out, the experience I gained and the accomplishments I achieved in sport formed the basis of discussion in both my Vacation Scheme and Training Contract interviews, and no doubt had a significant role in the reason as to why I am writing this article as a Trainee, at Norton Rose Fulbright, today.

In fact, the decision I made as I embarked on life at university was not that I was going to choose one over the other but that, instead, I was going to find a balance between studying and taking time away from my desk. Over the duration of my three year law degree, I finely tuned this balancing act so that every week involved a healthy mixture of work and sport which I felt suited me and the goals I had set myself. Inevitably there were times, such as revision periods, where I was more drawn towards studying due to the fear of repeating what happened in my A Level year. But, it was during these times that I found it extremely helpful to reach out to friends and family to discuss what I wanted to achieve and how best to structure my time without losing balance. By going to the gym in the morning, a run in the afternoon or training in the evening, I was able to break the days down in to digestible chunks within which I could sustain high levels of productivity without burning out. Overall, I am immensely proud of what I achieved at university, not solely because of the degree classification I walked away with nor the sporting feats accomplished, but because I had succeeded in balancing the two which meant that this time around there was no element of dissatisfaction.

Nevertheless, in starting as a Trainee and entering an environment I am unfamiliar with I have found it harder to strike a balance. We as lawyers, students, or any other working individuals know that there are always periods where it would seem that there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. The thought of reducing that amount of time to take part in a sport, or simply taking time to unwind, therefore seems daunting and unnecessary. Yet, from my experience I know that if I want this new chapter to be as successful as the last, taking time out to rebalance will be crucial. Whether you are revising for your next exam or writing your latest job application, I would encourage you in the same way that I am encouraging myself to take a break. As I alluded to at the beginning, both finding and maintaining a work/life balance is hard; but achieving it is definitely worth your while.