So what is this work-life balance?

Written by Lana Weal on the 11th of November, 2018

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This is a guest post from Danielle Owen Whitford, the founder and CEO of Pioneera which uses AI to predict and prevent workplace stress. Danielle has a Masters degree in Communications and has had a successful career in business transformation and as an executive manager. She knows a thing or two about pressure…


I’ve always struggled with the term work-life balance. Why do we single out work as the thing we need to balance with life?

Shouldn’t we try and balance everything in our life – including work?

I suspect that is one reason we work so hard and wear exhaustion as a badge of honour, because we separate work from our ‘real’ life.

I am a single mum and have been for many years now. I used to joke that I had two jobs and doing both relentlessly contributed to my burnout a few years ago (which I’ve written about on the BlueChilli blog).

I recently graduated from the SheStarts accelerator program where I started a startup, Pioneera, which aims to help others see the signs of stress before burnout.

We all need to have more in our lives than work – if we’re a parent or not.

So I like to think about balance rather than work-life balance.

I always ask myself – “how is this contributing to my life?” Full stop – not work/life but just life.

Here are some tips for balance that I’ve learnt over the years:


1. Find what you love and do it……a lot!

We are all passionate about something – a hobbie, our family, exercise, or something.

Find what that is and do it regularly – at least several times a week, if not once a day.

I love to read and if I can get lost in a book for even just 10 mins, I’m a better person for it afterwards.

2. Prioritise yourself.

Most of us have many people and pressures in our lives. It’s easy to put yourself last whilst you focus on everyone else. Women are particularly prone to this.

It is OK for you to prioritise yourself and what you need.

I started doing that a few years ago and it makes a huge difference.

Remember if the aeroplane is going down, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others!

3. Agree with your boss what you can/can’t do.

It sounds simple, but we often take on way more than is humanly possible to complete because we want to seem capable. We then work ourselves into the ground to deliver and sometimes still miss the deadline, which compounds the problem.

Sit down with your boss (or yourself if you’re the boss) and be practical about what you can complete.

This doesn’t mean slack off, it means schedule and prioritise to get it done.

You will feel more in control and be far more productive.

4. Get rid of the guilt.

Guilt will kill you! I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s the truth. You can’t do any of the above if you’re constantly feeling guilty about them.

You are entitled to be happy and balanced and enjoy your life – otherwise what are you here for?

Be present for what you’re doing and do it 100%.


If all else fails, think about the example you want to set to those around you – particularly your children or if you’re a leader, your team.

When I’m on the phone doing emails and my kids look at me disappointed I’m not engaging with them, I know that is not the example I want to set.

If we want to create a better future we need to show others how it’s done. So let’s do that together and create workplaces and lives we can be proud of.

Watch the SheStarts Documentary Series to see more of Danielle’s  journey as part of the 2018 SheStarts accelerator program: