Sunday, 7 November 2010

Siobhan Soraghan: How to achieve self-sustainability

Following Siobhan Soraghan’s well-received paper at the ITI Conference in May 2009 in London, ITI’s Western Regional Group was pleased to welcome her to its main professional autumn event on a chilly, but gloriously sunny day in the pleasant surroundings of the Esther Parkin Residences on the Bath University campus.

The best approach to achieving a healthy work-life balance

In the introduction round it soon became obvious that almost each one of the 13 workshop participants believed that something was not quite right in his or her approach to achieving a healthy work-life balance. As my own work-life balance sometimes goes worryingly off-course, it was in fact one of the most relevant workshops that I have ever attended.

The message sent by Siobhan essentially boiled down to this: Translation, or in fact any self-employment activity, is something that obviously we pursue to earn a living and also something that we tend to enjoy. However there is simply no point in slaving away at it, especially if it is likely to have serious consequences for our health and well-being in the long term. There is a high chance that the knock-on effect of hardly ever allowing ourselves time off work and other daily commitments will be burnout at some stage, maybe even followed by chronic fatigue or depression. The emotional effect of this would be to wholly lose the motivation to work, which – if it does happen – can be an extremely upsetting experience. Burnouts tend to come about very suddenly, typically following prolonged periods of operating on adrenaline, without much rest, at performance levels close to 100%.

Siobhan offered plentiful, hands-on advice and demonstrated an excellent ability to help us examine our individual circumstances more closely. A common problem among freelances is that we tend to take so much pride in what we have achieved in terms of building up our businesses that we often take on too much work. The consequence of this is that we become wedded to what we do, maybe without even realising it. Pride in itself is not a bad thing, but rather very often part of the strategy for success. However, this strategy may need modifying, for example by including other aspects of yourself that have not been given a voice yet. There are, in fact, several personalities in every person which need to be valued, developed, and brought into balance.

Siobhan once again proved that she is a warm, persuasive and very engaging speaker, not least because she always blends her personal experiences with intelligent ideas, useful insights, and lots of food for thought to take away and build upon. She left us feeling motivated and determined to bring about changes in how we set our priorities and balance life. I, for one, have decided to allow myself more time off in general, keep up the running and cycling, and start playing the piano more regularly again!

Siobhan Soraghan is founder and director of Active Insight Ltd. She coaches and trains leaders and senior teams and runs regular seminars on positive politics at work, collaborative leadership, work endurance/self-sustainability etc. around the UK, working both in corporate environments and with individuals.

(This blog post is an abridged version of my write-up on the workshop, which will be published in the January issue of ITI Bulletin.)