Finding the perfect work-life balance in London is no easy feat. Today we welcome guest blogger Bella Bevan to share a little more about her experience with finding that near-mythical balance, and how she’s learnt to make the most of London while still kicking goals in her career.
A lot of us move to London to pursue our dream careers. We’ll stay here for 2 -5 years, build up those CV credits then return home – which in my case is Australia – to try and find buy an affordable place by the beach, in the far-more-respectable weather, near our family and loved ones. That was my plan anyway.
I moved over here to be a musical theatre performer, which is like offering another piece of hay to a giant haystack. I’m one of millions, and hard work doesn’t always translate to success. Most of it is down to luck and ‘right place, right time’. Well, I’m in the right place… right? You make your own luck… right? I’ll just slam out the hard work every waking minute I possibly can to make the odds in my favour, because F me I will make these 2-5 years count for something. Right…?
What about the day-to-day happiness? Something I was completely neglecting with my ‘work hard now, reap the rewards later’ approach. Sleep when you’re dead. The thing is… it’s just not sustainable.
Just one more email…
But if you’re anything like me, you can get into such a rhythm of powering through that you think you’re invincible. “I’ll just send one more email..” But guess what? You are, in fact, human. Not a robot. And eventually it all comes crashing down. Before you know it you’re horrifically ill, having a huge, unreasonable fight with your partner, and crying yourself to sleep hysterically because he made you both go to bed early on your day off.
I almost lost my chance at love because of my work-life balance in London, or lack there of. Because of ‘just one more email’. And you know what, London can actually be really fun, if you let it. Stop comparing it to your hometown, and listen to what it IS offering. Then make the most of it. Christmas in the snow with a mulled wine is adorable! Looking after yourself and your happiness will keep you stronger and fitter in the long run. And you won’t leave London with any regrets!
Here are my 10 tips to keeping some work-life balance in London whilst still kicking those career goals.
1. Go out and do something on your day off at least once a week
Go to a museum. Check out an indie art gallery. Go to the markets. Hit the clubs. See a new band. Go for brunch. See a West End show. Go to a comedy show. Sightsee…
The amazing thing about London is that there is ALWAYS something to do, and few cities compare in that department. If you’re struggling with money to fund all the outings (like most of us do in London, let’s be honest) then many of those activities you can actually do for free. Take a look in the ‘free things to do’ section of TimeOut. Or check out these weekly Londonist articles for inspiration.
2. Put money away each week for entertainment
With the constant grind of paying extortionate rental prices, tax, bills and travel, plus that sensible side of you thinking you should put some away in savings, it’s easy to feel guilty spending money on yourself. But NO! Give yourself a ‘fun budget’ please. This is an investment in your happiness, which will, in turn, support your work longevity. Not to mention it will give you memories that will last a lifetime. But most of all, you need fun for your health. I may have no medical training but I know what burnout is and you don’t want it.
3. Travel and Explore
It’s important to get out of London every now and then; if I could I would do it monthly. And there’s no better way to reestablish your work-life balance in London than by indulging a bit of travel (COVID-permitting, of course). London is an amazing city, but the fast pace and crowds can wear you down, and the novelty wears off. Getting away gives you time to miss London, and you might find yourself rolling your eyes at the slowness of some of the surrounding cities.
Europe isn’t always quick and easy to get to, so don’t forget that the UK has some amazing cities to offer too. Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh, Dublin, Brighton, The Peak District, The Lake District, The Cotswolds… just to name a few. You can catch a train pretty easily, but I’ve also hired a car using Turo and stayed in some beautiful, homely and remote cottages through Airbnb.
Finally, if getting out of London isn’t a possibility right now, indulge in a London staycation and stay somewhere new for a night or two in your own city.
If you’re single, this is the perfect opportunity to meet people and try out new cafes, restaurants and bars. If you’re new to the city, it’s a great excuse to find a sightseeing buddy. Get on those apps – Bumble and Hinge are where it’s at for a decent date these days. It doesn’t have to be serious, and it doesn’t have to lead to anything physical, just think of it as an exercise in meeting people – and flirting is fun! If you’re anything like I was and too career obsessed to bother any more, then you might just miss out on one of the greatest people in your life.
And if you’re in a relationship – don’t use that as an excuse not to get out. Even when my partner and I are working around the clock, barely seeing each other all week, we always make time for a weekly date night. It is sacred. It’s fun to get dressed up – not for work – and celebrate ourselves for no reason at all.
5. Get an ‘off-duty’ wardrobe
Now that you have all these fun outings planned, you’re gonna need some cute and comfy outfits that you don’t wear for professional purposes. I find this one HARD because it can often feel like a waste of money. But having clothes that are purely for the purpose of fun is liberating. And call me crazy, but I feel like having different clothes to wear on my days off, versus for work, helps me separate the two and RELAX when it’s time to.
6. Use Airplane mode and adjust your notifications to truly master work-life balance in London
Is it just me or do people in this city just expect you to be answerable for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?! That’s been my experience anyway. I realised it was bad when I was replying to one of my boss’ emails at 3am on a Saturday night, drunk and on my way home from a big night out, because it was ‘urgent’. Nothing is that urgent.
Now I turn my phone on airplane mode outside the normal working hours of 9-5 on weekdays. And for weekends, I usually wake up and check everything, respond to everyone in Australia and try and keep it off for the rest of the day. If I do need to message someone outside these hours or use city mapper or whatever, I turn my notifications off – especially email (the devil).
I have found that colleagues quickly start to catch on that you are only responsive during these (reasonable) hours, and will work with this. If they get used you replying immediately in the middle of the night, then this is what they will expect of you. DON’T DO IT!
I know everyone says it, but honestly it makes the world of difference. To your mental and physical health, and your happiness. In London you are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a workout right for you, in an area that suits, that matches your budget. From swanky health clubs with saunas, to group yoga in the park.
Why not make it a social outing too? I used to go to hot yoga with my friend and grab brunch or a coffee after. These days I also go to the gym with my partner – aka my in-house personal trainer – and sometimes this is the only time we get to spend together during the week.
8. Find your local park and use it
Don’t forget the importance nature has on your physical and mental well being. Did you know you can go swimming in the natural ponds in Hampstead Heath? And you can drink alcohol in the parks here, legally. Just sayin’.
9. Read for pleasure
Try reading as the last thing you do at night, and the first thing you do in the morning – before you check your phone! Your jam-packed London lifestyle, endless to-do list and work deadlines are hard to shut out at night. Having a peaceful evening and morning routine can make a world of difference to your quality of sleep, and your mindset when you begin your day.
10. Self care is key to work-life balance in London
Take a bath, meditate, pour yourself a glass of wine at home, paired with cheese and chocolate, cook yourself a hearty meal, massage your feet, oil your skin, put on a face mask, and pumice your feet. Not so you look hot, but to show yourself that you still care, about you. A little TLC goes a long way to regaining some balance.
Bella is a twenty-something year-old actress, singer, scriptwriter, theatre producer, and blogger living in the big, bad & beautiful city of London. Bella’s blog imgoingonabearhunt.com offers personal tips and reviews for fellow wanderlusters. You can also find her on Instagram @isabellabevan, Twitter @bellabevan and Youtube