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28th Dec 2020

“I think it’s something that’s massively overlooked”: James Smith on achieving a work-life balance

Keeley Ryan

“There are stigmas surrounding people that have very good work-life balances,” James Smith tells Her while discussing his new book, Not A Life Coach. 

The author and personal trainer recently spoke to Her about his latest book, Not A Life Coach, achieving a work-life balance and how to keep your goals in the new year, if you’re thinking of setting some.

With so many people working from home at the moment, and for the foreseeable future, work-life balance has been something that’s been discussed a lot this year, and has become a goal that many people are looking to achieve — especially as it can sometimes feel like you’re living at work, rather than working from home. 

“I think [work-life balance] is something that’s really massively overlooked. My dad has always said to me that you work so you can live, you don’t live so you can work. It’s one of those things that we need to work, to keep our brains active and to support ourselves and our family. But that has to be balanced; there has to be downtime. I feel it’s a real shame that some people spend all their lives working, and very little time living. And even if you’re getting paid extortionate amounts of money, it just means that you’re doing more extortionate things in that very small amount of time,” he explained. “If you can afford your rent, your coffee in the morning and beers with friends in the evening, who’s to say that that isn’t the ultimate work life balance?” 

He added that, with so many offices closed, he thinks we may see a bit change in where people work from in the future. 

“A lot of offices are closed and [people have] realised that we don’t need to be in there all the time, we don’t need to be doing a nine to five [in the office]. And I think that we’re going to see a lot more people go on holiday, but working. I started doing this about four years ago. If I go on holiday, I’m bored and like to do a bit of work,” he explained. 

“I think — I hope this happens, anyway — that a lot of businesses will start giving a lot more holiday time to their employees, as long as they work when they’re on holiday. It sounds really stupid but imagine, your boss says ‘okay, you want to go to Mauritius? Go for six weeks, instead of two — and I want you to get some work done while you’re out there. We don’t expect you to clock every hour, you’d be doing three-four hours work and then going for a swim after.’ Think how much happier your workforce would be, doing stuff like that. If you look at like, Google and Facebook, they’re giving their employees the most leeway and it gives them the best work-life balance; and so they create the best work.” 

Not A Life Coach, which hit shelves in late November, aims to “challenge everything you thought you knew about the path to fulfilment and happiness” — and to help you re-set your outlook, redefine your goals and look at what success really means to you. 

“I started writing the book in February, but I’d say that three quarters of it were written this side of March. So, I was actually writing the book [at the start of the pandemic]. And it was kind of like, I already had the boat, but the wind was coming at the same time, so it was time to pull up the sails,” James told Her, while discussing the process of writing the book.  “For me, when certain things are getting stripped from my life — like the ability to go and see my family, or these things — I was so glad that I was doing what I wanted to do [with my life]. I’m very grateful that people are having an ability to take action now more than ever.” 

And with the end of 2020 fast approaching, the fitness coach shared his biggest piece of advice for anyone who is thinking of setting a New Year’s resolution: start with something small, which will help you achieve a bigger, overall goal. 

“First of all, I think they need to think of what they want in their life. Is it to start a new hobby; get a girlfriend, boyfriend; is it to start their own business or side hustle. Whatever it is, they need the big objective. And then they need to set small things that will work towards that,” he said. 

“What a liberating feeling for someone to start a new year with a big goal, a little objective and for no pressure to be on them. Like, if you’re looking to start a side business, maybe aim to get one new subscriber a day — a year from today, you might have 300 subscribers, but that’s alright. When you give someone a task, to just put their blinkers on and head down kind of thing, I think that helps a lot of people keep focused. Without that small thing, the big thing will never happen.” 

  • Not A Life Coach by James Smith, published by Harper Collins, is available now. 

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