Balancing work and life is extremely challenging. I want to say that again. Balancing work and life is extremely challenging! I am repeating myself because, as I troll through Facebook and self-help spheres, it seems like if you just do a few simple things, you will get it and be forever blissful. Poppycock! (Sorry for the outmoded expostulation. Just seemed too appropriate!)
Finding balance takes a lot of work and constant practice. You do not jump on a balance beam and get a gold medal at the Olympics. You have to stand on the balance beam and strengthen your muscles. You have to slowly work up to flipping around and doing amazing tricks. Even Olympians fall off now and again and have to get back on. Don’t let my challenge overwhelm you. There are steps you can take to move in the right direction. My goal is to let you know it is hard, so you won’t give up and think you will never be able to do it.
Alright – here we go. Try some of these steps and let me know if you are able to find a better work-life balance:
- Schedule in down time. So many people only put in what they need to do on their schedule. Their calendar madly fills up with projects, meetings, carpool rotations, etc., but does not include sleeping, vegging in front of the TV, etc. You must have time to rest! If you find yourself wasting a whole weekend day without energy or the desire to see anyone, you know what I mean. If you don’t rest now, you will not be able to do much of anything later. Set up consistent sleep schedules and make sure that you have not scheduled yourself out all the way until bed time. Give yourself permission to have that full day in your pajamas. Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it.
- Schedule in self-care time. Sleeping and resting are certainly a part of self-care, but so are other, very important tasks. Eating, exercising, connecting with your social support network (including friends, family, religious community), meditative practices (mindfulness, praying, meditation, etc.), and taking moments for yourself are other examples of self-care. Please put these in your calendar as well. Obviously, you should only put in activities that you will absolutely do. For example, if you hate writing, I would avoid putting journaling on your calendar. You won’t do it. You also want to make sure that you schedule these activities at times you will be able to do them. If you are never going to get out of bed at 5am, that is not the time to schedule the gym (even if that is the only time you have). On that note, if you are having trouble putting these things on your schedule, you may want to re-evaluate your priorities. Doing a million things every single day will not support healthy functioning and productivity at work.
- Say “no” sometimes. Whether you are pressured to do things for your friends and family, worried about saying no to your boss, or just generally excited about all the opportunities you have with your family and at work, it can be super easy to overload your schedule. If you have put the tasks from #1 and #2 in your schedule, it may be clearer when to say “no” to additional things. However, you will need to hold yourself accountable to the resting and self-care activity times, if you want to use “no free time” as an excuse to say “no.” Alternatively, you can evaluate each opportunity and take time to weigh how to answer. For example, if I say “yes” to this project, how will it impact my schedule, my career, my relationship with the boss? Is this really the right project to throw my calendar out the window for?
- Recognize when balance is not possible. There are times when balance is impossible. A huge audit or deadline at work, a family emergency. During these times, you will need to pay attention to the stolen moments to take care of yourself. This may seem ridiculous, but finding a couple extra minutes whenever you are alone (i.e., at the gym, in the car, even in the bathroom) to take some deep breaths and ground yourself can help you hold it together for the time being. However, I want you to keep in mind that these huge deadlines and crises should be time-limited. Sometimes these temporary off-balance events are very long (months or years), but typically, they a month or two (or even less). After these crises pass, it is critically important that you go about the business of re-establishing balance. Too often in the workplace, critical deadlines keep popping up. The message is always one of “hurry” and “let’s pull together for this one big push.” If you find that you are constantly putting aside your own balance for the crisis of the day, it may be time to re-evaluate your schedule. High-paced work does not have to equal an unbalanced life.
As I am writing this, I am also using these ideas as reminders for myself. It is so easy for me to get off-balance as I am excited about so many projects right now. However, I will keep practicing balance and jump back on the beam whenever I fall off!
Find your Path to Balance!
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