Do you have it all? How balanced is your life? How guilty do you feel about working/not working/ relaxing/not relaxing etc, on any given day? Are you making equal time for family, friends, work, faith, recreation, and health? Probably not.
But let me pause right there and start this off with a bold truth: Balance does not really mean equal. After all, most of us have to work at least 8 hours a day and it’s not like we can give that much time to everything else. Also, there simply aren’t enough hours. Work/Life balance also doesn’t mean rest. People think balance and they may think “four hour work week” with lots of golf or naps or family time.
After researching and going back through interviews, here are some more truths I’ve discovered about work/life balance from those who truly do have it all.
Imbalance is common.
You are not alone if you struggle with this like I do. It’s easier and more common to just focus on one or two areas of life and let the others slide. In fact, it’s almost necessary some seasons, as we’ll talk about in a moment, but first, here are some signs things are out of whack.
• You’re frequently tired or sick.
• You have difficulty sleeping or difficulty waking up.
• You hear frequent complaints or jokes about the attention family and friends receive, or don’t receive, from you.
• You feel guilty about time allocation in one or all areas of life.
• You’re regularly distracted from your current task.
• You keep making simple mistakes.
• You’re generally unhappy with your life.
Yikes. If that list sounds like you, it’s time to right the ship. Keep reading for ideas on how.
Balance is not easy.
It may seem like some people simply have work/life balance blissfully figured out, or that it comes easily to them. It’s more likely that they had to fight to achieve the balance they do have, and it’s not blissful. Balance is give and take. It takes thought and consideration. It takes a lot of effort to find and continuous effort to keep. So know that if you feel like achieving balance is taking a lot of effort, realize that that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re doing life wrong. You will get better at this over time!
Balance requires constant tweaking and practical tactics.
Chalene Johnson utilizes Person Policies, such as no cell phone usage during the family dinner hour from around 6-8 p.m. Tony Robbins focuses on work/life integration rather than balance, meaning his family works with him in his companies, can travel with him or be involved somehow. Amy Porterfield insists on four hours of “Tiger Time” - meaning fiercely protected time - each day for her meatiest work.
Find your own personal guidelines or household rules to achieve your goals. This could be weekly or daily technology free time if you need to reconnect with conversation. It could mean family walks if health is an issue for multiple family members. Church every Sunday no matter what. Friday Family Dinners no matter what. Closed Door Hours where your spouse is not to be interrupted. The key is to create them, proclaim them, make them laws that you and yours abide by.
Balance requires self-awareness.
Why do you feel the need to work so hard? Is it necessary right now or are you working from a fear-filled, scarcity mindset? Are you spending excessive time with your kids because of your own childhood baggage? Why is having the perfect figure so important to you? These are the kinds of questions you should ask yourself to really evaluate if or why your life has become unbalanced.
You also need to think about maintenance. For example, are you the kind of person who will do better with workout DVDs on your own time or do you need to pay for a workout class? If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to institute your spiritual and emotional “me time” for the wee hours, because you won’t stick with it.
Balance takes presence.
This is probably the number one guilt-buster of all, so listen up. If you are fully engaged in each activity at the time, you will start to feel more balance in your life. Be there as you play pretend, blocking out that nagging email. This may mean you need to take care of the nagging email first and then jump back into family time so you can be fully present. Use your 10 minutes of meditation time to actually get quiet, not mentally rearrange your to-do list. Really listen to your spouse during the 20 minutes of conversation you are able to get in on busy days. Put aside everything else and work hard when it’s time to work. Move minutes or hours around to stay “in the zone” as needed so you can disengage from one zone to the next as necessary.
Balance takes a village.
This is obviously more important for married hustlers or those with families, but often finding balance requires help. If you’re in a season of life like the launch of a business you may need to have your spouse take on more responsibilities around the home or hire a housekeeper. You’ll need to find or hire a sitter if you want to have date nights with your spouse. You may need to ask a friend to hold you accountable to your daily workouts. Remember, asking for help to tackle life is not failure - it’s community! It’s what family and friends are for! So reach out when you need to and don’t feel guilty about it.
Balance looks different for each person or family, and for each season of life.
When you start a new job, you may have to put in extra hours. When you have a newborn, you have to pause your entire life for a few weeks. When you are launching a business, book or product, when an elderly parent falls ill, when multiple children are at the peak age for involvement in sports and dance and competitive spelling - these are seasons. Balance can mean that you make up for lost time during slow seasons and you give yourself grace during hectic seasons. Balance can mean scheduling heavy work months and then taking a two month vacation. Balance could mean you work 70 hours a week but you have the flexibility to never miss a family function.
There are a few things that need to remain constant such as quality time for physical, spiritual and emotional health, and the health of your most important relationships. But remember quality time could mean 20 minutes of real conversation, a half-hour workout or five minutes of daily journaling. Balance requires flexibility, knowing that some days a relationship may need hours of attention and other days you may need to unplug and be alone for an afternoon.
The key word is quality. Be intentional in every area as needed, and know that your needs on a given day, month, or year are yours alone. Don’t strive for the picture perfect balance you see in the media or your local community or even in your own extended family. Strive for the balance you and your family need to be your best selves and give the world your best. Whatever that looks like, I hope you struggle through and find it, because remember the world needs you!