Several articles, posts, conversations, and client inquiries have shot across my bow the last few weeks ~ and don’t get me started on my own existential crises ~ it seems we are all trying to figure out balance.
One article I read suggested balance is bullshit, and to be successful you have to give up health and family, or a social life and sleep.
Um, no thank you.
Another conversation went along the lines of, “For a business owner, every day is a losing battle. There’s enough wins to keep you going, but if you’re not fighting, you’re failing.”
That sounds pretty unsustainable.
Recently, if you’ve been paying any attention, you would have heard me try to problem-solve my own work/life balance. I volunteered to help a very ill friend, and her family with 2 young children. I thought I could work very early in the morning, while they were at school, and juggle care-taking in-between. I know all the parents out there are rolling their eyes and laughing. Lets just say, I am now rolling my eyes, I’ll laugh soon …
Finally, when a client described a leader in her industry, and said, how does she do it? How does she create balance, my response was, “in her own way.” And it dawned on me, we’re all trying to apply someone else’s sense of balance to our own lives. And even crazier, we assume balance one week or one month will look the same as balance the next time around.
This is how I approach balance, and for context; I own three business - including a service oriented, client based business and I manage short-term rental properties (so I am not always in charge of my hourly schedule, things happen). I am currently volunteering to be a caretaker and nanny. I am living and working in a different city than my home. I am attempting to get my fitness up by running daily, but I sustained a minor injury last week. I am dedicated to my meditation practice. I am also a partner, daughter, sister, and proud Boxer mom.
Here is how I find balance, even in the most chaotic and unpredictable of days.
Firstly, get clear on what is most important to you. When I work with my clients, I call this a Values Assessment. Brainstorm a list of values, then circle the 3-5 most important. These are the deal breakers, the ones you can not live without. When I am talking with friends, or myself, it’s a simple question - is this the most impactful thing I could be doing right now?
When you understand your Why, it makes the - what - when - and how - obvious.
Secondly, get clear on your commitments. Start with self-care, because if you’re in ship-shape, you’ll be able to expand your capacity and stay balanced, effortlessly. Schedule in your movement, stillness, play-time, family-time, etc. Make time for your life. Then, book in your work commitments, whether that’s a M-F/9-5 or something far more sporadic. Finally, anchor in some building time - this is where you’re working on goals, whether it be learning and skills-development, volunteering, or cleaning out the garage.
When your brain knows when everything is going to happen, you relax. When you honor what is most implant to you, you thrive. When you’re relaxed and thriving, you expand your energy and capacity to create and produce. When something comes up that threatens this utopian schedule, you simply slide things around, and with no struggle or fear.
A lot of people resist this approach for a few reasons. The most common is, people start with work - and they literally fill-up their schedule, and then lament they have no time for anything else.
Another misconception is how long their activities take. As an example, cooking the kids dinner and getting them to bed. Or going to the gym. We often think about the time commitment in terms of the actual activity (30/40 min in both cases), but there’s planning, prep, and clean-up, easily doubling the time involved. We don’t account for the total time necessary, and then we feel like we’re always running late or playing catch-up.
Finally, if this is a new habit you’re trying to develop, be kind and observe for the first few weeks. Understanding where you resist a little scheduling and focus, or even time tracking, will help you see how you distract yourself and where your day or week disappears. This does’t mean this new schedule won’t work, it just means you need to spend some more time learning how you work, and how to honor your values and commitments in a new, balanced way.
Here’s the thing, and this is crucial, when we start with what is most important to our well-being, then schedule in the “rocks,” the big, hard, chunks of our days and weeks, we’re able to fill in everything else. With this discipline comes freedom.
You suddenly find yourself sliding your rocks around to create a big hole to say YES I CAN in your day. You start to trust yourself to get it all done, as soon as it can be done, which by no means is in a rush or time-crunch NOR avoidance or procrastination.
Learning this new habit takes time. This is a whole new way of evaluating your commitments and days. Each day may not be perfectly balanced. One day may be pretty heavy with “emergencies,” or as one enlightened Abuela taught me, “life diminishing activities.”
However, shuffling what didn’t get done that day to another day, finding some “life enhancing” actives, and allowing your schedule to evolve creates flow. This may mean, one rock gets moved to next Monday. If you’re even considering this, that means it’s OK, no need to stress out or struggle, you’re choosing what is most impactful in this moment, and consciously taking action.
This, my friends, is how we create balance. We look at our hours, and days, and weeks holistically, committing to ourselves first, and to our highest priories next. Of course we can’t squeeze it all in everyday, is that balanced?
Some months, I work everyday, but I know I have a 4 day break coming up, where I digitally detox for at least 3 hours each day. Or some days I eat like a vegan paleo, knowing I am headed to Mecca (i.e. New Orleans) and the only way to balance that trip is eating lettuce for weeks. Oh, did I forget to mention, my balance is extreme, and it works really well for me.
My balance looks different than your balance. When you know what is most important to you, and when a conflict or sacrifice arises, how to honor your priorities without struggling or stressing, you find effortless balance.