Balance. Such a simple 7-letter, 2 syllable word. I used to have great balance as a kid, as a ballet girl it played a big part of my life, so why is it so dam difficult to get it right now? Of course I’m talking about the elusive ‘work-life balance’, that term thrown around so often as the key to a happy life.
Ironically, I have been planning to write this blog for several weeks. In fact, looking at the date of my last blog “Just Be Kind” it’s been a whole 3 months (??!!), but I simply haven’t had the time. I guess you could say things have been well out of balance. Now for a self-confessed perfectionist this is incredibly frustrating and embarrassing. When I wrote my first blog I set out to do one every 1-2 weeks. So clearly I have failed in that goal. But does it really matter? No, of course it doesn’t.
And am I the only one who struggles to find the balance, let alone maintain it for a reasonable period of time? No. I did start thinking maybe it’s just a normal part of my learning curve in running a business and raising a young family and that one day it will all suddenly ‘click’, BUT, I know from talking with a range of people that the challenge to find the right balance is real for everyone – Mums, Dads, Wives, Husbands, Singles, Adults, Teenagers, Self Employed, Employees; for everyone.
So what is balance? According to the Oxford Dictionary work-life balance is “the division of one’s time and focus between working and family or leisure activities”. To me it is when you feel like you’ve got everything under control, and you’re confident you are giving each aspect of your life your absolute best – the right amount of focus and effort that it deserves, and that you want to give it.
As a working Mum having the right balance means being ‘present’ with my kids, playing the games they love, going on leisurely strolls to the park where they can stop and throw stones in the river without me hurrying them along or ssh-ing them while I make a quick call or reply to an email.
On the other hand, it means knowing I am doing my best work for my clients, there’s no ‘that’ll do’ or going into meetings under prepared. And it’s having the time to get out and do some exercise, to catch up with friends, to visit family, and chat to my husband – I mean really chat – not just about the bills we need to pay or what I need him to get from the grocery store on his way home from work.
How often can you say you are truly focused on each one of these things at a time? Sure clever multi-tasking often alleviates the need for true separation of each task, for example planning a work meeting while going for a run, but when you are doing one thing (task A) while thinking about another (task B), and those thoughts of task B are preventing you from giving your best to task A, then is that really a good balance? Or have you taken on too much, and is it time to put some strategies in place to tip the scales back in line?
As an example, as I started writing this blog, my mind was racing on all the other things I could/should be doing. My youngest son is in bed for his afternoon nap so I have a 1-2 hour window to get as much done as possible. I could (and probably should) vacuum, wash the floors and windows, register the touch team, unpack the dishwasher, ring Mum, pay some online bills, do my accounts, finish some process mapping, reply to emails, update my business Facebook page, figure out what’s for dinner, do a workout, pull some weeds out of the garden, text one of the many friends I haven’t been in contact with for far too long, or just get out in the sun for some much needed Vitamin D. But, No, I need to get this off my chest. It has been bugging me for far too long. And, being the perfectionist that I am, I know I have to drown those other thoughts out to write a half decent blog, otherwise my precious time is wasted… and I will inevitably be ‘grumpy’ mum when Jack wakes up – as if my lack of focus is somehow his fault.
Phew, just breathe!
So when did life go and get so dam busy? Where does all this pressure come from? Is this an age-old issue, or are we facing more pressure now than previous generations did? Perhaps technology is partly to blame, these days we are in constant reach – there is always an email, text, phone call or message to reply to. But then I choose to check those messages immediately, I don’t have to do I?
So maybe the pressure it all internal, simply a case of me expecting to be able to squeeze too much into my days/weeks? If that is the case, what can I do to take back control? So far, I have stumbled upon the following strategies, and I share them now in the hope something may resonate and help you find the balance in your life too:
(1) Be clear on what is important to you. This may change over time – maybe giving up those boxing classes while you get your business off the ground or get your head around a new job is a reasonable compromise, just make sure you don’t lose sight of what’s important to you along the way
(2) Prioritise as best you can. For me family always comes first, beyond that it’s a case of managing my diary realistically to ensure I meet deadlines and stay true to my word – ‘under-promise and over-deliver’!
(3) Have some non-negotiables. It may be a monthly massage, a weekly wine with friends, or half an hour a day to watch your favourite TV programme, decide what need in your life to make you feel alive and make time for that, without exception
(4) Check your goals/expectations are realistic – for me a weekly blog is out of the question (thank Goodness some might say), so, I will do what I can, and that will be just fine
(5) Delegate where you can – get a cleaner to do your housework, ask a friend if they can host this week’s dinner party, pay someone to make your child’s birthday cake (shock horror!) – the sun will still come up tomorrow
(6) Remember it’s OK to say No. No matter how hard you may want to try, you simply can’t be everything to everyone. And you certainly can’t give your best if you are too far stretched, so have the confidence to know your limits, and say No when you need to.
And remember, it’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself and make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.