Work and life balance isn’t a mathematical exercise to make sure that each day is perfectly balanced says Marsha Egan
Just about every person wanting to chat about work and life balance wants me to infuse some tips and commentary on how to balance everything in their lives. And it is a true challenge; because of our 24/7 connectedness, it can be very difficult to honor all of the “masters” in our lives.
The subject of life balance usually morphs to more discussion of time management, which then morphs to the discussion of priority management. As Jack Welch has said, “There is no such thing as life balance, just life priorities.”
And this is an interesting point, because when people say that they are out of balance, what are they really saying? Most times, they are saying that they are spending more time on one thing and less time on another – another priority that they feel they should be honoring.
The obvious example is the person who works 80 hours a week, and laments that he or she has no time to spend with their family or their children. Another one that comes up often is the whole subject of getting more exercise. Sound familiar?
The answers aren’t simple, but might be a bit simpler than we make them. Some of the key lies in the philosophy that you need to “make time” rather than try to “find time.”
In the examples above, yes, we understand that work pressures will take up a lot of our waking hours, so some of the answer is in working smart. The other part of it is setting boundaries and focusing on the other pieces that you consider important. If you believe you should be spending more time with your children, what boundaries can you set to assure that you have a certain amount of time carved out for quality time with those kids each week? Intentionality is paramount.
Same for the exercise thing – I believe we “should all over ourselves” when it comes to what we know is a necessity or benefit that can extend our lives. The simple answer is to make appointments with yourself to exercise. If you want to get really fancy, you might be able to combine it with another priority, such as taking a walk with your children, or playing golf with a client.
This brings to mind a great quote by Louise Hay. “No person, no place, and no thing has any power over us, for ‘we’ are the only thinkers in our mind. When we create peace and harmony and balance in our minds, we will find it in our lives”.
Taking this quote a step further, then, what we are really talking about is taking our power back. Making time for what is important to you is taking your power back. Saying “no” or “not now” takes your power back. Planning ahead to make sure you honor your priorities takes that power back.
Work/life balance isn’t a mathematical exercise to make sure that each day is perfectly balanced. It is a state of mind that allows us permission to be satisfied in the moment, and gives us the strength to make time for what is important.
When you make time, the important part about that “time,” is that it is quality time. Focused time. Our ability to focus on the task at hand, the conversation taking place, the activity we’ve chosen can increase our satisfaction in proportion to how focused we are on it.
I believe that 100% focus is a work/life balance strategy. By focusing completely on your work, your play, your family, your friends, your work out, your charity work – anything that is important to you – you’ll most likely get it done more thoroughly, more efficiently, and with greater satisfaction. Trying to do two things at once can lead to errors, frustration, and a feeling of incompleteness.
Instead, understand and be honest with yourself about your priorities. The clearer you are on your priorities, the easier it is for you to “make time” for them. And as you make time for what’s important, strive to give complete focus to whatever you’ve chosen for that moment in time. Complete it. Move to the next, and once again apply your full focus. This is a great way to feel more satisfied in the work/life balance conundrum that we all experience.