When you are passionate about your work and equally enamored with your personal life, you can sometimes feel them tugging with one another over your attention. As leaders, most of us struggle to keep our heads above water during busy seasons…and honestly, sometimes we even allow those seasons to become lifestyles. It is easier to get out of balance when we love our work, than it is to leave the work undone. Equally, there are times when we just want, or need, to spend an unusual amount of time with a friend in need, our new baby, or ill relative. Life demands our attention, and our hearts pull us in many directions that can leave us feeling out off kilter. If you recognize any of these symptoms, you may be out of balance:
Knowing that you need a balanced life is easy; implementing it is challenging. You must decide where you need balance and what it looks like in your life. When you begin to set limits and boundaries, you will most likely have to shift your schedule and responsibilities to accommodate the change. These five strategies can help you begin freeing yourself to bring balance into your life and work.
Often for leaders and entrepreneurs the work is seemingly never done. One of the reasons that we get out of balance is because we are always trying to ‘meet the mark’ of success without defining what that mark is for us. Defining what success means to you is a vital part of living in balance. Take some time to pen out what your definition of success really is – a certain financial amount, freedom to travel, Saturday dinners with your family and other important aspects of your life. Once you know what your mark of success is, set and celebrate small wins along your journey.
We all function and flow in a certain rhythm. In both your personal time and in your workday, finding your rhythm will bring ease to you. If your energy peaks in the afternoon, reserve that time for things that need your undivided attention and block it from interruptions. If you’re a morning person, then take full advantage of starting your day in full productivity mode. If you need an afternoon rest or play break, schedule one. Your life and success is in your control, so engage your flow accordingly.
Most leaders know how to say ‘no’; they just don’t like to say it. Being the ‘go-to’ person or having all the answers can position you as a source…that also places a demand on your time and attention. Becoming a re-source allows you to reframe your ‘no’ into a referral to someone else. When you are asked to help someone with a task or project, you have a great opportunity to build the experience of volunteer or leverage the influence of a colleague. The bonus result is that you have more time in your day and feel less burdened by the expectation of others.
If you want to develop a work-life balance, then you must discipline yourself to have boundaries for both your professional and your personal time and space. Protect your time by muting your email alerts, silencing your phone, and closing your door. Let’s face it, unless you work in medical emergency fields, others can probably survive without you for an hour or two during your workday or personal time. Your productivity in work and pleasure in life will increase exponentially when you laser-focus on the present. Getting more done in less time is pivotal to finding fulfillment and feeling balanced.
If a stovetop has four burners, you can only cook four items at a time. If you try to add the oven, microwave, slow-cooker, indoor grill, and electric skillet, all at the same time, you are liable to blow a fuse. Know how many burners you have and don’t try to cook more that your burners or fuses allow. Determine what you must do yourself and pace yourself with a plan. Decide what you can delegate to others and deploy them to do it, even if they can only do it 80% as well as you could. Don’t be afraid to simply delete tasks and processes that really have no purpose or value. The best way to find balance is to plan it.
Sometimes you just need to let go. You have to release unimportant projects, unfinished chores, and unrealistic expectations that you’ve had on yourself. But real release means that you rest from that which you let go. Rest involves mind, body and soul. If you take your work home with you, it doesn’t count. If you check your smart phone or text incessantly, it won’t work. If you feel guilty for missing your kid’s event while finishing a project, it will take you longer to accomplish it. You have to stop. Just stop. Enjoy the peace and refreshment of solitude. Engage with the people you love when you’re with them.
You don’t ‘find’ balance; you create it. Remember that you are the decision-maker for your life. You can create the life you want- it is possible! With only a few tweaks in your routine you can make a big difference in ease and enjoyment of your life.