I exert a significant amount of passion and energy in my 3 worlds: business, family, and personal. However I’m unbalanced because I become easily drained by one area that the other two suffer; then it goes in cycles with the subsequent areas. I want a healthy medium between all three. Is that possible? Where do I begin? How do I maintain it?
Short Distance Runner
Dear Short Distance Runner,
I’ve got good news and bad news.
The good news is that as it turns out, barring the unexpected, life is a marathon. (Or in your case, a series of short distance laps ;-)).
So the answer to your first question is YES, it is absolutely possible to reach the healthy balance you’re seeking in each of your three worlds…especially if you stretch it out over the miles.
The bad news is that when you wear multiple hats, as so many of us do, then there’s a 99.9% chance that you will in fact be drained from time to time. Translation? Sounds like you’re right on track. 🙁
But fear not my passionate friend. There is hope!
As a wife, mother, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, volunteer, friend, business owner, neighbor and human being with personal interests of my own, believe me, I understand where you’re coming from and I’m pleased share with you these:
Five Secrets to Enjoying a More Balanced Life
Secret # 1: Eat. Sleep. And Be Merry!
Sounds like a luxury, right? It’s not!
YOU are your most valuable asset.
Good work/life balance begins with a good, healthy, happy YOU. You cannot serve others well if you are not well served yourself. Say it with me…I cannot serve others well, if I am not well served.
How do you become well served? Take good care of yourself!
So often when life piles up, we respond by “staying up”; compromising our sleep, robbing hours from the next day and so the cycle begins. We skip meals, skip exercise, neglect our laugh out loud opportunities with friends and fail to nurture our spirits.
This is a HUGE mistake.
Good work/life balance begins with a nicely balanced YOU.
Now take a deep breath and receive that.
What’s one thing that you can commit to do today to take better care of yourself? I’ll wait 🙂
Secret #2: Conduct a Values Auction
Another important step towards enjoying good work/life balance is to define your personal values, and dare I say, rank them.
It’s been said that you can determine what a person values by analyzing where they spend their time or where they spend their money. I agree, but I don’t think it ends there. I’ll use myself and the notion of “competing values” as an example.
I’m a recovering workaholic. When I was an employee, I logged A LOT of hours. I worked before I got to work. I worked all day, and when I got home, I worked, and I kept this pace up for many years. Why? I was driven by my values.
I valued working hard and producing high quality work (You can blame my grandfather for that). I valued giving back to my community (i.e. my shift from corporate American to social work), and I valued education (Before becoming an executive I worked by day, went to school at night and enrolled my children in private school).
Now, if you didn’t know me, it would be very easy to assume that I was married to my career and valued work more than anything else, but that wasn’t the case.
I also deeply valued being a good parent and being an active part of my children’s lives. When I ranked my values and realized that my work was getting in the way of me participating in my children’s fleeting childhood, I made a change.
How to Conduct a Values Auction: Jot down the guiding principles and values that you hold most dear. There’s no limit, so write down all the ideals that come to mind for you: taking care of family, being debt free, having a successful career, being a reliable friend, serving God, staying healthy etc.
Now, imagine you were at an auction with a limited amount of money to spend. In order of priority, choose the top 3-5 values that you could not leave the auction without. Number one would be the thing you’d spend all your money on if you had to. Number two would be what you would bid on next and so on. Get the point?
Clarifying and ranking your values can be a powerful decision making tool when you’re faced with those tough work/life balance decisions. All are important, but sometimes, some areas are just a little bit more valuable.
Secret #3: Make a Road Map of Your Future
Never underestimate the power of a good old fashioned road map!
Technology has its place, but if you’ve ever been on a road trip in an area where service wasn’t available to your GPS, then you can probably appreciate this analogy.
Visualizing your future can go a long way towards helping you maintain your balance.
How to Make a Personal/Family Road Map: Make a visual timeline of your personal and family milestones for the next 5-10 years.
You can do this linearly, in a chart, a drawing or whatever format works best for you.
For now, list only those things that are rites of passage or reasonably guaranteed to happen including milestone birthdays, graduations, debt payoffs, retirements, work promotions, family trips etc.
If you haven’t thought that far ahead or have little to fill in, try a column approach and list the year and age you’ll be each year to help trigger ideas or to set the framework for the next step.
Now, use this framework to identify a realistic time-frame for your personal goals and plug them in. Ex. enroll in school, start a business, take acting class, buy new car etc.
The visual map serves as a unifying reminder to everyone involved that there is a plan for the future. It can be a wonderfully practical tool for keeping perspective when the duties of work, life and family compete.
Secret #4: Embrace the Difference Between NO & NOt Now
Undoubtedly someone in your life has advised you to “learn to say no”, but since most passionistas have trouble with this; I submit to you a slightly revised version of this sage advice: learn to embrace “not now”.
The principle is twofold.
How often have you committed to something and then when the time came, realized that you’d basically added to your own stress load because you were over committed or too tired to participate…enter the guilt?
When you embrace the “not now”, you give yourself time to process how the commitment fits in with your values, your road map and overall commitments.
Instead of committing on the spot, when someone asks you to do something that falls in the lower priority values category, buy yourself some time to respond. (i.e. Thank you for thinking of me, I’ll respond, but “not now”).
This will give you the time you need to make an informed decision without the added pressure.
The second tier of “not now” goes back to our marathon analogy.
Let’s just say that there are 26 miles in life’s journey and each mile equals 3.5 years (i.e. less than high school).
Saying no in mile 1 doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to say yes in mile 3, 5 or 15 (i.e. I’d love to help, but “not now”).
Just because you don’t do it now, doesn’t mean you can’t do it later.
Secret #5: Hakuna Matata
As I alluded in the beginning, relax. There are no worries.
Life happens. Even with the best of intentions, you’ll skip breakfast, over commit and find yourself tipping your scale; and when you do, forgive yourself! Tomorrow’s a new day.
Know that you’re a good person, doing good things in this world, and if it’s any consolation, I’ve checked my crystal ball, and in the end, you win!
Hope this was helpful.
Keep me posted,