Not so long ago I was working with a client whose life almost mocked the concept of Work Life Balance; he traveled nearly half the year, was rarely at home for special occasions due to work and had little consistency to his day or week except that which he imposed on himself. As you might imagine his goal to achieve that elusive balance was tough but he worked hard and we were able to craft a solution which turned out well for him. While he’s no longer my client I think of him often when I consider all the factors which go into creating such a balance… or perhaps I think of him often because we both like the same spot for a breakfast out! Either way, let me share a bit of what we can learn so that perhaps you can put it into play for yourself.
Success is a tricky term and each of us defines it differently. Defining this is the place to start on the path toward balance. For me, right now, its about leading a life that is more fulfilling and less stressful. For others its about earning a great deal of money or winning awards and recognition from our peers. Striking a balance usually also involves an awareness that this is, just as in stock investing, a long term process which will do best if viewed with a longer lens. Trying to be balanced in any given 24 hour period of time is tough. There is no quick path to long term success of any kind. Please also remember that our definition of success is going to change over time as our own goals are achieved or our circumstances change.
People who tend to be more successful (however you define that) at this balancing act have taken the time to also include in their decision making their family and supports; asking directly how important a game or birthday party is enables our loved ones to be a part of the decision making process for our work related tasks. Of course this means asking when there is a real choice; asking but then disregarding their feedback is only going to set everyone back on their heels! (Harvard Business Review, March 2014)
One of the other major building blocks toward balance I’ve found to be helpful, and one we discussed before, is to be thoughtful about how your spend your energy. Even over the long haul there are only so many tasks or events we can attend to or attend. If we look at this “Great balancing act” as Dr. Seuss said, as a series of decisions there are some decisions about how to spend our time or resources that perhaps we can alter to help ourselves out.
Here’s a great quote I just found on this idea, “Whatever is on your plate is there because you said yes to it.” (Danielle Laporte, The Fire Starter Sessions) Are there tasks or activities you are involved in that don’t support your vision of balance? If so then ditch them! Perhaps that will take some time to gracefully bow out but please, get out of them! Are there staple items you can order for delivery from the supermarket and allow yourself the pleasure to just go for the items you like to pick out like produce or fish? Do you not care who picks out your groceries and then completely wipe that from your list? I don’t know about you, but I could care less who picks out bottles of seltzer for me and brings them to my door because there’s no one who can exercise for me! Free delivery for supermarket goods equals time for me to hop on the treadmill which in turn equals less stress ~ see above for my current definition of success!
In November we’re going to look at this topic again with an eye toward other factors for balance but in the meantime I sincerely hope you start to design your own definition of success. Can’t wait to hear what you come up with!