Is work-life balance possible? I used to think it was impossible, some still do. I discovered the truth for me it is possible. It can be possible for you too. Five elements make work-life balance more doable. If your life is falling apart like mine was these steps will get life under control.
1. Define Priorities
When you want to have it all or do it all, remember that life has its seasons. If you are a parent your seasons may look like this: a time before parenthood, a time with young children, a time with teenagers, a time with no children at home, and a time of grand-parenting. Your seasons may be different or less defined, but each time in life has a season. Each season of life has its own focus and your priorities adjust according to your needs.
It is helpful when setting priorities to think about time the way you think about money. When developing a budget, first take care of the most important expenses: mortgage, utilities, transportation, and food; the rest is negotiable. When you plan how to use your time and set goals, you need to prioritize those goals. Making a living is important because that keeps the bills paid, food on the table, and a roof over your head. It is just as important to prioritize things that feed your soul. Some of those things might be time with friends and family, time to be creative, time for exercise, or meditation time. More on setting priorities here.
2. Remember Self-Care
Often when we are working and raising a family we–especially women–forget about self-care. I really enjoy having infused water and have fun experimenting with my infusion pitcher. People are like that pitcher. What comes out of our pitchers depends on what we put into it.
We can fill it with yummy fresh fruit or vegetables or herbs and good pure water. Or, we can add cores, stems, pits, bruised bits, and herbs that are past their prime to a pitcher we did not take the time to clean properly. As you care for your family, your friends, and your work, think about what you have filled yourself with to share with them.
The basics of self-care are exercise, healthy food, enough sleep, and relationships that are warm and supportive. It takes planning and saying no to things that are not fulfilling (like too much Facebook or too much Netflix) to have time for the important things in life. Just like an occasional latte or meal out does not break the budget and can be a fun treat, spending an occasional hour on something that is not essential will not blow your life plan. However, excessive nonessentials can leave you wondering where the time went at the end of the week, month, or year. You can read more about self-care in the post, 31 Ways to Practice Self-Care.
3. Be Present
Multitasking often means doing more than one thing at the same time poorly. Many things need our full attention. Being with the people we love especially needs our full attention. If you are talking to a loved one on the phone and scrolling Facebook at the same time you may miss an important shift in tone of voice or a hesitation that is not in the words, a nonverbal message. People feel it when you really listen to them. They also feel it when you are not giving them your full attention.
4. Meet Two Needs at One Time
Even though multitasking does not work, there are ways to do two complementary things at once. Exercise is one of my favorite needs to meet while doing something else and over the years there are multiple ways I have done this. When my children were young they would ride bike while I walked or in the winter they would read to me while I jogged on the treadmill. Now that they are out of the house, I have walking or exercise-class dates with friends so I can stay connected while I work out. A couple of my friends work with the elderly and are sometimes able to have children at work. The older folks light up when they see young children. If you think strategically, you can find these opportunities in your own life.
5. Set Boundaries
Being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is not a healthy thing. You cannot do everything at every season. To have time for your priorities, you have to say no. There are many good things to do. It is up to you to discern what is most important for you to do at this season of life. More on setting boundaries here.
Work-life balance is like any other kind of balance activity; you continue to make slight adjustments as you go. The more you practice balancing priorities, the more doable it seems. Even if some days you are off balance, you will get back on and try it a little differently tomorrow.
What helps you balance work and life?