Updated: Jun 4, 2018
As a professional coach, much of my time has been spent helping women organize their lives. We can become so overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of career, people, money, technology and ourselves, that we often neglect the most important element.
Of these five elements of work/life balance with which you must contend, YOU are the most critical. That’s not to say that YOU should take up the largest percentage of your time (you wouldn’t get a whole lot done), but that YOU should be at the top of your list. Because when you get YOU right, everything else will fall into place.
The question now becomes, are YOU at the top of your list of priorities? Below are keys to sustaining a harmonious work/life balance:
1. Decide what really matters to YOU. Have you noticed that other people always have an opinion about what you should be doing? Your parents are quick to tell you what you should be doing, your friends swear “you’re called” to be model (or fill in the blank) even though you have no passion for it, and there’s the media constantly feeding you with what’s beautiful, hottest and fashionable. At the end of the day, you must decide what really matters the most in your life.
And how do you do that? Stop, sit down and relax. Write down all the things for which you’re responsible. Taking the kids to softball practice, music lessons, household chores, handling the finances, running your business. Write it all down. Then prioritize what’s most important. From there, communicate to your children, spouse, business partners, friends, family members by letting them know that things are about to change. You are re-prioritizing your life and that if “you” don’t find balance, “we” won’t be balanced. Don’t just shut them out and hope that they “get it” because they won’t. Communicate it to them and then follow through. 2. Let go / Set boundaries. Go over your “to-do” list and move the unnecessary activities over to your “not-to-do-list”. You don’t have to do everything. A lot of what’s draining us women is just busy work. It’s not productive, there’s no value in it whatsoever. Let go of the activities you can do without.
Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. All those people who’ve been draining you, constantly leaning upon you, people you’re always rescuing and bailing out. You’re going to have to establish boundaries. In my book I talk about putting people in their proper circle in your life. You’ve got an inner circle, a middle circle and an outer circle. If you don’t get the backbone to say, “no”, “not this time” or “no more”, people will suck the life out of you.
A lot of times we're enablers because we won’t require people stand up on their own two feet. They will survive if you tell them “No.” Believe me, if you say “no”, they will figure out another way of getting what they want. That’s especially hard when it comes to our children. We will co-sign for that child when we know he won’t pay his bills. You need to get comfortable with saying “no.”
3. Guard your private time. The hardest part of achieving balance is looking for the time to spend alone to reflect and detox. Set aside an hour or two a day to do something that you really enjoy doing, whether it is reading, watching a ball game, taking a walk, gardening, or just sitting or lying still, thinking about whatever comes to mind. This is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself achieve balance.
Just like you schedule your doctor’s appointments and your parent-teacher conferences, you should put private time on your “to-do” list and stick to it. Carve out time in your day to concentrate on yourself and the people closest to you. Don’t allow work and other distractions to intrude on your personal time. Disengage from email and phone calls when it's "me" time.
You also need private time in your relationships. If you’re married with children, you should schedule date night with your spouse; preferably once a week. You need a break from your children from time to time to reconnect with one another to sustain a healthy marriage.
Establish an exercise routine and periodic massages to preserve your physical health and relieve stress.
Maintaining a morning ritual will help you get centered before starting your day. Get up a little earlier so that you have time to sit quietly and meditate, pray, quote your affirmations for the day—whatever will help you to get centered. Also, end the day with a night-time ritual before you to go bed to help you de-stress. Make a cup of tea and curl up in the bed or on the couch and reflect upon your day. Jot down in a journal what you’re grateful for today. Release the negative thoughts about what you didn’t get done and who acted a fool with you. Free your mind from all the cares.
4. Allow others to help you. This is a hard one for most women, especially business owners, because we’re action oriented. We want things done right and we want them done now! We are women on the move.
I’m guilty of this on a certain level, but I’ve learned the importance of delegating responsibilities. Like myself, there are certain things you have the ability to do but would be better served if you delegated to someone else. Even if you must wear all the hats for a certain period, you’ll need to prioritize what’s most important and organize your schedule to complete each task.
Whether in the workplace or at home, it’s okay to ask for help. People don’t think we need help because we’re running around being superwoman all the time. Doing it all and being everything to everybody. If someone offers to help you say, “Yes, thank you.” And if they don’t ask you, then you should take the initiative and ask for help. Spreading yourself too thin is a recipe for life/work overload.
5. Schedule time for recreation & relaxation. When was the last time you took a week’s vacation or weekend getaway? I read a survey that stated most people don’t take a vacation every year. You might not be able to afford a seven-day Caribbean cruise, but you need to schedule time to take a break from the daily grind, with limited use of your smartphone, to relax and get reinvigorated. This is very important because we need to renew our minds and our bodies occasionally so that we can operate at an optimum level and be as effective as possible.
You know how it is when you’ve been working on something all day trying to come up with a solution, and you get frustrated, “I need a break from this.” Then you pick it up again the next day and readily resolve the issue.
Spend quality time with family and friends on a regular basis. Take in a movie, go to the theater, sporting event or other recreation/lobby frequently.
Balancing work and life is all about making the right choices as it relates to the different aspects of your life and prioritizing their importance. When you're trying to juggle all of these areas of your life at the same time, some things will inevitably fall to the floor and through the cracks. Adjusting your schedule to accommodate the demands of your personal and professional life can be a challenge, but it is doable and worthwhile for sustaining a harmonious lifestyle.