When you hear the word “balance,” what do you think of? I think of stability, control, equality and calmness. Do any of these words describe your life? What about words like scattered, chaotic, volatile, hectic and frenzied? Most of us fall into the latter descriptive as it relates to the balance between our home, social and work lives. We juggle too many roles and obligations. We add more to our plates without contemplating whether we have room. We become exhausted and stressed. Does this sound like you?
One of the main questions I am asked as a wellness coach is, “How do I find balance in my life between work and home?” Balance requires a little soul searching on your part. What is balance in your life may not be balance in my life. Also, keep in mind that balance changes as your situation changes (new job, new relationship, kids, house, etc). For example, as a 20-something, my balance equation involved studying, going to work and being with friends. I didn’t have a house to take care of or a significant other. That changed in my late 20s when I graduated from law school, got married and bought a house, all within a span of three months. Talk about disrupting the apple cart! Where was I going to find time to be with friends and family and to enjoy my new-found hobby of running? It took a bit of reflection and some trial and error, but I readjusted and righted the scales to once again find balance.
A few years passed and in my late 30s, our son was born. The scales toppled again! No longer did I have the ability to pick up and go when and where I wanted. My husband and I had to figure out the logistics of childcare, working late and free time. Tension ensued, but reflection, compromise and balance was once again restored. This little baby somehow became a very involved teenager, and so now, in my early 50s, I find myself yet again readjusting and rebalancing my life. My interests, friends, activities and obligations have changed throughout the years, but with each major change, I have gone back to the beginning and re-evaluated where I am and what means the most to me in order to live in balance and not in chaos.
I hope the following ideas will help you find balance in your life.
1. Track time spent at work, home and socially. Is it evenly proportioned? What satisfies/dissatisfies you the most? What’s necessary? What’s important to you? In order to free up time and balance your life, do one of the following:
• Ask for help and accept it (e.g., If you hate cleaning house, ask the kids to do it.);
• Delegate and be OK with it not being done your way (No one cleans like you.);
• Omit the obligation from your life entirely (Hire a housekeeper.);
• Create a team approach and work together (The entire family cleans the house.).
2. Set limits, learn to say no and let go of guilt. Decide what your limits are and what you can comfortably agree to do. Limits define the extent of your responsibilities and show others what you are willing to accept. Additionally, when you have the option to say “yes” or “no,” (e.g., a volunteer opportunity or to serve on a board), do you automatically say “yes” and regret it later? Instead of immediately responding, tell the person you’ll think about it. Then determine whether you have time to do it with a grateful heart. For the times when you do say “no,” let go of the guilt because you’re giving someone else the opportunity to say “yes.”
3. Leave work at work and home at home. With the technology to connect to anyone at anytime from anywhere, there is no boundary between work and home unless you create it. Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time. When you’re with your family/friends, turn off your phone/computer and give them your full attention. I know this is hard to do, but trust me. Quality and focused time with your family and friends goes a long way to create personal relationships that are instrumental to your professional success. When you’re at work, leave family issues at home.
4. Manage your time. At home, organize tasks efficiently, such as doing a load of laundry every day rather than saving it all for a day off. Keep a family calendar centrally located to post everyone’s activities (work and personal), which will help limit time-consuming misunderstandings via clear communication. At work, set priorities, work smarter not harder, and delegate (and really let go!). Delegation at work gives others opportunities and the chance to grow.
5. Create time for yourself. Being a good employee, parent, partner and friend means being good to yourself first. Eat healthy, include physical activity in your daily routine and get enough sleep. Set aside time each day for an activity you enjoy. Taking care of yourself will benefit you and everyone around you.
6. Flexibility. Let go of the need to have everything done a certain way. Perfectionism is not a human trait and you cannot do it all! I know, you’re a lawyer and Type A is written all over you, but take a deep breath, and then strive for an A- or B+. Understand that with work, children and life, things change at a moment’s notice. Always have a Plan “B” and be OK with that.
7. Discuss expectations and responsibilities. When one family member is taking on too many responsibilities, or one co-worker is doing it all at work, resentments can build. The importance of communication cannot be understated. Periodically discuss the perceptions of others to provide the awareness you need to consider choices for work and family balance.
8. Know when to seek professional help. Everyone needs help from time to time. If your life feels too chaotic to manage, talk with a professional, such as a wellness life coach or counselor.•
Sharon McGoff is a graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, a certified personal trainer and health fitness specialist with the American College of Sports Medicine, and a certified life and wellness coach with WellCoaches Inc. The opinions expressed are those of the author.