Work-Life Balance transcript:
Does work-life balance actually exist? Some weeks I really wonder. I know I struggle with it, so I’m sure you do too.
But what exactly is work-life balance? My definition would be setting up a time for work and time for life. What do I consider life? Your family, friends, hobbies, and entertainment obligations.
Obviously, most of us cannot depend on our office to change for us, so we have to be a bit flexible and work around our job. We do what we can with what we have to work from. It doesn’t matter if you work part or full time, are exempt or non-exempt we all feel the pressure to do a great job and be there when needed.
Most of us work long hours on top of a long commute, on top of taking care of the house, dogs, kids, and on and on and on. None of us are living the perfect lives social media pressures us to have. No one. You aren’t failing if you didn’t finish that book or bake the snacks for your kids from scratch. It’s ok.
So how do we achieve the elusive work-life balance?
First, let go of trying to be perfect. I’m guilty of this, and I still fall into the same old patterns, but I’ve started learning that done is better than perfect. If I wait for something to be perfect, it may never get out into the world, OR sometimes I won’t even start. How silly is that? I try to live by it’s better to do something than nothing. It’s better to put something out than wait. Because 99.9% of the time, no one else notices anything that I would have picked apart for hours, days, maybe months.
The next big thing for work-life balance is scheduling. I don’t necessarily mean you need to plan every single moment of your day, but it’s good to have some time dedicated to things you need to get done and somethings you want to get done. Start by identifying the big, important things like work, family, exercise. Get those on the calendar. Or a list. Or just have them in mind. Then you can fill in the little gaps with everything else. Look up Stephen Covey and his big rock theory.
So what are we scheduling?
Work. I work a full-time job and am trying to get a photography business going on the side. I make sure I keep my full-time job separate. I only work my scheduled hours, and I don’t answer emails or texts or anything like that outside my standard scheduled work. (of course, there are rare occurrences where I need to jump in and contact someone, but I limit that). This is for my sanity. Because I also have a part-time business, I’m trying to make successful. I have friends. I have dogs. I have other hobbies I like to do.
My photography is delegated to weekends, days off, and nights but only when my husband isn’t home. That means I get every other weekend to really get stuff done, every other Saturday, and maybe one or two weeknights a week. I write in my planner what tasks I want to get done for the week. I set hours for my photography so that I can still have time for other activities.
If you have kids, you’d probably want them to be one of the big rocks. They have needs and activities, and you probably don’t want to miss out on those things. I can’t really speak to the kid scheduling, but if your daughter has soccer every Wednesday and Saturday, there’s a big rock. If you have a partner discuss who is responsible for what and try to split it in an even way (whatever that means to you).
Household chores. Another big rock? Maybe. You probably don’t want to live in filth. Figure out a schedule for big tasks like laundry and squeeze in small ones throughout the week. Split duties fairly among household members. Maybe your kids are now old enough to put the dishes away or take out the garbage. Perhaps you work from home and can toss in laundry during the week. You don’t have to squeeze it all into Saturday. This is something I’ve learned and have been working on. I hate “wasting” a day doing chores, so I do a little on Saturday, a little on Sunday and try to keep the house tidy throughout the week.
I’m a big believer in self-care, being healthy and fitting in fitness. I think working out and getting sleep makes you happier. I believe other people and hobbies are just as crucial in finding that balance and being happier.
Start by identifying what and who are essential to you. What do you want to fit in around work? You probably already scheduled family time, but what about friends? Can you meet for a cup of coffee rather than a dinner date? Maybe you can meet up and walk your dogs.
Do you like to read? I do. I fit in reading time on my commute. I take the bus to and from work, and that’s my reading time. I will also read on my lunch break as well. I can usually finish a book in a week.
I love learning, so I listen to a lot of podcasts. I listen at work and while I run. Maybe you like podcasts or music but don’t listen enough. Start thinking of times you can fit it in. Commute? At work? Maybe your child shows an interest in music or podcasts, and you can listen together for a few minutes each day.
Sleep. GET YOUR SLEEP! As someone who gets sleep but has chronic fatigue, I can’t stress enough how important sleep is. If I don’t get enough or have lousy sleep for a few days, I can’t function. Which means I can’t get anything fun done and struggle to get through the day. GET YOUR SLEEP!
Health and fitness are major work-life balance item. Find something you love and do it. Do cardio. Do weights. Do whatever you will actually do. I love running and lifting weights. I try to run 3-4 days a week and lift 3 days a week. Some weeks are better than others. I also use my 15-minute work breaks to walk. It has double benefits… I get a mini workout in, AND I get refreshed for work. Seriously. When I’m annoyed with a work task, a 15-minute brisk walk helps clear my head, and I can jump back in and finish that annoying tasks quicker than if I sat there and stared at it.
When it’s nice out, I love to head out for a hike. There is nothing like being out in the fresh air, and open space to really let go of the stress.
So that’s my advice. Start small. You don’t have to do that once. Pick one thing and implement it. When it becomes second nature, add in something else. It all takes time. It may seem easier to add 15-minute walk breaks twice a day then let go of perfectionism. But both can be difficult. Pick one and work on it. Get it to be part of your life and add in the other.
In the meantime, embrace the imbalance and imperfection. This is where you are. Accept it and start changing the things you know you can change and let go of everything else. Stop trying to keep up with your neighbor, coworker, whoever and just focus on you!
Set boundaries. At work. At home. In your head. Not all boundaries will be visible or spoken. Know what you can and can fit in.
Lastly, not all scheduling is hourly. Think of the bigger picture. Start thinking in larger time increments. This week/month/season, I will focus on cleaning my house. Next week/month/season I will sit down and write that novel I’ve been putting off until I have more time. There’s 12 months or 4 quarters. What are the 12 things you want to accomplish in 2020? Can you make it so each month you cross off one of those 12 things? Maybe you have some big projects, so you want to do 4 things. Break them down by quarter (or season). Think outside the box.
Remember, you are not alone. We all struggle with finding the balance. Of fitting everything in.
I struggle with finding balance. I struggle with getting everything I want to be done. I feel burnout, and every couple of months, I want to quit photography. I start thinking about how much effort I’m putting in and how little the needle is moving. I see how others appear to be prospering. I wonder if all this work is worth it. If the hours I sit at my desk or work station, planning social media or blogs will get me anywhere. If my time would be better served to do something else. I could read more than 52 books a year if I weren’t trying to get a business going. I could paint or draw. I could work out even more. I could cook and bake. I sit and think about these things. Sometimes I even say them out loud to others. But I’m not ready to give up yet, so I adjust my work-life balance. I try to make sure I’m getting my reading in. Or watching that movie I’ve wanted to see forever. I get out and shoot or re-edit old photos because I need the creativity to balance out the business side.
So no, you aren’t alone. I don’t always put it out in the world when I’m struggling but trust me. I do. My house sometimes isn’t clean. A run might get missed. But I’m happier. And you know what? That’s what it’s about. Being happier and finding what brings you joy.