Achieving the Mythical Work/Life Balance

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Achieving the Mythical Work/Life Balance

What if we could achieve the perfect balance between work and life?

Prior to the early 1980s, the idea of a “work/life balance” didn’t exist. It was at this point that we began to chase this idea that everything should be completely balanced.

8 hours of sleep. 8 hours of work. 8 hours of life. That’s the magic equation, right?

More often than not, we’re not working 40 hours, sleeping 40 hours and “living” 40 hours Monday-Friday. Some of us are sitting in traffic every. morning during our “living” time. Others are answering emails late in the evening during “living” time.

And sleeping 8 hours? That’s a dream for many people.

The time we’re actually working bleeds beyond the traditional 8-5, more so for those owning their own business or also running a side hustle.

I stopped chasing work/life balance years ago because I honestly don’t believe it exists – but that doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless situation.

Our goal should be work/life integration instead of balance.

Here are some ways I believe (and implement with myself or clients) to blend them together for better overall happiness.

1. Identify your goals.

What are your goals with work? For some of us, we’ve never taken the time to identify what exactly what from our career.

I know people who don’t love their job, but work it hard every day because of what it allows them to do in their time away from it (like travel the world). They don’t look for balance but instead view their work as the means to create the experiences they truly crave.

Other people I know have sacrificed much higher paying jobs (and experiences) in order to have more flexibility about where they work. They choose time or location flexibility in favor of higher pay.

Once you identify what you want, you can begin to create a lifestyle around it – and also improve your mindset because you know why you’re doing what you’re doing rather than getting caught into the trap of “clock in, clock out.”

2. Be “all-in” in each arena.

One thing I’ve learned from individuals who seemed to have mastered work, family, training, and multiple responsibilities is their intentionality to be mindful.

When they’re at work, they stay locked into everything work-related. When they get home, they’re all-in on the family. It’s not an easy switch to flip, but one they’ve trained themselves to do in order to better compartmentalize pieces of their life.

This also allows them to be more productive in each arena because they’re giving it their full focus.

As someone whose mind used to always be “on” work-mode, the shift is not a quick one, but it is a game-changing one. What helped me reset was when I would catch my mind going to work when I was at a home, would be to:

  • scribble a quick note in my phone to come back to tomorrow
  • take a deep breath and refocus my thoughts to the present moment
  • reengage my family/friends/etc

When you’re at work, be all-in at work. When you’re at home, be all-in at home.

3. Own your calendar.

Another thing I struggled with early in my career was being “locked-in” during the day, which ultimately led me to work on projects late into the evening that I hadn’t finished in the day.

I didn’t control my schedule during the morning and throughout the day, and thus, projects that should have been completed first, were pushed into the late night – and subsequently adding more to tomorrow’s plate.

One way that improved this was by setting my schedule the week before. I would spend twenty minutes on Friday afternoon reviewing the next week and then scheduling blocks for key projects, my workouts, my reading time, and family time into my calendar.

If you looked at my calendar, it was busting at the seams – but with a mix of work and personal life, which helped me keep my sanity. If I left holes in my calendar, I found that I:

  • Took longer than I should have to complete a work project
  • Would fill empty time with either procrastination or something unrelated to the work I needed to be doing.

Taking control of my calendar helped me better invest time into work and my life beyond it that matter. It also helped me live more free during the week because I knew where I’d scheduled time for “me.”

4. Set boundaries.

It’s ok to say “no.”

I get it, most of us have been taught all of our lives to not be that person always saying no. However, unless we set boundaries on our time and where we invest it, our schedule becomes someone else’s priority instead of our own.

Every week, we need to review where our time will be spent and identify activities that are non-negotiable. Things like:

  • family time
  • activities that recharge us/self-care
  • important work projects related to our goals
  • 15-20 minutes at the end of every week to review what we did well and what we can improve on next week.

Once we set those key factors into our schedule, we can be better prepared for where we need to guard that time and set boundaries from parties always taking our time.

What I also found helpful with boundaries was to…

  • Schedule time with my office door shut and my calendar blocked. Staff knew to not interrupt and I couldn’t take meetings during this time because it was committed to a specific, important project
  • Schedule time in my calendar of when to answer email, usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This kept me from constantly jumping into my inbox and getting derailed with projects that I’d have to finish after 6pm.

Work/life balance may not ever exist 50/50 the way most people talk about it – but that doesn’t mean we can’t create a lifestyle that flows together in a way that benefits us.

Just out of curiosity, what do you do to “balance” your work & life? Comment below and let me know, I’m always interested to learn what works for others.

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