The word balance connotes images of a scale where the two sides are equal in weight in order to have equilibrium. As a working mother of 2 children who runs a Branding and Marketing Agency, is very committed to daily exercise, and juggles a handful of other professional and personal commitments, I've learned to accept that balance doesn't really exist. (And I know I am NOT alone!) The elusive work-life balance is BS.
Years back, people worked what we call 9-5 or forty-hour weeks. Today, we live in a world that is half online and half offline, and society tends to demand for us to be responsive on all platforms at all times. Technology has advanced the pace at which we work, which explains why we are seeing more anxiety across the board, so much that in 2018 Barnes and Noble announced a 25% surge in the sales of books on anxiety, up from 2017.
Rather than a balance, work-life has become more of integration for me, in which I just embrace the chaos. With this shifted perspective, I am less anxious, more fulfilled and am not beating myself up about trying to separate work and life. Below are 6 tips that have helped me refine the work-life balance to more of a work-life integration:
Resist the Time Wasters and Distractions.
We are targeted by over 4,000 ads per day, and that's a conservative number. For those of us who wake up to our smartphones (yes, me included), think of how many messages you see in the first 5 minutes of your day that truly don't add value to your work-life objectives for that day. Be it the eNewsletters from YETI's latest collection to the 25% off discount from Crate & Barrel, or the Instagram scrolling that turns you away from your own personal agenda and goals for the day, these couple of minutes of time-wasters add up. Social media, in particular, clutters your brain when it's at its freshest. Now think of how many times during the day you pull yourself into social media or get caught in the trap of click-bait articles. Try logging these minutes and soon you'll realize that these "time-wasters" can be limited. Instead, set times when you're not hovering over email, turn off or disable most of your phone notifications, and be focused on the task at hand.
Sort out your Priorities and Learn to Say No
Be it making it to your son's baseball game or finishing a project on deadline, determine what is most important and will deliver most value to you. The most productive people don't have less on their plates; rather, they simply come to the table with an organized plan. Limit-multi-tasking and give people and projects the focused attention they deserve. This applies to personal time dedicated to your wellness and happiness just as much as it does for work time. Don't be afraid to say "No" to opportunities or events that come your way if they are truly not worthwhile. The FOMO, judging and guilt of saying now has been built up by today's "crazy busy" and caffeine drive lifestyles; however, once you accustom yourself to say no, you realize what's most important to you.
Trusting and empowering others to help you achieve your goals is difficult to do. Luckily, I use to compete at an elite level in the sport of rowing, where I learned that teamwork truly does make the "dream work" for as cliché as it sounds. (If you're less into sports and more into music and entertainment, the recent Bohemian Rhapsody film reinforced that for as big as Freddie Mercury was, he was unable to succeed as a star without his team. The rock band Queen was a team.) Figure out what you are able to do best and what others are able to help you with. Maximize the skill sets around you and hire people that do the jobs you need done better than you. My colleagues at work are more talented than I am in their specific skill sets and that's what makes our team so harmonious and effective. So, embrace a "We" as opposed to a "Me" mentality when it comes to getting things done. The same goes for family life. Sort our tasks and responsibilities with your partner or kids, so that more can be accomplished efficiently day to day.
Be Realistic and Accept Limitations
When I say that I embrace the chaos, I also mean that I am realistic to accept limitations. Find inner peace and shift your mindset to a more positive one that embraces constraints. Ask yourself, "How can I be as effective as possible within these constraints?" So for example, "If I have only 4 hours per day to work, how can I finish that project or make as much money as possible?" Or, "If I can only exercise 4 hours per week, what are the most effective workouts I can do to lose weight?" Then use positive affirmations ("I can do this!") as opposed to negative ones ("It's not enough time") to accomplish your plans. Positive affirmations might not work for everyone, but they do for most. Try it and you may learn that constraints might even boost performance!
Ride the Wave and Cherish The Slow
We feel this need to be busy, busy, busy, go, go, go, because if we are not, there must be something wrong with us, right? Wrong. Try this: Stop chasing busy. I know that after a big work event, pitch or even a workout (think of savannas after yoga), there tends to be a slower period. For me, it was in December of last year when work slowed down, and for others, it could be a seasonal cycle of when sales are strongest for their products; think of sunblock or beach accessories in the summer. When you have these moments: Take. Advantage. Don't feel the need to fill your schedule for the sake of it, rather do something to embrace the slower time. Be it a pedicure, going for a run-walk (find more info here), or a cooking class you've wanted to try, a special activity with your family or lunch with your friends, make those things happen. And if you're one who feels the need to continue to work on your business, use the slower time to asses your business from a 360 degree perspective, for instance, update your portfolio, refresh your web site, do some research and meet new people. Ideally, you will have more clarity to remember your "Why" and benefit your business and well-being to a new degree.
Make time for yourself.
Scheduling time for yourself is a keystone to wellness, and it doesn't need to be earned. Even for those of us who love our work, it's important to let go of "the good stress" and plan time for you. This is Non-Negotiable. Bottom line, most of us tend to live off of everyone's else's schedules these days (our kids, our clients, etc.) and we no longer follow our own internal compass. The more you do things that you want to do, the more fulfillment and happiness you will get out of work and life.
Luckily, workplace flexibility is allowing for more of this work-life integration, as the 9-5 workday is about as existent as payphone at a train station. Stop chasing the 50/50 balance, because it doesn't exist. Rather, embrace the chaos, and be as true as you can to who you want to be and what makes you feel most fulfilled.
WRITTEN BYElisette Carlson