There’s No Such Thing as Life/Work Balance!

This past month was a whirlwind of activity.  Along with business as usual, I had the holidays, which means lots of company and cooking for days on end.   I attended the Harvard/McClean University Coaching Conference, which took me away from home and office for four days.  My younger daughter is about to leave the country for five months to do an internship, so I’ve been called on quite a lot to help with preparing and packing.

I knew I was doing a great job, when my husband said to me as I sat surrounded by suitcases, “Gee, you’re awfully calm.”

And I not only feel calm, I’m having fun.  I made the very definite decision not to search for life/work balance, because I’m convinced, it doesn’t really exist.  If it did, I would probably make myself crazy looking for it, and ending up feeling as if I failed.

We all know that there are plenty of times when the demands of our professional life are weighing us down so much, that home life feels neglected, and vice a versa.  So it’s my contention that life ebbs and flows constantly, and is always in “imbalance”.  Some days we are spending more time on our personal life, and other it’s our business life, but at the end of the week are we able to feel as if we are in harmony?
If you’ve ever listened to an orchestra playing a symphony, you know that there are many different instruments that make up the whole.  Think of them as the many different aspects of your life.  At any moment one is loud and fast, while another may not be heard.  Then a different instrument takes over and is in full blast.  Playing together, sometimes the music feels fast, frenetic, vibrant, other times slow and melodic.  But it the end, they all fit together to produce beautiful music.

The next time you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and wondering how to be and feel successful in both your personal life and professional life, try some of my tips and see if they help make the melody of your life play in perfect harmony.

1.  Elevate self-care to the top priority.   Taking care of yourself should be at the top of your “to do list” everyday.  If you are not eating well, exercising, managing your stress, and sleeping a sufficient number of hours each night, how can you possibly expect to have the energy to meet the demands of all your personal and professional responsibilities?  Adhering to a program of self-care will pay you back tenfold in productivity, concentration, creativity and contentment.

2.  Create clear boundaries around work time and personal time.  Train yourself to stay in the moment and focused on where you are and what you are doing.  Don’t multi-task things that are important, especially your relationships.  If we could be fully present when at the office, and fully present when we are home, I believe we would not only be more efficient at all we do, but happier as well.

3.  Drop the perfectionist attitude and learn to delegate.  Strive for excellence, but not at the expense of putting you into a state of immobility.  Sometimes, we worry so much about getting things just right, that we put off doing them.  Just tackle the challenge doing the best you can and get it done.  Begin asking for help when needed.  People aren’t mind readers and will assume you don’t need anything unless you ask.  Build a support system of those you can call on when needed.

4.  Change your mindset and embrace imbalance.  Stop searching for the perfect balance between your home and work life.  Accept that there will be times where one or the other needs to be put on hold or feels neglected.  Plan in advance when you know you have a big work project coming up and talk with the significant others in your life.  Let them know that you may be temporarily unavailable, but that as soon as you can, you will plan some special time or event to help you reconnect.  When major events are happening at home, prioritize the absolute most important aspects of keeping your job running and let the other stuff go for a while.

5.  Stop feeling guilty.  Guilt is a wasted emotion and will sap you of the energy you need to meet all your demands.  We all do the best we can.  Remain upfront and open in your communication with co-workers, colleagues, family and friends, and they will be more understanding of your challenges.  If you truly give your all to those you love when you are with them, and your best focus and attention to work when on the job, you will feel and be successful at both, and have no reason to feel guilty.

6.  Manage your time.  Individuals who thrive at both work and home are masters at time management and organizational skills.  There are thousands of tools and techniques you can learn, but you need to figure what will work best for you. And you need to have a strong motivation and belief that doing so will improve your days.  Develop systems that make sense for your life, and stick to them.

7.  If any or all of the above prove challenging, hire a pro to help you create the lifestyle that will allow you to thrive both professionally or personally.  Whether it’s a coach, personal organizer, virtual assistant, babysitter, or personal stylist, figure out who can help you.  The time you will save having an expert assist you will pay you back tenfold in a calmer, happier, more productive and healthier week!

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