What does it mean to live a balanced life? Is it even possible in the 21st century? In this episode we looked at these questions and considered some steps we can take to figure out what balance is right for us, and how to create it. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
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Tips for Living a Balanced Life — TPW093
I recently listened to an episode of The Life Coach School Podcast in which host Brooke Castillo talked about balance, and shortly after that I noticed how several conversations — including meetings of The Productive Woman mastermind group — turned to how our time, energy, and attention are spent in the various facets of our lives and how difficult it can be to create a balanced life.
As busy women, we may sometimes struggle with trying to maintain a balance of work, relationships with family and friends, leisure, physical health, emotional and spiritual growth, and overall well-being.
Does work-life balance exist?
The balance between work and life is one of the most common struggles to achieve for women. When I asked members of The Productive Woman Facebook Page their opinions on achieving work-life balance and what it would look like, I received the following interesting responses:
- “I don't believe it exists. Work is part of overall life, it's a necessity either financially or psychologically or both. This phrase of “work-life” makes it seem like work robs us of life when that's not true, unless you're addicted to work, then that's a different problem. We live in an era where our family usually cannot be integrated into our work (unlike, say, on a farm). So our work is physically separate from our family, and then we're constantly trying to make up for that reality, constantly trying to ‘balance' how much we're gone versus how much we're present, and that can drive you mad. So I think the solution is to not look at as balance. Not to look at work as robbing you or your family. If you work out of the aforementioned necessity, then own it. Make peace with a holistic look at your life and the place of work in it. Find what works for you and your family, which changes over the years. Don't fall into the comparison trap.” ~ Leann Guzman, of 1BusyLady and our guest on Grace for the Working Mom — TPW058
- “I feel like it's a myth. I prefer to think in terms of seasons. When it's harvest time, there's no ‘balance,' just weeks and weeks of hard work. Once the crops are in, there's time aplenty for kith and kin. ~ Andy Catsimanes
Work-life balance doesn’t mean splitting time equally
I don't necessarily think that having a balanced life is having the best life where everything gets equal attention and everything runs very smoothly all the time and everything gets just enough attention to be mediocre …” ~ Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School Podcast, episode 28
Looking at balance on a daily basis is not helpful. It might be better to look for balance within the week, month or season.
Different seasons of life may require more focus in one area over another. If you’re a full-time student, for example, you may have to make studying a priority. Or if you stay at home with small children, they may require more focus than outside activities. These are just a few examples, but we all go through different seasons in our lives that require different needs and points of focus.
We are human beings; we are not superhuman. We should acknowledge that time and energy are finite resources. Remember that the more focus one area of your life receives, the less another area of your life will receive. We may want to focus all our time on one particular aspect of our lives, but be aware it means other areas will be neglected.
Recognize that life changes, and our time, priorities and energy should change with it.
Even if we have a plan or priorities in place, we should keep room for what I call the “BUT THEN” moments. For example, my husband had a plan for the summer, which included projects at home and work, BUT THEN our grandchild was born prematurely, and Mike’s plans shifted to travel to help out our family when they needed him.
How we define “balance” is important. How you’re spending your time, energy, and attention is only a problem if you think it is.
How you think of your use of your time depends solely on you and how you perceive it. Nobody can decide what the right amount of time you should spend on something except you.
- What does it mean if you’re working long hours?
- What does it mean if you’re not going to the gym regularly?
- What does it mean if you haven’t written a word of your novel in the past week/month/year?
If any of the answers to the above or similar questions make you feel happy and fulfilled, then don’t dwell on the thoughts and move on. But if the answers don’t, then it might be time to look at how our time is spent.
Living a balanced life doesn’t mean we’re going to be calm, relaxed and satisfied every minute of the day.”
Some days are more hectic than others, and that’s just how life works. And that’s OK.
Look at your self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? This can affect how we see balance in our lives and the feelings we associate with trying to achieve or maintain it. Some common self-talk traps are:
- “Other people are getting it all done. Why can’t I?”
- “I’m just a disorganized person.” Note: Organization is a skill you can learn. We’ve talked about organization in past episodes (Conquering Clutter — TPW014, Task Management Options — TPW030, A Quick & Dirty Look at Clutter — TPW037, and The Art of Decluttering: An International Conversation — TPW083, to name a few)
- “I’m doing it wrong.”
Why does it matter?
Finding balance in our lives — or even the pressure to find balance in our lives — has an impact on more than just our time, energy, and attention. Balance can affect our health, including our physical health, emotional well-being and even our relationships with others.
If we’re not thoughtfully making decisions regarding balance, it can affect our ability to make the unique contribution to the world we were born for.
The example we set for others may or may not be how we want others to see us. Think of how coworkers, managers, and colleagues see your behavior. If you are a parent, remember your children look to you to be the model for how life should be lived.
How do we achieve balance?
Start by assessing the current situation
Where are you today? Is your focus really where it should be? Are you really spending your time the way you think you are? Become aware of where you are right now. Consider keeping track of how you spend your time for a week or so. I use this chart from time to time to help me get a sense of how I'm using my time. As an alternative, you could try this time-tracking form.
If you feel like your life is really out of balance, ask yourself why. Why do you feel that way, and what's causing the imbalance? Are you choosing how you spend your time . . . or are you trying to meet others’ expectations? Are you filling your time with work or other activity as a way to avoid something else that may be hard, overwhelming, over-emotional, or difficult to start? Are you working overtime, volunteering, helping others out of generosity and abundance, or out of a desire for approval, a relationship, or to “earn” your place in the world?
Another question to ask yourself is, “What’s being neglected?” What do you feel is missing from your life? How will attaining that create balance?
Consider how you can create the space in your life for what’s missing. This doesn’t mean overloading your schedule even more. This should be about creating and pursuing goals that matter by staying focused on priorities that mean the most to you and letting go of the things that don't.
What can you drop — either temporarily or permanently — or delegate or defer? Cutting down on the unnecessary can make room for the essential. It’s common to want to take on everything or have a fear of missing out, but that means the things that matter most to us may suffer.
How can you rearrange your day or week to make better use of your time or energy? Know what works for you. If you’re not at your best in the morning, you don’t have to “Eat That Frog!” Find the time when you are most productive and use that to your advantage, or change your schedule to get the most out of your time without sacrificing what’s important to you.
What small steps can you take to begin to incorporate more of what you feel is lacking in your life? You don’t have to try to do a major overhaul in your life, but small habits that can easily be incorporated into your life can make a big difference.
- Are you missing social interactions? Take lunch away from your desk with a friend once a month. Schedule a coffee date every other week. Find a club you’re interested in that meets once per month. Invite a couple over for game night.
- Do you want to add more exercise to your life? Take a 15-minute walk at lunch twice a week and/or a longer walk on weekends. Find a gym near your office and go on your lunch break a couple times during the week. Get up from your desk every hour or so for a short walk or to stretch.
- Do you crave quiet time to yourself to read and relax? Choose a book and read one chapter or for 15 minutes in the evening.
- Are you working too many long days? If possible, decide to leave “on time” one day per week. Use that time for rest, relaxation or relationships.
We need to create new habits that serve our goals and values, and changing habits is best done in small increments.
Balance is not something we achieve; it’s something we practice getting to, and it changes all the time.”
I encourage you to regularly look at your life and assess what changes can be made to make you feel better about the way your life is working.
What do you think?
What does balance mean to you? Where are you struggling with creating the balance you want in your life? What tools are you using to help you balance your life? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this episode. Please feel free to ask your questions or share your thoughts with me by emailing me, commenting on our Facebook page, or leaving a comment below.
- How to Create a Balanced Life: 9 Tips to Feel Calm and Grounded
- 10 Simple Ways to Find Balance and Get Your Life Back
- 5 Tips For Living a Well Balanced Life
- 6 Tips to Create a Balanced Life
- 5 Easy Steps for Creating Balance in Your Life
- 5 Ways to Find Balance in Your Life
- Five Ways to Prevent Burnout and Live a Balanced Life
- 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance
- How to Set Priorities — The Life Coach School Podcast
Reminders and Notices
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