A lack of balance in our lives can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and burnout. In this episode, we’re talking about healthy ways to juggle the multiple roles most of us fill in life.
What is balance and how can we get it?
Today, we’re diving into a topic close to the heart of many women: how to juggle work, family, and self-care without sacrificing productivity or well-being. We’ll be discussing tips and strategies for achieving this delicate balance, so grab a cup of tea, sit back, and let’s get started
Defining the Balancing Act
To begin, let’s define what we mean by “balance.” What it doesn’t mean is equal amounts of time for all areas of your life or the perfect amount of time for each area. When we talk about balance in terms of our life we mean finding a way to fulfill our various roles and responsibilities while maintaining our emotional, mental, and physical health. It’s about being able to juggle work, family, and self-care without feeling overwhelmed or constantly stressed.
Of course, using the productivity tools we talk about on this podcast can help. Being intentional about how we use our time, organizing our days and our space–both at home and at work–and cultivating habits and routines that help us to be as efficient as possible all can help us make time for what matters most in every area of our lives.
In addition, I did some research about specific ways to promote balance among those various areas.
The Importance of Setting Boundaries
As I did some reading on the idea of achieving balance, I found that many of the thinkers in this area pointed out that one of the most important aspects of achieving sustainable balance is setting boundaries. I thought that was interesting since we just talked about boundaries a couple of weeks ago in episode 442. What the materials I read agreed on is that it’s essential to establish clear boundaries between work and personal life to prevent one from taking over the other. In addition to some of the things we talked about in episode 442, here are some tips for setting boundaries:
- Set work hours: Establish a schedule that allows you to focus on work during specific hours and dedicate time to family and self-care outside of those hours.
- Create a dedicated workspace: If you’re working from home, having a designated workspace can help keep work-related stress from spilling into your personal life.
- Communicate your boundaries: Make sure your colleagues and family members are aware of your boundaries, so they can respect them. One writer reminds us of the importance of saying no and avoiding overcommitting ourselves, noting that: “An important act of self-care is standing up for your energy and time when other people are asking too much of you. This means listening to your inner voice, putting your needs first, and being firm in your decision to say no.” This is true with respect to work and all other areas of our lives.
- Focus your attention (and to the extent you can, your time) on the parts of your job that are meaningful to you. One article mentioned a “study of medical faculty physicians found that those who spent less than 20 percent of their time on what they considered to be the most meaningful aspect of their work were the most likely to experience burnout” and recommended that we “Reconnect with the parts of your job that bring you joy. If you spend most of your time on tasks that are not personally meaningful, meet with your boss or other colleagues to discuss ways to reconfigure your roles. Get better at saying “no” to focus on aspects of your job (or life!) to which you’d like to devote your time.” This can apply to home and family as well. What are the parts of your home life that you find most fulfilling and enjoyable? It’s probably not cleaning toilets and scrubbing floors. To the extent you have the resources to do so, consider outsourcing those less fulfilling tasks so you can use your time, energy, and attention for what matters most to you.
Self-care is crucial for maintaining balance in our lives. Often those among us who give the most of themselves to others will neglect their own well-being, but the truth is that we cannot give our best if we’re not well ourselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Catherine Beard, on The Blissful Mind blog, has this to say about self-care: “I’m a big believer that self-care is about the practices, habits, behaviors, and mindset you have around your well-being. It doesn’t mean indulging in luxurious things (although that’s good in moderation), but rather it’s about creating a lifestyle that helps you keep your stress to a minimum.” She goes on to quote Brianna Wiest, who’s said: “True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Here are some self-care tips:
- Schedule regular “me time”: Allocate time for activities you enjoy or that help you recharge, like reading, exercising, or meditating.
- Establish a healthy routine: Prioritize sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition to maintain your physical and mental well-being.
This includes self-care while at work, such as making time for nutritious meals and snacks at work and eating them away from your desk or workspace. This combines two beneficial self-care “tasks”: fuel for your body and moving it. If you tend to forget and skip lunch or snacks and just keep working at your desk, consider setting an alarm on your computer or phone to remind you to get up and walk away for a few minutes. (See Tending Ourselves: Self-Care Strategies for Sustainable Work-Life Balance)
Several sources I looked at (and list below) urge us to limit media consumption and screen time. Not only do they use up a surprising amount of our time that could be used for other more productive and fulfilling activities (e.g., time with spouse, kids, friends; getting outside to move our bodies, etc.), but there are plenty of studies showing negative impacts on our mental and emotional health. How about a family game night (with all phones turned off) or a soak in the tub with a good book instead of an evening of reality TV?
- Practice mindfulness: Incorporate mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to manage stress and stay present.
The Maryland University of Integrative Health, in an article earlier this year called Tending Ourselves: Self-Care Strategies for Sustainable Work-Life Balance, notes that “A regular mindfulness practice is an effective and inexpensive way to combat burnout.” and cites studies showing the benefits of meditation. They go on to acknowledge that “Finding the time to learn and practice meditation can be challenging.” They recommend finding a local in-person class or teacher to get you started and also suggest that guided meditation apps “are great options for those who are not able to access in-person classes.”
The Blissful Mind blog post I mentioned earlier offers a number of other good ideas for ways to practice self-care.
Flexible Work Arrangements
Flexible work arrangements can help women balance work, family, and self-care. Here are some options to consider:
- Remote work: Working remotely can provide flexibility in your schedule and eliminate commuting time.
- Flextime: Adjusting your work hours to accommodate personal or family needs can help you strike a better balance.
- Job sharing or part-time work: These options can reduce work hours while still allowing you to maintain your career.
Building a Support System
Building a support system is crucial for maintaining balance and emotional well-being. Isolation has been shown to contribute to rising rates of depression–this was seen especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it continues to be true. As Brene Brown has said, we are social beings, wired for connection, and those connections people are important to our mental health. Here are some tips for creating a support network:
- Connect with other working women: Join networking groups, professional associations, or online communities to connect with other women facing similar challenges. Whether your work is at home or away from home, finding other women to connect with and share mutual support and encouragement can make a huge difference.
- Seek help from family and friends: Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance with tasks or responsibilities.
Blogger Kara Heissman recently talked in a LifeHack post about the importance of strengthening our communication with our family: “Sharing your work life with your family and letting them know your work struggles can help them understand your perspective. If they know your work problems, they will be less demanding and more supportive of you. When they feel heard, they will react better when you have to stay late at work one evening or leave the dinner table early to finish a big project. Make sure the communication flows constantly.”
We sometimes create more stress for ourselves by feeling we have to do it all, or that needing help means we’re weak or incompetent–neither of which is true.
- Consider professional help: If you’re struggling to find balance, consider consulting with a therapist or life coach for guidance and support.
Some final thoughts
It’s important to acknowledge that achieving and maintaining a sustainable and appropriate balance of the various important areas of our lives is difficult, and we might not always feel we’re getting it right. All we can do is take it a day at a time and do the best we can–and give ourselves and the other people in our lives grace.
Juggling work, family, and self-care can be challenging, but the work of intentionally choosing how we use our time in all these areas is essential for our overall well-being. By setting boundaries, prioritizing self-care, exploring flexible work arrangements, and building a support system, women can successfully juggle their professional and personal lives without sacrificing productivity or well-being.
What do you think?
How do you feel about how you’re managing the roles in your life? Have you found ways to balance them in a way that works for you? Post your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or email me.
Resources and Links
- TPW217 – Being Intentional with Time, with Laura Vanderkam
- TPW338 -Habits That Help Me Stay Productive (and a Few I Need to Work On)
- TPW362 -Creating Productive Routines
- TPW427 -Getting Your Stuff in Order: 8 Areas to Organize for a Productive New Year
- TPW442 – Boundaries
- Self-Care Strategies for a Healthy Work-Life Balance | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues
- Self-Care Strategies for Work-Life Balance – MUIH
- Work-Life Balance: Self-Care Practices for Every Professional
- 15 Self-Care Strategies for Work-Life Balance – The Blissful Mind
- A Guide to Balancing Work and Family Life For A Fulfilling Life – LifeHack
Reminder: As I’ve mentioned the last couple of weeks, as I prepare for an episode about productivity tools that help us get stuff done, I’d love your input on what tools you use for capturing, clarifying, and organizing the tasks and information you manage. I’ve received some great ideas from women in the TPW community that I’m looking forward to sharing, and I’d love to include yours too. Remember to share your favorite tools for capturing and managing your tasks, commitments, and important information for this upcoming episode. Email me (either a typed message or a voice recording from your phone) at firstname.lastname@example.org or click on the “leave a message” button on the right-hand margin of the TPW website (remember if you send a voice message, either via email or using the website button, to let us know your first name and your city, state, or country)
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