I don’t believe in trying to balance work and life as if they are separate parts of you that can be split into discrete boxes.
A fulfilled life includes enthusiasm towards your work that will spill into conversations with family and friends because you are excited about your mission and what you have accomplished.
Any parent knows the same holds true for your family and personal life–children don’t get sick only on weekends or holidays and school performances often occur during business hours. Work and life are intertwined.
Yet, I have learned that there are things we can do to help us feel less stressed by the overflow of one into the other as we try to keep our lives in balance.
- Turn off work. Don’t answer emails or business phone calls once you leave the office and have engaged with your family. This may seem trivial; however, this simple act of separation can allow you the focus you need to give the people you love the dedicated attention that creates deep bonds and memories that matter. There may be many times when you are forced to put work ahead of a relationship temporarily due to deadlines or crisis. By having made these daily moments meaningful and the priority you are much less likely to get push-back from loved ones when you need to skip out.
- Know what your own definition of a successful life is in all areas of your life–relationships, family, career, community, free-time. What do you value? Don’t just look at how much time you want to work, but also how do you want to feel about your work. It takes courage to then live by what YOUR priorities are, rather than someone elses. I may value family higher than career advancement and you may value the amount of free-time you have more than the next woman who values her span of influence as a priority. Living by your own values is the key, and if you don’t you are likely to experience burnout, depression, even health issues. If you don’t know what your life priorities are, take some time to really delve into what a successful life means to you. At the end of your days, what will be most important to you that you have been, done or have?
- Drop the victim mentality when it comes to your job or other responsibilities. Sometimes we don’t even recognize we have adopted this mindset, but if you listen to your words they might reveal you feel a victim to your obligations. Look for words like “I have to…,” “I should…,” “I can’t because…,” or other ways of saying you have no choice. Your job (and life) is the result of your choices, and new choices can be made if either is not helping you feel fulfilled and happy. Actually start to view each obligation from you ideal life you have identified in the prior item and start to add and drop items based on your priorities. It will take courage to say no to things you have always done, but if they are not serving you creating your ideal life then saying yes is sapping your energy to truly live. It’s your life–you decide!
- Turn off your auto-pilot and start making conscious choices about what you do each day. I like to make sure I start my day by investing in the things that matter most to me. Then I fill in the more trivial items later in the day; rather than try to do the most important things when I am out of energy. That way if something falls off the table it is not the items that bring me the most joy or are helping me achieve my big goals and dreams.
- Take care of your body and your soul. Eating well. Sleeping enough. Having fun. Exercising. Meditating or some other stress relieving activity. Although these take up time, all these things actually ensure you have the most energy, mental capacity, and creativity to solve even the most perplexing problems. To be your best you have to invest in you.