A recent Internet search on “work/life balance is…” brought up the following responses: “A joke,” “a myth,” and “impossible.” If you feel the same way, you are not alone.
We are all familiar with the routine, whether you’re a CEO or just starting your career: You wake up early, work long hours as hard as you can to get everything done, then wrap up in record time and race back home to start all over again at your “second job” at home. The speed and intensity, let alone the quality of your work, can feel impossible to sustain.
But it’s not. I often say that if you want to know if it is possible to balance yourself, just ask the people who are balanced. Finding a sense of balance is not a joke, and it’s not a myth. It is an essential part of sustaining energy, results, and joy in life.
First, let’s define balance. Balance means finding a way to prioritize the various elements of your life, with a sense of peace and confidence, that you’re making the right decisions for yourself, your career, and the people that matter most in your life. Balance is about more than checking off the “To Do” list. It’s about sustaining a healthy, happy way of life, so you can feel you are being your best, achieving what you want to achieve, and not having to sacrifice your sanity, or the ones you love, to do it.
The dilemma with balance is simply that there is too much to do. If you take on new responsibilities at work that come from a promotion, an exciting opportunity, or an important project, you risk imbalance with fulfilling your responsibilities in the other areas of your life. If you don’t expand your value at work, you risk professional growth and career success. You cannot get everything done, but the alternative isn’t acceptable either.
Women leaders I have coached, and whom I have worked alongside, know that resolving this dilemma requires three important things: a belief it can be done, a fresh perspective, and a few good, practical ideas for how to do it. Take a page from their book, and solve your work-life balance dilemma in a more practical way.
These are three directions from which successful women leaders come at the balance dilemma:
Do you believe you can get everything done? Do you believe anyone can?
In order to make this shift, you may have to suspend your disbelief that balance is attainable. For now, imagine it’s perfectly possible to design your life and make the decisions that allow you to get everything done. From this place, the foundation you have created to support a balanced schedule is formed.
How do you view your life, and could your mindset be part of the problem?
Call it an attitude of gratitude. An appreciative mindset isn’t just a mental trick. Focusing on the positive can change your experience. Suddenly, all those “things to do” turn out to be the richness of life.
Perhaps the biggest breakthroughs in this area come from great ideas. Many people are busy in this life, and we are all figuring out the tricks to getting things done. The better your bag of tricks, the easier your life becomes.
In the practical realities of daily life, your beliefs and mindset are only a start. At some point you need to know what to do to achieve balance. Here are some examples:
- Insist on an agenda for every call or meeting at work. The organization will cut the meeting times in half.
- Plan ahead so you have control over your time.
- Master the art of delegation. You don’t have to do everything; just lead.
- Be more succinct in meetings. Aim to get more done in less time, not to let a meeting fill an hour slot just out of habit.
- Send fewer emails, so you have to respond to fewer emails.
- Give yourself permission to cut corners. At work, not every memo has to be a masterpiece. At home, paper plates and takeout food work wonders.
- Hire someone to help out with the aspects of your work that someone else can do – then apply that same strategy at home to off-load the laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Do your banking and shopping online instead of running errands, and set up automatic payments for your bills. You don’t have to do everything personally to somehow have it all done.
If you want to believe it’s possible to live a more balanced life, stock up on images of what it might be like from watching the women around you. Ask them for ideas. You will not only start to believe it, you’ll end up with some great ideas for how you can do it yourself.
About the Author
Dr. Joelle Jay is a principal with the Leadership Research Institute, as well as an executive coach, keynote speaker, and the co-author with Howard Morgan of The New Advantage: How Women in Leadership Create Win-Wins for Their Companies and Themselves (www.TheNewAdvantageBook.com). Joelle specializes in the advancement of executive women, and she is proud to have supported the development of top talent into positions of leadership for many successful companies, including MetLife, Adobe, and Microsoft.