Better than Balance: Finding the Flow in Your Life
I have been known to tell people that I think work/life balance is as much a myth as unicorns and the Easter bunny.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't mean that you can't have both personal and professional success, because I do. But if you want to have a WHOLE life, I think it's more important to consider your work part of your life rather than in competition with it.
I believe that when you integrate the pieces of your life, work, home, personal interests, and all of what makes who you are, you can find the flow of your life and instead of feeling like it's a never ending, impossible to win test of your stamina.
As a working mother, I've had more than a few chats around the water cooler about how hard it is to maintain life with so many balls juggling in the air so to speak. While I occasionally feel like I'm dropping a ball or two, most times I feel pretty good about what I'm able to do with my 24 hours each day. And the reason for that is my constant quest to eliminate every barrier that prevents my life from flowing.
You know the barriers I'm talking about. On the surface they are things like volunteer committees, extra hours at work or last minute trips to the grocery store. But underneath, they are really, unrealistic expectations, overwhelm and other peoples' priorities that pop up in your life pretending to be necessity. They prevent you from actually living your best life, feeling good and reaching your own personal goals.
If you're feeling more frazzled than in control, there is hope. Check out a few of these barrier-busting, flow-finding tips and get your life running like a well oiled machine.
Create a Routine
If I had to pinpoint one secret weapon for finding the flow, it would be to put as much of your life as possible on autopilot. Too many women waste energy running from one crisis to another because of a lack of planning. Look at your day and break it into sections, then create routines around those sections. A good morning routine, for example, no matter how simple, can set you up for a productive day. Reading even a few pages of a book before bed can be a powerful addition to your routine and give you more restful sleep. Whether it's a morning practice of yoga or meditation or how you unwind before you walk in the door from work in the evening. Having a daily routine will make you less stressed.
Routines are great for other areas of home life as well. From what days you do certain chores to making rest and bedtime patterns. Scheduling in downtime for you and your family is a great way to make sure you all are able to relax and bond together.
Get Creative with Work
I have a friend who telecommutes at least a day or two each week, and another who does a working lunch each day so she can get out the door before rush hour each day. Making the most of your day by getting creative helps you meet the expectations of your job, with the minimum side effects.
A bit ago, I interviewed Caitlin Coffman, who at the time was launching her new business, raising two school age children and adjusting to having a brand new set of twins at home.
Learn to say no.
Women are conditioned to think of no as a negative, and many of us think we can't say no at work. This results in taking on too many tasks, working overtime, and being stressed feeling guilty about not being able to get everything done. If there’s a job you know, you won’t be able to get done or that you are not suited for say no. Now, I don't suggest that you slack off at work, just that you be honest about what you can handle.
It is important to learn how to say no to social events and home life events that will be too taxing as well. Saying no allows you to say yes when it matters most. In my home we've had a 2 activity max for years, because that number times my 4 kids was as much as I can handle. Now that I've only got two kids at home, I still keep the same rule. Who says that space in your schedule has to be filled? Two activities has always proven to be plenty, so even if my time would allow more, I'm not teaching my children good habits if I let them over schedule themselves.
Use it or lose it.
This is a slight play on words, but it works both ways. As Americans we're conditioned to think of vacation as being optional when we all really need to take time and disconnect. Growing up, my blue collar parents had the option of taking their vacation or just taking the money from vacation and working through it. My parents almost always took the money and used it for household expenses. As I look back over those years, I'm sure they had their reasons, but I wonder if a few of those days they pushed on to work wouldn't have been better used for what they were intended, rest. While they didn't lose the money, I think they lost something more important, which was the memories and connections that could have been made during those lazy days.
Many companies now don't offer the option to cash out paid time off, so you're literally throwing away a fringe benefit by not at least taking a day here or there. If you're used to being frazzled and super busy on the weekend trying to make time for everything or running from work to appointments on the evenings after work with rush hour traffic, why not use one of those days to take care of those things without feeling rushed. I've been known to schedule the kids appointments, leisurely take them back to school, then have the afternoon to myself.
A Closed Mouth Does Not Get Fed.
I've spoken to thousands of women over the year and you know what I've found more times than I ever would've guessed? Often, we're not as bad at balance as much as we struggle with communicating our needs. At work we can be so afraid of looking like we're not a team player or can't handle the job that we let the job become something we don't even want with too many hours and way too much stress. Be honest about how much you can actually get done don't hesitate to offer a colleague a chance to help if needed. They're not bailing you out, they're doing their job. When framed properly, even letting the higher ups know about a need can be seen as a strength, when you show how it benefits your client or the bottom line.
At home, communication is essential. Years ago, as a young wife, I found myself consistently frustrated by a husband who wasn't pulling his weight around the house. I, having grown up with a father who would load up the Crockpot, spend the morning on the roof and be ready to serve by six on a Saturday, after working 5 full days, had a slightly different perspective of what a husband should do in the house. Expectations can vary greatly because they are mostly built on experiences we've had. You may not get everything you ask for, but if you don't ask, you'll get nothing.
One of your routines could also be a family meeting once a week to discuss upcoming events, stress points, things that may need planning and other elements of life that could cause stress if not well planned. Making this a priority also teaches your kids a valuable lesson about how to manage a family as well.
Are you in your flow with work and home? If not, reach out and sign up for your FREE consultation. I'd love to help you bust some barriers and get your life serving you and not the other way around!