How to kick the myth and be real.
We think of work-life balance as a perfect state of equilibrium between our careers, our family and, for the daring ones, time for ourselves.
Interesting concept! What we are really after is being able to do e-v-e-r-y-t-h-I-n-g equally well and in equal amount.
What is the likelihood of that? Zip. Better know this now before you get too far into the process.
Some years ago when I was in the thick of family/career challenges as a single mother, I used to think that working without time constraints would be a luxury. For me, family and personal life had too many demands on my professional life. For you, it could be the other way around. It does not really matter. The point being that one part of your life is heavier than the other.
I came late into my career (nothing like a divorce to really get you started) and discovered how much I enjoyed my professional life. I thought that once I would be free from all other responsibilities (i.e. soccer games, swim contests, orthodontist appointments, homework and all), I could have a life for myself, and work at my own pace. It sounded quite nice.
Hah…to be young and naïve!
Of course my children grew up and became their own persons and in doing so, I regained a lot of time and freedom. What happened with that spare time though is noteworthy.
It all got transferred into my work.
All of it.
As no one was waiting for me after work, I stayed and worked late, and as nobody needed help with homework or to be driven around after dinner, I brought work home. Likewise, as there was no family dinner on Sundays, I traveled to be at work on Monday instead of being on the road on Monday…and in so doing found myself, once again, short for time, having too many demands on my life, dealing with endless frustrations, and no one to blame for it this time!
Only then did I realize that the demands of my family and of my own life on my time WERE the balance I needed against the demands of my job.
Work AND life IS balance.
BE smart and give yourself a chance:
- Understand that as human beings most of us will want to fill our buckets to the rim. All our buckets. So, if balance is what you are after, more buckets reasonably filled is a better solution than one big overflowing bucket.
- Recognize that balance is elusive: if you are so lucky as to hit it, you quickly take something else on and that kills it, so be honest with yourself when you pretend to be pursuing it.
- Accept the fact that you will be in and out of balance days at a time. Life events are not linear and crises, like misery, like company. It does not always rain, sometimes it pours but that too will pass.
- Take comfort in the fact that other than life and death themselves, everything else in life is negotiable. So if something went wrong today, tomorrow is another day, and you get another chance at making another scenario.
- Master the art of doing one thing at a time and enjoy the moment. Watching your daughter at rehearsal is a privilege, not an interruption and so is closing the deal with a new client. Enjoy both separately. Don’t mix them up.
Finally, balance, as many things in life, has a tendency to become more achievable the less you fixate on it. Balance will come from concentrating on what you do, one thing at a time, and not from trying to do it all at the same time and being disappointed that you can’t.
What if you decided to enjoy what you do, as you do it, instead of stressing over everything you can’t do? What difference would that make in your life?