Whether you are running your own business or working for someone else, my best advice to you is to forget about work-life balance. At least in terms of how most are thinking and talking about it.
I’m all for balance, don’t get me wrong. When you are in business for yourself, life is always a balancing act.
I just feel people are focusing on the wrong things. In my opinion and experience, you’ll get better results if you focus on rest vs effort and cost vs return on that effort instead. These can be monitored, managed and controlled, if you make a commitment to yourself to do so. And when you do, you’ll experience the balance you need and crave.
This requires some experimentation on your part. What creates balance for me will be different for you. More importantly, you must plan for it. It will be some of the most critical planning you ever do!
The other reason I don’t care for the term work-life balance is, for many our work is our life and our life is our work. They are not separate entities. If you are anything like me, you don’t work to live, you live to work!
Not everything you spend time on is directly related to work but it does have an impact. For example: exercising is not work but it significantly contributes to peak performance when we are working. Learning new things is not work but it contributes to enhancing our competency and broadens our perspective of work which then has an impact on those affected by our work as well as ourselves.
Being still — allowing ourselves to reflect, think, and contemplate — is not work, but regularly investing in such time can result in tremendous payoffs through our work in future.
These things are not possible without physically and deliberately taking time away from our work to rest and spend on other activities, including such things as pursuing hobbies, performing community service and even doing nothing (which can often be the most effective use of time we could possibly make)!
Try these tips to find balance
We all have to-do lists a mile long. That is not likely to ever change. There are always competing demands for time. Most people try to manage all that using a calendar of some sort. Which can work if you use it correctly.
But what many do with their calendars is fill all its white spaces with appointments, meetings, email, project work etc. It isn’t uncommon to see double- and triple-bookings in the calendars of the work obsessed.
Not surprisingly, these tend to be the people who feel the lack of balance most. Because they neglected to leave any space for themselves and all the many, and often higher, priorities that make a life.
So how do we fix that? Well, here are some of my best tips. Road-tested and proven to work without fail.
TIP #1: To start, I plan out my calendar at the beginning of every year; it’s one of my favourite things to do. The first thing I put into it are all the personal commitments important to me, reserving time for my children’s special days, events and holidays, days for my self-care (haircuts, dental appointments, mental health and vacation days, several free days (to use as I wish at the time they come up) and so on).
This ensures there are plenty of opportunities for rest, recreation, rejuvenation, reflection and reward. The remaining days can then be spent at full effort with nothing to create negative conflict that impedes peak performance. That way, no matter how hard I am working on those days, I am not resentful, nor am I cheating others of my undivided attention and full presence when I am spending time with or on them. This works well for all.
TIP #2: I never fully allocate the day in my calendar. You must leave space for the unexpected. That way, you’ll be less stressed when something you choose to do with your time takes longer than you hoped it would and you’ll miss fewer opportunities that arise by chance and will have more freedom to pursue whatever moves you, when it moves you. This automatically enhances both your experience of work and of life.
TIP #3: With some of that time you have left open for reflection, there is something really important to think about.
We experience being out of balance when what we have given our time, attention, and energy to does not return satisfaction equal to or greater than what it cost us to serve that particular need or demand. Train yourself to be sensitive to such situations so you can make adjustments where necessary moving forward.
You may well decide to continue serving that task or make that commitment again. When such a decision is made consciously, the cost might not exceed what you can afford because it was, after all, your choice. However, should it continue to prove too great, you are free choose to make a change next time. It’s really when we live and work from pattern and habit alone, rather than consciously through choice, that we automatically risk imbalance.
It’s really easy to focus only on what is in front of us today but that does not serve your success or your balance. Challenge yourself to change your focus to rest vs effort and cost vs return on that effort and I think you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes in your life, to your business, and with your relationships.