One big concern for many of us today is how to balance, or integrate, our personal and work lives—whether we’re running a business, creating a business or working in a demanding job.
We tell some fascinating stories around this particular topic. Small business owners and solopreneurs tell me they need to hustle all the time just to keep things moving. Busy professionals in demanding jobs tell me they must work 60+ hour weeks to make a dent in their workload or meet the expectations of their work culture. And too many people tell me that taking time to practice even basic self-care is a luxury.
There are so many assumptions we’re making that might lead to those conclusions. But they’re not the only choices we have. At its heart, the whole question about work-life balance hinges on actively designing your life and work. Or not.
It’s a matter of honoring what’s right for you. Knowing what your real priorities are and why. Committing to your non-negotiables. Questioning your assumptions. Doing things differently to get a different result.
With that in mind, here are seven areas where you can start to create more balance right now:
It’s near impossible to achieve the thing that you have convinced yourself is impossible. If you believe other people’s ideas about “balance” being unachievable, then you won’t be doing much to achieve it. If you believe there’s not another way to work, even though your current method is killing your soul, you won’t implement ways to change that. If you believe that working to burnout levels is how one gets ahead, you’ll fall back to that behavior. Your first step is simple: Adopt a mindset and beliefs that support what you want to achieve, not ones that cut you off at the knees before you even begin. Start looking for the evidence to support your new thinking and you will find it.
This world we live in is filled with choices that nourish us and choices that will eventually deplete us. Smart choices are ones that are based on your true priorities. Sometimes this means making decisions that will disappoint others, changing your game plan or letting go of what you’ve been told you “should” do. It absolutely requires getting clear on what you what you crave for yourself, your family and your career.
You only have so much time and energy in each day. What are you doing with it? Which activities are you taking on solely as a means of getting something else? Which activities feel draining and which ones give you energy? Who are you listening to? Taking a closer look at what’s on your plate and why it’s there will soon make it obvious where you could cut back. In committing to less, you begin to discover the hard truth: you are the one who decides what you agree to do and what you don’t. Your schedule is ultimately in your hands.
When someone tells me that balance is a myth, I find that they’re almost always confusing being perfect at everything or having an evenly weighted scale of activities with having balance in their life. Work-life balance is not about slicing your life into equal parts, and it’s not about “having it all.” It’s about knowing what truly feeds your heart, soul and mind and making sure you’re getting those things on a regular basis. It’s about understanding yourself and what’s important to you. It’s making sure your lifestyle and your values match up.
What sustains you? Just like a structurally sound building, a structurally sound lifestyle and work-style need to rest on a solid foundation. The elements of your own personal foundation include knowing your values, understanding and meeting your own needs, finding community, setting healthy boundaries, defining success for yourself and more.
Identify one small, realistic and meaningful tweak that you can make right away. When you’ve done that successfully, add another. Build on your successes. Maybe it is:
If you’re convinced you don’t have 10 minutes for some deep-breathing, then this is where you really need to start. It doesn’t matter if you know how to meditate or learn a technique. What matters is taking 10 full minutes to be with yourself and the present moment every day. Breathe. Enjoy the silence. Hear yourself think. Every day.
Let go of the debate over whether balance is possible. Just go create some and see what happens.
Sally Anne Carroll is a life / career coach for professionals and entrepreneurs who want to re-tool their work, define success on their own terms and design healthy, balanced lifestyles that match their strengths and priorities. She’s a freedom-focused advocate for helping clients reimagine, redefine and reinvent the status quo to achieve their personal vision of success and fulfillment. Sally splits her time between Portland, Oregon, and Christchurch, New Zealand.