As a young working mother who owned her own business, I struggled to balance the different parts of my life and learned six secrets for creating a sense of balance.
Treat each part of your life as a vacation from the other part
If you carry stress from one location to another, you can never play a one hundred percent game in either location. If you tend to take your work stress home with you, decompress when you drive home tonight. To unwind, listen to music or notice the beauty of the sky at stoplights en route. Tomorrow, when you arrive at work, decide you’re on vacation from your home life. If you genuinely commit to your job during the day, you work faster, harder, and have more energy and time left to tackle your home chores. If you truly shed work at the end of the day, you score a semi-vacation every night.
Write yourself back into the equation
You know the drill. There’s always something. The son with the broken collarbone, the daughter who’s going to “die” if you don’t drop everything at work to get her the science project she left home. Although at the end of the day you’ve handled all the kid issues and kept your boss happy, you can’t say you’ve taken good care of yourself.
What if you wrote yourself back in to the equation by doing one small thing for yourself each day? So, what will be your treat — a short thirty minute walk at noon, a conversation with a friend to make you feel better, or knowing that you’ve chosen only healthy foods for your lunch? Whatever it is, realize you’re restoring balance.
Realize how much you do for yourself (even when you don’t)
We can drive ourselves crazy thinking “when do I get time?” Except, if we think about what matters most, we’d put healthy, happy kids on top of the list. This means what we do for our family, we do for ourselves – and we’re actually good at it. So what if the teen daughter never says thank you because she thinks the world revolves around her? You know what you did and what you had to juggle to accomplish what she needed. Give yourself an A.
Perhaps your co-workers can manage to excel at their job and spend extra time detouring into procrastination, chitchat, or excess perfectionism, but you can’t. If you want to keep your job yet put personal life first, you need to focus intensely on work while at work, psyching yourself to work with extra speed.
When you turn your work life upside down to get the science project from home for your daughter, leverage what you’ve done by saying, “it would have taken you a minute to put into your backpack but it took me an hour plus to deliver it. I love you, but next time, you need to remember.” If she hears and learns, your hour wasn’t “wasted.”
Notice the small moments
Challenge yourself to see and use small moments. For example, do you sit patiently while waiting on hold on the phone or could you complete a small chore such as cleansing your delete log so your on-hold waiting time pays off? When traffic is stopped at the light, can you take two slow deep breaths and get in two abdominal holds – or at least enjoy the relaxing breaths while you gaze at the clouds? Can you slip that discussion you need to have with your son about paying more attention to his teacher into the conversation the two of you have as he’s helping you make the dinner salad?
Accept that balance is a work in progress
Don’t expect to get balance “right” every day. Those who watch successful NASA flights learn that even the best flights involve constant mid-course corrections. One day without time for yourself means nothing – unless you turn that derailment into a permanent pattern.
Noticing what’s right and the progress you’re making pays huge dividends. I’ll never forget how exhausted I felt when I arrived home one night and realized I’d spent the drive home thinking about all the things I hadn’t done. The next night I reflected on what I’d accomplished as I drove home and notice the energy change.
Which of these six secrets can you use to take back your sense of balance?