I heard on the radio recently that the most stressful years of our lives are between 30-40. While I am sure that not everyone agrees, those years rank the most stressful because we typically balance the stress of a young family and the expenses we have during that time of our life.
I remember when my boys were small, and I struggled with balancing the demands of being a full-time speaker and a full-time wife and mother. It seemed that I had never had enough hours in the day. While I don’t believe my kids suffered at all (as I really did try to be Super Woman), I know that I did. I didn’t do all the things I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like I had it all together, and I felt stressed a lot of the time trying to be Super Woman.
Whether you are male, female, or neither; have kids, pets, or neither, aging parents or not; financial challenges or not, we all struggle with the balance between our personal life and our professional life.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”fU0Cs” via=”yes” ]We all struggle with the balance between our personal life and our professional life. Read here for simple tips to making it all easier.[/ctt]
Here are my three simple tips (learned the hard way) on balancing the demands of your personal and professional life. They won’t be easy to do, and they won’t be easy to stick to, but once you do them, your perception of what you can and cannot do will drastically improve.
- Write a list of all the things you consider a priority. This may be spending time with family, exercising, putting away money for retirement, going back to school, getting above-average performance reviews annually, climbing the corporate ladder, or more. Brainstorm anything you think you should be doing at this stage in your life; write it down. Sit down with your life partner if necessary. Think about all the things you want in your life now. Write them all down.
Then, narrow down the list to the top ten. Prioritize that top ten list.
My list might look something like this:
– Earning enough money to sustain our lifestyle
– Exercising three-four times per week
– Maintaining a healthy weight
– Reading one business book per month
– Personal travel trips three times per year
– Writing a new book
– Spending time with my grandson (and two more to come!)
– Spending time with my adult children
– Spending time with my parents as they are aging
– Working no more than eight hours per day, five days per week
– Get top-rated performance reviews from all my clients
– Getting at least eight hours of sleep five nights per week
– Avoiding gluten (I’m gluten intolerant)
And so on.
I am going to have a much much longer list than this. ALL of these things are important to me at this point, yet I need to narrow the list down to ten (that doesn’t mean that items past ten aren’t important, but they are not in the top ten of my life right now). When I get the top ten list, I must put them in sequential order. What is rated as first is the most important priority for me.
This list is going to identify my priorities. Since managing my gluten intolerance is very important to me, it will be ranked higher on my list than maintaining a healthy weight. This means if I must eat, I will eat something that may be higher in calories but is gluten-free rather than something lower in calories but not gluten-free. I will say no to that tuna sandwich on white bread and instead have the gluten-free bun with roast beef (as an example). I’m making a choice, and the choice for gluten-free is more important than my calorie intake.
If getting sleep is higher on my list than exercise, then I will get my eight hours instead of getting up early and going for a run if that is my option.
If working no more than eight hours a day is more important than climbing the corporate ladder, I will honour my quitting time rather than thinking it will hurt my career.
As you can see, some priorities are dominant, so you must ask yourself if that is really your priority. However, priorities are not always black and white, so our second step is important to stay balanced.
- Adjust to be realistic. As I prioritize my list, I can see that although I don’t want to work overtime regularly (who wants to work overtime regularly), I may be willing to give more as the situation requires it occasionally.
Warren and I really good about keeping regular office hours when I am working from home, but I know that as soon as I get on an airplane and travel to see a client, my working hours far exceed eight hours per day. My sleep suffers as I jump around the world in different time zones. I permit myself to have some flex to my priorities.
My priority listed above as working no more than eight hours, five days a week is not a realistic goal for me given my job. I may adjust my priority to observe regular office hours when working from home at least three days per week. That doesn’t mean I’m working late those other two days, but it does give me a bit of room to work overtime if I must! If I know that I’m going to see my grandson next week and he is a very high priority for me, I may choose to work overtime this week to spend more time with him next week. Suppose I have a high-demand period at work. In that case, my need to earn an income (which is high on my priority list as I’m the only one who earns our money) will have a high enough priority that it may overrule my need to sleep, not work overtime, or exercise.
We have to be realistic and recognize that our top ten will move around depending on the situation. I am not working Christmas Day even if you offer me ten times my fee to speak at your event. Earning money won’t always overrule my need for family. Permission to be flexible is important to feel balanced.
- Get Organized. Today as I am flying to a client in San Antonio, Warren is not working in the office as he usually would on a workday. He is helping my uncle put his boat in the water, during working hours.
When we can plan our life, we can still honour our priorities and maintain some balance. We can’t put the boat in the water at the end of the workday as it is dark. That means he booked time off so that he could do something that was a priority for the people who are a priority to us. That’s my Uncle Ron. He is a priority for us.
[ctt template=”3″ link=”0X0SQ” via=”yes” ]When we can plan our life, we can still honour our priorities and maintain some balance.[/ctt]
If your kids have parent-teacher interviews, your mother has a doctor appointment, you need your teeth cleaned, or your oil changed, it is okay to plan your commitments around those things. This does mean you need to be organized to ensure you can do those odds and ends that need to be done and still feel balanced.
Your dentist appointment might mean you work a little longer tonight at the office. If you are organized, you can ensure that you can book time off if allowed. If booking time off isn’t an option, can you be organized enough to ensure all these things are done outside of working hours? Planning and organization will help you feel in control.
Work-life balance is never going to be easy. You will always need to be clear on your priorities; you will always need to be organized and flexible.
However, if you don’t take the time to think about what is important to you, you will always be at the mercy of others’ priorities, and you will never feel balanced. If you don’t permit yourself to be flexible with your priorities, you will always feel that you are never doing the right thing at the right time, and if you aren’t organized with your priorities, you will feel like you are never in control.
It doesn’t matter what decade of your life you are in; we all struggle to do all the things we want to do when we want to do them. Many of us feel that work-life balance isn’t realistic. I think our definition of what work-life balance looks like is realistic.
Once you take control of all the options you have in life, you will feel like you have a semblance of work/life balance, and you’ll feel much better.