For lots of us it’s an idea that’s nice in theory but difficult in practice.
It’s little more than an ideal, a cliché or a concept.
But in the real world, things just always seem to get in the way of that perfect ideal.
One of our readers recently e-mailed us with the following article suggestion:
“How to find balance when life is extremely demanding! As a surgery resident & mom with 2 young kids “life balance” just means being overwhelmed from every side. I actually think I’m doing a pretty good job all things considered, but I’d like to see more ideas. Like, how to unwind when there just isn’t time.”
So let’s take a look at that.
Why There’s No Single One-Size-Fits-All Solution
First of all, we need to be careful of trying to go for a one-size-fits-all solution to finding work/life balance simply because everyone is different, the way we live our lives is different and the way we want to live our lives is different.
So, I’m not going to tell you: here’s what you have to do to unwind.
No, I want to ask bigger questions and get bigger answers.
Step 1: Gain Focus
Achieving a work/life balance that satisfies you is more than just being able to manage your time.
It’s about managing YOU.
It’s about recognizing your priorities and knowing your strengths. It’s about not getting side-tracked but sticking to what matters most. It’s about gaining focus.
Take a few minutes thinking about your priorities, your strengths, your values.
Identify the top activities that give you the most satisfaction and results in your life.
These are the things you need to focus on.
Useful reading and exercises from our website to help you further at this stage are:
Step 2: Don’t Be Tempted To Be A Hero(ine)
It feels good to know that, although in a hectic way, you’re managing to do it all and you’re keeping everyone happy.
But are you taking too much on? Is it really helping you achieve your priorities?
Would you (and the people who matter around you) gain more if you focused on your priorities?
Be honest with yourself and think about it for a minute.
If you’re not sure about it, do the Life Wheel exercise. It will help pinpoint the important areas of your life and where there are imbalances.
If you want to be even more precise then use a Time Diary for a week.
I really like diaries because they’re very powerful tools to help you identify the problem.
How To Use A Time Diary
Here are the main steps to filling in and using a Time Diary:
- Before you even start filling in the Time Diary, start by writing down all the main activities in your daily life (commuting, work, meals, taking the kids to and from school/their activities, relaxation, your own activities/passions,…) and next to them how much time you think you spend on each of them per day. Break down work activities as appropriate (reading and replying to mails, attending meetings, …).
- Then, for one week, record how much time you actually spend on these activities (and any others you may have forgotten in your estimate). Do it every day, as precisely and honestly as you can. Do not change your habits to look good. The point here is to get clarity on the sources of the problem.
- Then, compare the actual times spent with how much time you thought you spent on each activity and decide how much time you WANT to spend on them and any other tasks that you have no time to fit in at the moment but are important to you. You’ll end up with a list of activities that you need to trim off and others that you need to either expand or enjoy fully.
Step 3: Some Tools and Techniques for ‘Fine-Tuning’
You should now know much more about what your priorities are and where it’s not going to plan…yet.
Now it’s time to act.
Below are some ideas, tools and techniques to help you achieve more in less time and regain your time.
Note: You don’t need to do it all in one go.
- Don’t get side-tracked: learn to say No.
- Spend time on tasks that give you satisfaction, results and fit in with your priorities. As for the other tasks, delegate, delegate, delegate…
- Take control of your time, question your Limiting Beliefs and avoid procrastination.
- If your problem is efficiency then take a look at our Efficiency Hacks section and learning how to form habits.
- Don’t forget to truly enjoy the important moments with mindfulness
- Get clarity and further motivation by using Visualization
From a lot of these articles and exercises listed above you may see links to further exercises & related articles but this little lot should do for now.
By looking at the big picture, focusing on what matters to you and becoming more efficient, you will end up making more time.
We could have talked about the benefits of learning to breathe, of fitting in a few minutes that make a big difference (Tai-Chi, Yoga, walking, taking a few minutes to do something you love with mindfulness…).
Work / Life balance is not something you will achieve overnight.
You might never achieve it perfectly. You might even find it but lose it again. My point here is that work / life balance is something to work on constantly, keep an eye on, make small adjustments to.
So, rather than trying to ‘find Work/Life balance’, aim to improve your Work/Life balance and meet your priorities. The unwinding will then fall into place 🙂