Balance Is A Myth!
In my office is a tall figurine of my favorite super hero: Wonder Woman. My staff members gave it to me as a birthday gift. When I received it, one of them said, "No one can see that cape you have on, but we truly admire how you balance it all".
Daily I manage my career, handle an intense workday, care for two children, and run a small business. Then around 11 pm or so, I try and get in some work for my doctorate dissertation.
Like many women with similar loads, I get asked how I manage to "balance it all". I too have asked the question of others, both men and women. Every single person eludes that this demon called "balance" can actually be tamed.
It can't. Balance is a myth. Bull. A fallacy.
A perfect day at work means no drills, drama or interruptions, and I get to eat at a reasonable time in a relaxed setting. On the really good days, I may get to the gym. Home is also easy. We get through homework, dinner and everything else smoothly while still having time to relax and get to bed at a descent hour.
Ha! There are no perfect days. Each day is unique in delivery and challenges. I hardly get to eat at a descent hour, sometimes not at all. There's always some urgent matter, a fire drill, people behaving badly and many things beyond my control.
What stays constant however, is my approach: I don't expect, nor do I strive, to be balanced. Instead I work on prioritizing, staying flexible and focused, and not sweating the small things.
We have all bought into the concept that we can only be successful if we learn to balance; yet in the process of attempting to balance we drive ourselves into insanity, overwhelming guilt and just plain exhaustion. The more we force ourselves to be balanced, the more challenging it gets.
Here are a few things that may work, not for balance, but rather for building a strong sense of accomplishment and a life where you're productive and robustly active in all that you do.
- Schedule Your Day - Make a to do list but don't overload it without a thousand things. Instead try to carve out what your day can look like, leaving room for those unexpected interruptions. If you find that you're left with some time (probably rare), use it to prepare yourself for the next day. Personally, I make a list of the top five things I wish to accomplish in the coming week so I can stay focused on what needs to be done.
- Schedule "Me" Time - This sounds almost ridiculous, but I have to put "Lunch" on my to do list, in order to mentally recognize that I need to eat. Do the same for any activity that helps you destress and refocus. From getting a manicure to working out, it’s important to disconnect from the hustle or you will soon crash.
- Prioritize and Delegate - We waste a lot of time doing things that are not important, because we simply get distracted or engaged with someone else's problems. Before you jump on the unexpected make sure you know why you're doing it. Don't be afraid to push back. Take a closer look at your responsibilities. Is there anything that can be outsourced or given to staff? Women are not good with having others do things for them, and as such, take on more than they should.
- Get Rid of The Guilt - In the past, if I missed a day of work, or an event at school I would carry the burden of having disappointed someone for days. Let it go! It is never your intent to be absent, but sometimes the unexpected has to be addressed. I may miss a game but I've never missed a championship, graduation or performance and when I am there, I am fully present.
- Say No and Set Boundaries - Others can be quick to dump on us, or we often raise our hands for projects we simply have no time for. Every time you say yes to one more thing, you are saying no to your priorities. Let people know what you're willing to do and what you're not. Never allow anyone to make plans with your time, space or money. People tend to assume that because you're capable they can commit you without permission.
- Talk To Your Family - My children and husband understand my job (well just a little), my business and why I am seeking a PhD. They are always willing to chip in and help. Whether it's letting me sleep a little longer or helping around the house, our motto is "We're doing this together because your success is OUR success". I respect and do the same for what's important to them.
- Ask For Help - Women in general are nourishers and the first to raise their hands to save the world, yet, are too prideful to say they need help. It's okay to ask. Never see it as a sign of weakness or inability. You don't have to do and be it all.
- Embrace Reality - Don't think about how hard it is, but rather how accomplished you will be. Anything worth accomplishing is worth working hard for. Roll Up your sleeves. Quit complaining. Suck it up. Get moving.
- Stay Positive - It's easy to feel beat up by the end of a tough day. We can start again tomorrow. If your day goes bad, have some wine, put on some comedy and destress. Vent with a friend or find any other positive outlet. Try your best to discuss and let it go.
- Set Goals - If you know what you're working towards, and how you're going to accomplish it, setting priorities and staying focused becomes easier. Embrace your higher purpose.
I will probably get asked time and time again, how I balance. My response: "I don't balance. I live in the moment, with a higher purpose in mind, while prioritizing, staying flexible and doing the very best I can.
Your peace of mind comes not from attempting to balance, but rather from doing the very best you can.