Buck the Work-Life Balance Myth and Do This Instead
Our lives are filled with the insatiable appetite to learn and do more in the 24 hours we are given each day. With so many different opportunities and responsibilities, it can become so overwhelming you may just throw in the towel.
The reality is that the elusive work-life balance does not exist. Today, we are all so hyperconnected and overly available that “blue screening” during a 2 a.m. bathroom run has become a serious fear. You wouldn’t want to miss your sister’s neighbor’s puppy’s photo update, now would you?
As the mother of two children under 18 months old, it’s been incredibly challenging to run a business and household — while still prioritizing my health and happiness.
How I juggled the last two years may amaze most people, but I simply focused on creating a work-life, boss-mommy integration. And I’ve succeeded!
Don’t resent me. Instead, follow in my footsteps and do it for yourself! Here’s how to integrate your work with your life so you can stay on top of both your personal and professional priorities:
1. Don’t believe the “have it all” hype
Because of our hyperconnectedness, many of us have the “luxury” of taking work with us wherever we go. We expect the same of our team. We dream of working from the beach or a cafe in Paris for a week, but reality comes knocking all too often.
Enter, the three big rocks.
Ask yourself what’s important to you and why. Spending quality time with family, speaking at a great event or training for a half marathon? Keep your big rocks aligned and you won’t go wrong.
You can’t have it all (don’t believe the hype), so figure out a way to focus on the three big things that matter to you the most. Remember, you can be great at three things or you can be mediocre at a lot of things. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Make a list. Start with the three things that are most important for you. These are different for everyone, but for the sake of this exercise, I’ll show you mine:
1. Health: Attend yoga three times per week. Go to the gym twice a week. Eat kale.
2. Wealth: Pay off my line of credit by November 2014. Give one percent of profit to charity. Increase my business revenue by 50 percent and employ three more talented professionals by December 31, 2014.
3. Quality time: Spend two hours per day playing with my children. Have weekly date nights with my husband. All while completely disconnected. No electronics!
By focusing on your big rocks, you’ll quickly see that the smaller pebbles that fill in the gaps have less meaning — and ultimately less importance in your life. The goal here is not to feel like you’re giving up something, but instead that you’re investing in the most important things in life.
2. Live your life according to just one list and one calendar
It just makes sense to merge all your tasks — both personal and professional — into one calendar. It’s all part of “life” anyway. One unified list is a great way to visualize your must-dos. Send yourself a calendar invite for your shopping trip, hair appointment, the baby’s vaccinations and upcoming team meetings.
If you have a significant other or co-founder (or even a nanny), invite them to your calendar of events as well. If they know how busy your day is, they may take some to-dos off of your plate.
3. Make the most of your 24 hours each day
Up at 5 a.m. changing diapers? Or maybe you’re juicing and training for a marathon? Regardless of the scheduled — or unscheduled — event, jump into it with all your capacity and focus.
Some people are incredibly productive before the sun comes up. Those people find books like What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast helpful. Others, not so much. They’re burning the midnight oil and waking up at noon.
By identifying when you have the most focus (also known as your flow), you allow yourself to get your most important work done during your most productive hours. Don’t fight human nature.
4. Collaborate or get left behind
Business owners and executives find it difficult to delegate. Moms find it especially hard to give up running the household. Changing diapers must be done their way, as with cleaning bottles, making lunches and brushing teeth. When dad does it, it’s done differently. Yet the outcome is all the same! Hmm…
Take a step back, breathe and start delegating the crap out of your piddly-diddly tasks. Ask your cleaning lady to come on garbage day so she can put out the trash instead of you. Ask your employees to help manage daily to-dos and give them the autonomy to do them their way. They’ll most likely make the process more efficient, anyway.
Save yourself the headache and don’t do it all. It won’t do you any good if you’re sick in bed from exhaustion. Know your limits, appreciate them and work within your capacity.
Work-life integration isn’t going away. We’re all living (and working) in the 24/7 culture. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think about everything you have to do. It’ll all become a mountain you’ll never be able to scale.
Instead, focus on the three big things, create one task list, get into your flow and delegate! You’ll be happy you did.
Renee Warren is the co-founder of Onboardly, a demand marketing agency that helps small to mid-sized companies grow by doing three things: increasing conversions through key revenue-generating channels, acquiring customers and turning those customers into brand ambassadors. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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