As an entrepreneur and business owner, I am often asked about work-life balance. People assume that because I own a business, I’m a freelance writer, and teach professional development courses, as well as have a teenage child, am married, and am an active volunteer that I have mastered the work-life balance. While I have learned a lot, I am by no means a master.
First and foremost, I must declare, there is no work-life balance. Or at least not in the manner most tend to think of. The common mindset is that work is a compartment, our personal life is another compartment and within the confines of a 24-hour day we can achieve everything we want. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In order to work toward achieving some kind of balance, there are 3 lessons which must be learned.
Lesson One: The Art of Good Enough
This lesson was a challenging lesson to learn. As a perfectionist, and recovering Type A personality, I wanted everything to be perfect. It was more than a want; it was a deep drive to produce a perfect piece of work each and every time. Not only was this an unrealistic perception, but also completely unachievable. Having such a drive, striving to be perfect leads to burnout and stress. Over long periods of time your creativity will die, and chronic health issues will emerge.
Rather than worrying that everything was perfect, I strove for good enough. The art of good enough means you understand what perfect looks like for everyone but you. When you can regularly achieve this perspective, your productivity will soar, and your stress will greatly decrease. No one but you will ever notice the tablecloths were a slightly different shade of blue than the flowers, or that the font was not the exact perfect font. Strive for a well thought out and executed product that is achievable. Your clients will be more than happy with your work, and you will be able to celebrate your victories and milestones.
Lesson Two: Your home will never be perfect
Growing up, my mom volunteered at my school and cared for her family. I grew up in an amazing home that was always clean, well-stocked, and perfect. When I became a mom and had my home, I was determined to have the same well-kept home my mom did. After years of missing sleep, or more importantly, time with my child, I finally read a devotional which changed my entire life. Investing time and energy into your family and others is more important than folding that last load of laundry. I realized in that moment that as long as my house was clean, a lived-in vibe was more than acceptable. A few tufts of dog hair on the floor would kill no one, and if I was too tired to wash the dishes or wanted to hang out with my kid after dinner it was more than ok. It is important our homes are clean and well organized, this helps us be more productive, but they do not need to be perfect.
Lesson Three: Stop comparing yourself to others
Learn to be comfortable with who you are and where you are. Always strive to be better, to grow, to be the best version of you. You were created to be you and no one else. Stop comparing your life to others, stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side. I can promise you that while it may look that way, it really isn’t. Invest in yourself, fertilize your grass, be happy with what you have while you work to have more or better. You will find a new source of confidence and more peace than you ever thought possible.
Being well organized and utilizing good time management is the key. Understanding some days will be focused on work, others on your family, and others on you is key. Finding true balance means looking at the week or the month, not the day. Scheduling like tasks together, ensuring you scheduled time for you and your family, while also meeting the demands of work will help you find the balance you are seeking.
I work on scheduling a week at a time. I maintain a monthly calendar which lists all my appointments, due dates, goals, projects, and responsibilities, as well as those of my family and my team. Working from this picture, I fill in and plan for a week at a time. I always write in my “mom duties” first, followed by my workout time. Next I fill in all appointments, block out travel time and add wiggle room for the long meetings. Then I make a list of my upcoming work by due date and begin assigning tasks to each day. I like to not plan for work on Mondays from 8:00-noon and Fridays from noon to 5:00. This is my catch-up, work-ahead, planning, and recovery from weekend emails time. I also try to schedule all meetings for two days a week, leaving the remainder of the week for work. From there, I schedule my household responsibilities and then create a plan of action.
More than 95% of the time, this method works, but due to things outside of my control, there are days where all I accomplish is making my bed. I have learned to give myself grace, accept these days and find joy in lessons learned. I have also learned to not stack my days so full; I will be unsuccessful no matter what I do accomplish.
The idea of work/life balance exists, just slightly differently than we may have thought. As I work to find it, I hope you find yours.