On a scale from “Master Plate Spinner” to “Clumsy Waitress”, how would you rate your balancing skills?
I’d say I’m around “Mom with tray and a toddler clinging on her leg”.
Your boss gives tasks faster than you can complete them. Your kids need help with their science project. Your friend’s wedding is coming up and she’s expecting you to be her bridesmaid.
Not to mention that the sink in the downstairs bathroom is leaking and you forgot to call the plumper, and your in-laws are unexpectedly at the door. To make it worse, the smoke detector is going off because you forgot to take the spoon out of the bowl before putting in the microwave.
It’s not hard to see why work-life balance is so elusive. It’s not just work & life. Work is further divided into project A and project B and so on. Your personal life is divided into:
- Social areas which include family, extended family, and friends.
- Spiritual areas
- Hobbies & leisure time
- And the list goes on…
How are you supposed to manage all of the diverse responsibilities and activities that make up your life?
Is there a secret formula to keeping your life together?
Not exactly. But with the next few techniques, you can create something pretty close
Find Your Balance Ratio
Contrary to the common belief, work-life balance doesn’t always have to be 50/50. In fact, it’s not even a set ratio all-year-round.
One week, you’ll have an important venture going on at work, so you’ll spend extra hours in the office. The next, your family might need some extra attention.
Think of your work-life balance like a double-pan scale. The sides shift up and down as you add and remove items from the trays. As long as one side isn’t too heavy, nothing will tumble out.
Consider your role in your workplace, your family, and your social circles. What percentage of your time, attention, and effort do you want to give each aspect of your life?
Again, the percentage you set now may change in a month or two. Thus, you must set an absolute minimum requirement for each aspect of your life.
Let’s illustrate this with an example:
Say you want to impress your boss this month to ensure you snatch that promotion. Your competitor, Sally, is putting in extra hours, so you do, too. You take work home and you volunteer to help whenever the chance arises.
If left unchecked, you will devote all your resources, i.e., time, attention, and energy, to your work life. When your kid asks you to play with them, you tell them you’re too busy. Your spouse complains about how absent-minded you are when spending time with him.
You focus so much time on work that you lose the balance.
This is where the bare minimums come into play.
You want to impress your boss. I get that. But you have your obligations to your family, too.
When the scales shift and more of your time is allocated to work, what will you absolutely never give up?
Will you continue to play with your kids and spend quality time with your spouse?
It’s handy to consider what you will compromise in each situation, as well. You may opt to delegate the house chores, for example.
If other people are involved, have a chat with them about how you’ll be shifting your attention. You’ll be amazed how many arguments you can avoid with a 10-minute talk.
For instance, you can keep your social circle intact by telling your friends you won’t be able to go out with them for a few weeks.
Having a plan handy will prevent one aspect from overtaking another.
- How will you react when the scales start to shift?
- What compromises will you make when you need to focus more on one aspect?
- What will you absolutely never sacrifice?
Break It UP
As I mentioned before, your life isn’t divided into only work and personal aspects. Life is way too complex for such generic grouping.
Your life is made up of your family life, spiritual life, financial life, social life …etc.
In order to truly feel balanced, you need to give each aspect its worth.
Before you can determine the worth of each aspect, you need to identify what aspects make up your life.
For example, my life can be divided into 3 categories:
Each of those can further be divided into subcategories:
- Computer Science
- Shut Up & Achieve Content Creation
- Shut Up & Achieve Marketing
- Extended Family
Each of these subcategories have a priority rating, and a minimum and maximum time limit to how long I can spend on each.
When I have exams, for instance, I can crank up the time dedication to the education category and decrease my allocation to SUA marketing. Content creation, on the other hand, can only be forfeited in extreme situations.
By knowing my main life categories and their worth, I can easily rearrange my schedule to accommodate the extra demands of the education category.
- What categories is your life made of?
- Where do you direct your time and attention now?
- How can you change that to make your life more balanced?
Keep A Schedule
I’ve tried and failed to find a better way to organize life than to keep everything written down in a schedule.
With so many things going on in your life, trying to keep it all in your mind will do nothing but give you headaches.
All day, you’re followed by that feeling that you’re forgetting something. You rush to submit papers just before their deadlines. You miss your appointments and can’t seem to remember anything.
Writing it down gets the work out of your head, and allows you to give each task your best.
If you schedule a few weeks ahead, then stick to that schedule, you don’t have to worry about everything else that needs done. Your every commitment will be accomplished in its time.
Planners, calendars, and schedules keep you on top of everything that’s going on in your life. Plan ahead and rid your mind of the little details that clutter it.
Be sure to review your schedule often. If you use an app, such as Google Calendars, make use of the reminder features. Get notified about an event a few days before, so you have time to prepare.
These days, we are so concerned with getting things done that we never take the time to sit back and think about what we are doing.
Only too late do we realize that we’ve let our lives get out-of-hand.
One day, you lift your head and take a good look at your life, then think, “How did I get here?!”
If you reflect on your life every now and then, you notice that small shifts that could disturb your balance later on if left unattended. You can take action early before your life becomes a whirlpool.
That leaves the question:
How do you reflect?
- Take a walk, clear your mind, and think about where you are in life.
- Disconnect from your devices for a day. Enjoy life and live in the moment. Gain some clarity, then observe your life with a new outlook.
- Keep a journal. Writing about how life is going at the end of every day will put things into perspective and give you insight.
If journaling isn’t your thing, you could always use a workbook to help you out. For example, the Emerge Workbook which has space dedicated to reflecting on a certain aspect of your each day.
Life-work balance brings a serenity that most people can only dream of. While elusive, that sense of serenity isn’t unattainable. The key lies in identifying what aspects you want to focus on, what the worth of each is, and how you will adapt to the ever-shifting scales of life.
Don’t wait to uncover the equilibrium. Make your plan now and balancing your scales..