The Myth of Work-Life Balance (and what to shoot for instead)

We often hear about this wonderful yet elusive thing we all should strive for called ’work-life balance.’ It promises to bring peace into our lives and help us sleep like babies as we juggle many balls in the air without ever dropping one or even skipping a beat. But does such a thing really exist?  Is there a final destination of being able to finally balance it all: career, health, family, friends, passions, personal and spiritual development? Once we get there, we can kick back, put our feet back and bask in our accomplishment.  The short answer is: no.  Not for long anyway.

See Also: The Myth of Job Security

The reality is that instead of a final destination called "balance," what we’re actually dealing with is a "balancing" act that requires our constant awareness, attention, and subtle adjustments. We might feel totally in alignment one day, but the Universe can throw us a curve ball the next that will throw us off our game and knock our balance out of whack. Just admitting that we will never have total balance (not for very long anyway) can go a long way to alleviate some of the pressure and guilt that can be associated with your priorities getting out of whack.

The bad news is that the further away you are from feeling some resemblance of balance in your life, the more likely you are to feel stressed and have overall uneasy feelings.  The good news is that there are some things you can do to make the balancing act work more in your favor.

Instead of trying to achieve perfect balance, aka the unachievable, here are a few tips to help you feel a little more balanced and in control of your life overall:

Realize that the balance you feel one day can be fleeting the next

The more we try to juggle in our lives and the more we put on our plates, the more impossible it becomes to do so. It’s only logical to realize that some things are going to require more attention than others on any given day.  Shift your mindset to a daily check-in where you can rate priorities and then "balance" accordingly and some of the pressure will be alleviated.

We also need to be completely honest with ourselves 

For example, when things get busy, it’s common to put self-care on the back-burner. We kid ourselves and say ’once things slow down, I will take care of myself again.’ If we’re not careful, tomorrow can turn into next week, next month, or next year, and we won’t even realize it until our health goes way out of whack on us. (The same thing can be applied to our jobs, work or relationships). Setting realistic boundaries and expectations will help us to gain a sense of healthy balance in our lives.

Align with your intention

To help you prioritize your daily tasks, check-in with yourself daily and decide what your top priorities are. Daily check-ins are important because this will really change and evolve over time.  Maybe you’ve been spending a lot of time working and one of your kids needs a little more loving and attention to be guided through a tough time. Adjust accordingly. Make sure the most important priorities get your attention first.  A good question to ask is "How do I want to feel?" This question will help you tap in to your core desired feelings and help you decide how you want to show up for things in your life. At the end of the day, what tasks do you need to tackle to feel that way?

Survey the weak spots

As our priorities shift and our to-do lists grow, inevitably, something in your life is going to feel like it’s neglected or like it’s not getting the attention that it should.  What are these areas? How do you feel about them being out of balance?  If you’re okay with it then carry on.  But, if any negative emotions come up such as guilt or sadness, than you will need to do some reorganizing to make sure these neglected priorities are put back on the radar.

Be mindful of time-sucks 

Whether you tend to get sucked in to the black hole of the internet, find yourself playing games on your iPhone, chatting in IM with your bestie, or just daydreaming and/or doing pretty much anything else besides the task you set out to do be aware of the precious limited resource you are wasting: time.  We are all allotted the same 24 hours a day to get things done.  And, a big chunk of that is dedicated to sleeping. So, you have to make the rest of those moments count.  Be mindful of how, when, and why you waste time and then do something about it.  Sometimes there is a catch-22 where we have so much on our plate that we feel overwhelmed and don’t even know where to begin. Be aware of this, turn your distractions off, dive in and take the first steps.  You’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish when focused and energized.

Quit trying to multi-task! 

Studies show we can increase productivity by up to 40% when we stop muti-tasking. Although it might feel like you are getting more done by taking on multiple tasks at once, the truth is that you’re not doing any of them very well when they’re not getting your undivided attention. Pick one task at a time and focus.  You’ll be surprised just how efficiently this strategy works towards getting things done and putting your A-game out there.

Don’t forget to schedule some wellness time 

Oftentimes, we will put ourselves and our personal needs at the bottom of the list when it comes to balancing out a busy schedule.  But, remember what they say before take-off on every flight: put on your oxygen mask first before trying to help others! This is quite sound advice to take into your personal life as well.  It’s so much easier to give up on ourselves when our cup is overflowing.  When we try to give from an empty cup, burn-out will surely ensue and the quality of our work will greatly suffer. Make yourself a priority and schedule daily, weekly, or monthly personal wellness time.  This could include workouts, lunch dates with friends, spa visits, time to read or take a bath, or whatever it is that energizes you and allows you to unwind. Take care of you and the rest will fall into place.

Next time you are feeling the stress of your life being totally out of balance, just take a deep breath and remember this: perfect balance does not exist! Instead of beating yourself up over it, realize that we are all trying our best.  However, by incorporating some of these tips in this article, you will certainly be well on your way to obtaining a greater sense of balance overall.  Check-in with yourself regularly to know what matters most to you and prioritize accordingly.  Don’t forget to take stock on the spots that are feeling most off-balance and give them a little extra loving. And, don’t forget to give yourself some extra loving too! Focus on one task at a time and don’t get sucked into time-wasting activities and you will be well on your way to getting the hang of this balancing act called life.