Achieving That Elusive Life Balance
12:30 pm, February 7th | by Beth Devin, Manilla
Life balance has been on my mind lately. Currently, I am exploring joining a non-profit board and thinking about the time required — how will I fit this important commitment into my already busy life? At work, I am surrounded by women and men who are building their careers, getting married, and raising young children. At home, my stepdaughter is exceling at a new job but constantly running on empty as a single parent of three boys. It’s tough when you are trying to do it all — after all, there are only 24 hours in the day.
Here are six tips I share when people ask me what my solution is to achieving life balance. Let me start by saying there is no one-size-fits-all approach and each situation is unique. Stop beating yourself up and remember that you are doing the best that you can each day.
1. Get help when you can.
I’m a big believer in getting help with managing my life and household when possible. Early on I tried to do it all — work during the day, school at night, and chores and cooking on the weekend. I learned quickly that this was a recipe for exhaustion and grumpiness. My first foray into getting help was hiring someone to clean my house every other week. Not having to argue about cleaning floors and bathrooms was worth every penny. Over the years, I have hired housekeepers, gardeners, childcare providers, and more. I have also leaned on my family members when they’re available. It can be expensive and has not always been an option, but when I can make it work, I’m always glad for it. It’s amazing how many arguments we avoided when I took something off my list. I was less stressed and so were those around me.
2. Balance each day anew.
Figuring out the right work-life balance for your situation is not a one-time decision. It’s just the opposite — every day you’ll face demands for your time and you’ll have to make tradeoff decisions. By prioritizing your objectives each day, you can manage your expectations and those of the people around you. One day, the most important thing might be finishing a project at work, so you need to stay late. The next day, it might be attending an event at your daughter’s school. Each day provides you with an opportunity to look at your choices anew, so take advantage of it!
3. Count to three before saying yes.
I tend to raise my hand, take charge, and get involved too quickly. I am a natural planner and organizer, and I like to say yes without thinking through the consequences. Unfortunately, each time I volunteer, my list of things to balance only gets longer. I am not suggesting that you say no to everything, only that you should pause and think it over before jumping in. It’s amazing what can happen in a moment of silence.
4. Let go of perfection.
This is rote advice but worth repeating because I myself don’t always listen to it. The more I can let go of the worries and “to dos” that don’t really matter, the more time I have for what does — spending time with my family, doing a great job at work, and taking care of myself. I try to apply the same 80/20 rule to my personal life as I do professionally, and it helps. Everything may not be perfect, but it is good enough and life goes on.
5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Keep the people in your life informed of your priorities, plans, commitments, and decisions as soon as you know them. The more everyone knows what’s ahead, the easier it is to accept schedule changes, and comings and goings. It may feel as though you don’t have time to communicate, but you do. Leverage the advances in technology — text, call, email — and find what works best for you and yours.
6. You can have it all, but you don’t have to have it all at once.
It’s great to make a bucket list of what you’d like to accomplish and experience in your life (e.g., building your career, finding your life partner, buying a home, starting a family, traveling the world, etc.). However, you don’t have to do it all at once. Early on in your life you may take more risks, like accepting a job at a fledgling start-up, or changing jobs more often as you gain skills and experience. Later, when you have more responsibilities, you may make different choices. In my 20s I worked all the time and went to school at night. In my 30s I had a demanding job and two young boys. I tried to fit in exercising when I could, but it was pretty spotty. Now that my boys are grown, my yoga and running time is sacrosanct. Embracing this mindset and being patient can alleviate some of the worry and pressure to do it all.
There is no single way to achieve balance in your life. We each have different priorities, values, goals and tolerances. Be curious and open to changing it up every now and again. You’ll know when it is right for you.
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning and secure service that helps consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. Get the chance to win $2,500 in cash when you take the Manilla Get It Together Challenge. Learn more here.
[Photo via Shutterstock]