Balance. What is it really?
Some say it's an even split between working and everything that comes after it. Well, as a parent, your 9-5 doesn't stop once you clock-out. Nope. You merely put on another hat called Mom. This job arguably more complicated and more important than the one that pays you (have we uncovered the ROI of parenting yet?), seemingly takes away from the balance we think we need. What if I told you that being a mom IS balance? Sure it's hard, and your days are often filled with bullshit from colleagues and then kid-shit in diapers, but this is life! Embrace. Enjoy. Rejoice. It only gets easier.
While I often cringe at the term work-life 'balance,' I use it in this post because it's one that most people recognize. My go-to name is work-life integration (pssst, if you haven't seen our Integrated Life video yet, then you should.) Why 'integration'? Because it's the art of incorporating and unifying all facets of your life; mind, body, career, relationships, and spirituality. The all mesh into one another, are rarely ever balanced and is why I think integration is a more fitting word.
Here are nine ways to live a more integrated (balanced if you must) life:
1 . Determine your 5 to Thrive
Rachel Hollis speaks volumes of this method and explains that your 5 to thrive are the five things you need to do every day to be the best version of yourself. I’ve broken it down into more specific categories; mind, body, career, relationships, and spirituality.
Every morning, ask yourself, what are your mind, body, career, relationships, and spirituality objectives for the day? As entrepreneurs, we always tend to default into what makes us thrive in or on the job. You can easily create a to-do list around your work objectives because there is always something or someone begging for your attention, but you can’t thrive without focusing on the other core areas as well. This is where ‘balance’ is born between integrating your core goal with each category. Ask yourself:
What am I doing for my mind today?
What am I doing for my body today?
How am I focusing on moving my career forward?
How am I working on my relationships?
How am I practicing spirituality today?
How you thread those facets of your life together every day will bring more balance and, thus, integration into your life. An integrated life looks at the whole of you, how healthy you are both physically and mentally.
“Balance is achieved when you’ve successfully integrated your five core values.”
2. Schedule everything
Ever heard the quote, “Show me your calendar, and I'll show you your priorities”? It means that what you schedule gets done (I even put drive times into my calendar. )
As you write down your daily goal and create your daily to-do list, place the most critical task first, and put it into your calendar. Imagine if someone else had full control over the free time in your day, and they could put whatever they wanted into those time slots. What would your day look like? Would you be overwhelmed or right on track? Most people would lose out from the moment their day began because they are reckless and reactive with their day.
“We tend to default doing the easy, quick, or fun tasks first because they give us a sense of accomplishment.”
Mark Twain once famously said that if the first thing you do in the morning is to eat a live frog, then you can go through the rest of the day knowing the worst is behind you. Often your worst task is your most important task (we tend to default doing the easy, quick, or fun tasks first because they give us a sense of accomplishment.) But what must get done, needs to be worked on first. How do you know what the most important task is? Well then read on.
3. Prioritize tasks
The things that need to get done must get done first. Use the Eisenhower Matrix to differentiate between urgent and important, and non-urgent and not important.
I am sure you’ve seen this before, but do you ever use it?
It’s quite simple; the tasks on your list are either the things you must do, must schedule, must delegate, or should delete. I won’t break it down for you here, so best to check out James Clear’s breakdown instead.
Looking at your to-do list, place your tasks into one of the four quadrants. Anything that is 'eliminate' or 'delegate' get that off your plate as soon as possible. Schedule the important but not urgent items, and DO the rest. You will quickly see that ‘the rest,’ i.e., the important things, are tasks that will move the needle and will make you feel more balanced because you’re gaining momentum.
4. Make worry appointments
You will experience tremendous stress if you have too many mental tasks or to-dos running around in your head. You tend to forget important tasks because of your mental load and likely have associated anxiety fearing you forget something else. By merely writing everything down, you can empty your mind of the stressful reminders.
‘Worry Appointments’ is something my therapist taught me, and I love it. Using a post-it-note, write down the things that worry you. Each worry has its own post-it. Then set aside a moment in the day to ‘worry’ about it. Usually, mid-afternoon is the best time to have these appointments because it’s not too close to bedtime that it will affect your sleep, it won’t disrupt your entire day, and it still gives you time to take action if action is required.
Just writing it down on paper is enough to release the worry and helps you get going again. It’s a reliable method that even just the act of jotting it down can solve the concern altogether. The other day I wrote down “fear of success” as my main worry (most people have a fear of failure.) I starred at the post-it for a two minutes before giggling at its silliness. At that moment, what was transpiring on the other end of that fear, was my solution --- a perfect business opportunity had manifested just as I threw that worry away. How magical!
Give yourself some time 1-2 times a week to have a worry appointment.
5. Break between tasks
I work from home, so house stuff like laundry and dishes are continually staring me down. In the morning, I only allow myself time until 9 am to do anything around the house. When the alarm goes off, I drop everything and get back to work. Whatever stuff is left undone, I’ll pick away at between tasks.
Taking a 5 to 10-minute break after completing a task is necessary if you want to reset and refocus. Diving into one thing after the other has proven to be less productive with increased odds for error than if you took a short break. Get up and stretch, shake your legs, go for a short walk. “Movement is medicine,” and the added blood flow and oxygen not only helps your body, but it also allows your brain a much needed mental rest between tasks.
But how does this relate to work-life balance and mitigating overwhelm? The short breaks also help calm you. Sitting in the same position or doing the same monotonous task can lead to fatigue, injury, and tons of errors. A simple reset is enough to keep your motivation high and your productivity rocking.
6. Make mealtime a priority
In my house, we have dinner together every night from 5:30-6:15 pm (or as many nights as possible outside of work or extracurriculars). We sit down and break out the Family Conversation Deck, rotating turns with who asks the questions. Studies highlighted in a report by Cornell University suggests that children who take part in family meals are less likely to be overweight, eat more healthy foods, have less delinquency, higher academic achievement, improved psychological well-being and have positive family interactions. And that’s just the kids. For the parents, sharing meals as a family gives them more insight into what’s going on in their kids’ day, how they can solve issues as a family, and can ‘clock’ being present during that time.
7. More self-care!
Yes, I am talking about massages, eyebrow waxing, solo walks in the park, reading a book, and even hot baths, alone. When I ran my agency, I was always working late and picked up my laptop between nap times, daycare pickups, washing dishes, feeding babies; you name it. I never gave myself time to relax.
Today, I prioritize self-care. More me-time means way more productivity when I sit down to do my work. Self-care does not necessarily mean getting expensive manicures, spa days, or facial treatments (but it can if you want). More importantly, it’s scheduled time every week that you have for yourself. In my house, I have one night ‘off’ from doing any parenting or household duties. Every Tuesday, my husband picks up the kids from daycare and does the whole nighttime routine. I can join them if I want to, or I can do my own thing. I usually relax, then go to my drum lessons, eat a light meal, and take a bath. It’s a perfect evening to reset. On Thursdays from 7-9 pm is my ‘Creative Time.’ I head to a coffee shop and work on creative tasks, like writing, designing, or planning content. This is self-care because it’s purely a creative block. Since writing and planning are things I love to do, it’s a must for me to have this time to myself.
8. Give your kids more responsibility
As mothers, we tend to want to do everything for our kids. While there is a time in their lives that this is necessary, their ability to do many things can start at a very young age. Things like emptying their lunch box and school bag, putting their clothes away, running their own baths, setting the dinner table and cleaning up, and so much more. We default into do-it-all mode because we feel this pressure to do it all. And we know we shouldn’t.
"And so they're absolved of not only the work but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute for the betterment of the whole," she said.
Delegating more responsibility is great for everyone.
Start with something small and slowly add to the routine as it turns into a habit for your kids. When my boys get home from school, for example, they must empty their bags, clean out their lunch boxes, put all their clothes away, wash their hands, and prep their lunches for the next day before they are allowed to do anything else. We started with just the first step, empty their bags, then added one new thing a week until this was a consistent routine.
Where can you start? What is the one thing you can delegate right now to take a load off yourself? I dare you to run into the kitchen now and state, “I am never emptying the dishwasher again!” How bold darlin’!
9. Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
I can’t stress this one enough. Keeping on top of a healthy sleep schedule is the foundation for a great day, week, and life. A recent study showed that even cutting back your usual sleep time by 17 minutes can have a daylong effect on your productivity. Not good when you think of even the longterm repercussions of a bad sleep routine.
Having a consistent good night's sleep takes practice and tweaking.
Mine is relatively simple, and it starts at noon every day.
Here it is:
No coffee after 12 pm
2L of water (minimum) during the day. More when I have a tough workout.
Exercise at least 30-minutes a day
No snacks within 1.5-2 hours of bedtime
No alcohol within 4-5 hours of bedtime
No TV or screens within 1 hour of bedtime
Drink a cup of calming tea 1 hour before bedtime
Read 10-pages a night
Wear my blue light glasses starting at 7 pm
Keep a cold and dark bedroom
Keep. The. Same. Routine!
Do you want balance in life? Then start with maintaining a nighttime routine that gets you the right amount of sleep every night. What is the one thing you need to change today to achieve epic sleep? Using my list above, take note of the things you could tweak to improve your overall sleep score.
It’s all about finessing and tweaking habits and routines to achieve YOUR balance. What works for Suzzie up the street may not be your cup of tea, because she loves getting up at 5:30 am on Sunday to bring Johny to hockey. Yuck! So, learn what works for your family and what you want to achieve in life, then put the plan in place to get there. Start small and work your way up to massive change.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you achieve balance in your life.