Rethinking Work-Life Balance

Six years ago, I had an eye-opening experience while attending a conference for women business owners. One of the keynote speakers was Sharon Lechter, author of Think and Grow Rich for Women. At the beginning of her talk, Sharon had us all stand up and keep perfectly still while trying to balance on one foot. It was really hard to do. Women were wobbling and almost falling over. As you can imagine, we were all losing our balance.

Her point for the exercise was that the idea of work-life balance is a myth. Life isn’t static, we’re always moving. Things are always changing. The rest of her talk centered around seeking fulfillment instead of balance as a way to be a successful woman business owner, wife, friend, and mother.

How Standing on One Foot Applies to Self Care

There is a time and place to use “balance” as a guide when it comes to self-care. For example, you should have more healthy, fresh food in your diet than you do processed food. You should listen to your body and get enough sleep so you are refreshed and alert during the day. In addition, you can’t sit too many hours each day and expect to maintain a healthy metabolism.

These examples are ways you can easily measure if you’re giving yourself what you need. You could even apply this to how much time you spend on social media. I have a simple rule I use: every 10 minutes scrolling the social media platforms should be balanced by at least 2 minutes reading something positive or uplifting. Sometimes I forgo the scrolling altogether.

Making time for recreation can also be approached from this linear perspective. You can block hours or days off on your calendar to do what brings you joy. If you plan a fun activity for one day on the weekend, you’ll be more likely to do that fun thing vs. blowing it off to pick up that extra shift or tackle that big home improvement project. There is a time and place for home improvement and extra shifts and there is a time for fun.

As Sharon said above, there is also a time and place to use “fulfillment” as a guideline. For example, suppose you have a week where you are focused on a big project at work. Instead of getting your full night’s sleep or doing your daily workout routine, you traded a portion of those hours for work hours. If you’re only using the work/life balance as your guide, then you’d feel like you were losing at the game of life.

What if you start to use fulfillment as your guide? You may have already made the conscious choice to work those hours, but you went into the project whole-heartedly. You found joy in completing the project. The time you spent at work now has a different meaning. Instead of viewing that time as lost time, you can view that time as hours you invested in your fulfillment. This approach makes it much easier to be happier and more at ease.

Balance and Fulfillment Both Take Planning

When you approach activities based on fulfillment, you can set yourself up for success while taking care of the other things and people that are important to you. Open and honest communication with yourself and others is essential when planning ahead. For example, since you won’t be working out as much, you can decide to pack your favorite salad for lunch every day. Since you know you will be working some later nights, you can plan on a 15 minute meditation every morning to clear your mind. And, since this additional project will take time away from your family, you can have a family meeting where you lay out your plans for the week ahead. This way everyone knows what to expect from you.

Having a plan sets expectations that will empower your family to pick up some slack around the house and give you some space and time. It’s good for you too in that you can give yourself the time you need while not having to worry about disappointing others or having things fall through the cracks at home. You don’t have to feel guilty because you’ve set expectations, and you can always plan for some family fun time at the end of the week.

Don’t get hung up on balancing everything out. There are only so many hours in the day. There are many people that need your time and attention. There is only one of you. Sometimes you have to decide how to use your time, attention, and energy based on what will bring you satisfaction and peace in the moment, the day, or the week.

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