“A time for everything: A time to relax and a time to be busy, a time to frolic and a time to labor, a time to receive and a time to give, a time to begin and a time to finish.” –Unknown Author
School is back in session, summer vacation is long gone, and the demands of home and work are again challenging us to maintain that thing we call “work-life balance”. As I began preparing to write this blog I found myself getting anxious, I actually procrastinated for a week because I wasn’t sure I had “the answer”! My strategy was to reflect on my own life in raising a daughter as a single parent, working in various administrative/executive capacities prior to becoming a therapist, and asking myself what I have learned.
The very word “balance” caused me tremendous stress because it felt like an unattainable goal that I would never be able to achieve. I wanted to do well in “everything” all at the same time; to be recognized for being a solid professional, mother, PTA-mom and friend, to name a few. There was NO balance to be found in meeting my high expectations in all these roles at the same time.
Then follow that stress up with guilt. Oh, the guilt. All working parents have the added burden of the never-ending guilt. When you are at work you feel guilty for not being at home. When you are at home you feel guilty for not being at work. So basically you live in a 24-hour guilt cycle that never ends. Until one day when you finally accept the fact that you will never be able to do it all – and that it is actually OK!
It’s not about doing it all, it’s about doing the best you can with what you’ve got. So, rather than constantly feeling guilty and stressed in your pursuit of balance, turn your focus toward doing the very best you can do every day with the time you have.
5 Tips to Doing the Best You Can
BUILD PERSONAL TIME INTO YOUR SCHEDULE
It felt so wrong when someone suggested I schedule time with my family. “Family time is supposed to be natural, organic, flowing”, I replied. Ha! With lives as busy as ours that is not the case; we schedule everything else on the calendar [doctor appointments, meetings, professional conferences] why not personal time with family and friends.
The important thing is that you treat your family and close friends as if they matter just as much as the most important business person in the world. Block out dinner on your calendar. Block out Saturday family events. Identify a “sacred” time for things like a game or movie night. Block out date night with your significant other. Block out a once-a-month father/daughter, mother/son, or best friend date. Put these things on your calendar in advance of each month and then treat them with the importance of any other meeting. Schedule that time with them, you’ve communicated their importance and avoided the guilt-ladened task of “finding time”.
ADD VALUE TO YOUR LIFE
There are a lot of things we waste time on in life like, television, internet, video games, etc. I know because I am as guilty as many of you by allowing these things to overtake my free time if I am not vigilant. Make a list of activities, outings, connections you have said you want to do but have been “too busy” to follow-through on, print the list out and tack it in a place you will see it often. When you catch yourself engaging in things that are not meaningful, pull out the list and make the change to something that has meaning and will give you added value and joy in your life.
People in your life that gossip, are negative, complain, or vent can be a huge drain on your energy. As we have all learned, there is a good chance they will take up your time, zap your energy, and potentially leaving you feeling glum. We have a choice to engage or not engage; if you run into one, or they text you, or Facebook message you, or call you, or whatever, and this is a day where positivity reigns, don’t engage. Assertively and kindly let them know you don’t have the time; protect your positivity and energy for the important things and people in your life.
OUTSOURCE THOSE TASKS THAT YOU CAN
What can you have done for you? It may be a few extra dollars, but it could also save you increased stress. Home deliveries, home repair people, babysitting swapping, shared grocery runs with neighbors or friends are all ideas of how to save valuable time and still get important things done. A couple of years ago friends of mine were engaged in a home “enhancement” project that lasted a month longer than anticipated, when with them I heard the “digs” about finishing the project; a couple of weeks later the project was done, they reached a point that preserving harmony in their household was worth the investment of hiring someone to finish the project.
RELAXATION AND EXERCISE
In all the talk about work/life balance we forget that part of balance is taking time for yourself. It is the very first thing that always goes – you. Women are especially bad at this; we are so worried about everyone else that we forget about us. Everyone – men and women – need a little time each day just for them. Take the time to exercise, go for a walk, read a little, or to take a hot bath once in a while. No matter what you choose to do it needs to be time that is just for you; it will make you a better person to the ones you love, trust me.