I was in a coaching session the other day, listening to a business woman share some of her triumphs and trials. She was reviewing some of her progress from the past year, and we were taking a moment to pause and celebrate those victories.
Then she began to share some of the struggles. Most of the time, she felt she was coming home from her successful business practice feeling drained, exhausted and yet also feeling that she was not accomplishing all she wanted to. Email was piling up, phone calls to return were growing, she needed to meet more and more clients, and had more and more projects to complete. Every moment of every day was being spent and yet the return wasn’t there, and there wasn’t much left in the tank.
She is not alone. In a recent study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S., time management statistics show that Americans spend an average 7.6 hours per day working, and 2.5 hours daily doing household activities. On top of this, if you have children under 6 years of age, the average person spends an additional 2 hours on childcare. This means that over half of your day is gone, with over 12 hours a day devoted to working, household and caring activities. Then there is time for sleep and eating. No wonder we feel pressured by time, with never enough.
The challenge is the general lack of balance in this conversation. Simply Google “time management strategies” or “time management”, and you’ll find a plethora of ready-made, apparently “life-transforming”, “game-changing” time management tools that look surprisingly a lot like each other’s! Add some positive thinking, affirmations, and zen to some time management chart expert’s and Boom! Your time is managed and you will be fine from here on out! If only it were that easy…
This is not to discount the value of careful planning, positive energy, and attention to detail. However, many of these approaches fall into one or more of the following myths…
The Top 3 Myths of Work-Life Balance:
1) Work-Life Balance is Easy to Achieve – Many gave up on Work-Life Balance because someone told us it was easy. We tried their formula, which was supposed to be easy, and gave up. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anything that has value takes time, intentional effort, sacrifice, and good old-fashioned trial and error. Work-Life Balance is no different. Work-Life Balance does not come without hard work. There is no “Easy Button”.
2) Work-Life Balance comes without Intentional Planning – I actually heard a coach say that they don’t take time to plan or strategize. Everything simply falls into place. However, they had two clients and undoubtedly, little cash flow. Work-Life Balance comes when we take time to plan, strategize, set boundaries, and be intentional. I love this quote by Betsy Jacobson: “Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”
3) The Greatest Hindrance to Work-Life Balance Is Everything Else and Everyone Else – Perhaps this is most damaging. When I meet someone who wants to see change in their lives, and yet blames the lack of change on everything and everyone else, I generally challenge them on their commitment to change. Like anything that is important, Work-Life Balance will not come if we wait for everything to line up. As Charles Buxton said, “You will never find time for anything. If you want time you must make it”. As we all know, life favors the proactive. I love this quote by Charles Richards: “Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” You and I have the same number of days available to us in a year as Abraham Lincoln, the same number of hours available to us in a day that Mother Theresa had, and the same number of minutes available to us in an hour that Martin Luther King, Jr. has. Take charge of your present and future NOW by setting a solid goal for Work-Life Balance! Life always favors the proactive.
A Model Work-Life Balance:
I want to offer you here a simple model for Work-Life Balance. This model follows the journey of Sit, Stand, Walk, Run, and Soar.
Sit – Stillness & Strategy – Work-Life Balance is established as we take time to sit. In that position, we are able to spend time in stillness and meditation. This insures that the next component of strategy flows from a place of peace and positive energy. I have found that taking time to sit, meditate, contemplate and be still has lent massive amounts of creativity, inspiration, intuitiveness, and imagination to my strategy and planning. We do not want to be an echo, but a voice. Maybe some lack the aura of vision and originality precisely because they are not taking time to draw from their own personal well.
Stand – Focus & Fuel – Once you have had quality time to sit and ponder your Work-Life Balance, it is time to stand. We stand when we have had time to focus and fuel ourselves. Enough cannot be said about how important it is to replenish and feed ourselves. At one time, we all believed that we were indestructible and that we could be poured out, again and again, without any impact upon ourselves. Maturity has taught us self-care, and that we need to fuel and nurture ourselves. As the ancient Buddhist Masters would say: “Your breathing is your greatest friend. Return to it in all your troubles and you will find comfort and guidance.”
Walk – Effort & Excellence – Standing in the place of focus and fuel, Work-Life Balance then evolves as we begin to walk and move forward with effort and excellence. This is all reducing the amount of “double-handling” in our lives. In other words, when we touch a project or a job, we need to touch it with effort and excellence. Rather than letting procrastination fool us into touching the same project half-heartedly, again and again, we need to touch it but once or twice with intentionality, focus, effort and excellence. We “double handle” things when we procrastinate and delay and push deadlines back and dither, thus wasting valuable time. This costs only you in the end. As Stephen Covey said, “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it”. We make a smart investment when we do the common tasks of our day with an uncommon touch and diligence.
Run – Efficiency & Effectiveness – Charles Darwin said that “A man who dares to waste one hour of life has not discovered the value of life.” In essence, he was saying that Work-Life Balance is about being efficient in the use of our time. Stay close to your core strengths. Discover your strengths, and be sure to stick to them. One of the most difficult things I am learning in this process is that if I want true Work-Life Balance, I need to learn to say no. Sometimes this involves saying no to friends or family. Other times, it involves saying no to business associates, co-workers, or partners. Sometimes, it involves saying no to myself. Whatever the case, we cannot attain Work-Life Balance if we say yes to everything. If Work-Life Balance is important, we need to set boundaries, and run an un-distracted race that is efficient and thus effective.
Soar – Reap & Enjoy – When we consistently and artfully Sit, Stand, Walk and Run, for a consistent period of time, the results begin to flow. Life begins to normalize. Work-Life Balance begins to take root and flourish within our lives. As Aristotle so wisely said: “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”. Work-Life Balance becomes a habit we engage in, and then enjoy the results of.
Moving forward, eat the meat of what you think will work for you in this article, and leave what won’t. But move forward with Work-Life Balance right away. Your personal life, and effectiveness depends on it. And as your stress level goes down, and your success level goes up, those around you, the ones you know, serve and love, will thank you for following a Balanced Approach to Work-Life Balance.
About the Author
Abe Brown, MBA, CMCT, CPHSA is the Coach’s Coach, and is an Entrepreneur, Professional Speaker, International Best-Selling Author, and High-Performance Leadership Coach. He is the founder of Certified Flourishing Coach™, the CEO of Wellness Innovate Corp, and the CEO of Momentum Coaching.