It's All About Balance
How often do we say, "But it's all about balance, isn't it?" or "We just need to get the balance right"?
When raising children, parents need to strike a balance between being too strict and not being strict enough. And because children don't come with a manual, parents often learn the right balance by trial and error.
When you start an exercise program, your trainer will (and should) often remind you about strengthening your core muscles. If you have a weak core, your balance will suffer, and lack of balance increases the possibility of sustaining an injury. However, being able to execute movements correctly takes hours of training.
Cooking a great dish is all about balancing different flavors, textures and colors – and it also takes practice. When I was still learning to cook, many of my dishes silently disappeared into the rubbish bin. It's not that you could definitely taste too much salt or too little sugar – they just didn't taste "right." I instinctively knew the balance was off.
Manage Your Time
So, how do you balance your life if you want a successful career, maybe raise children, keep physically fit, build healthy personal relationships, be present on social media, spend time with friends, and so on?
One of the make-or-break factors in seeking to live a balanced life is learning how to manage your time. When you're not productive, you often lag behind. You can be busy, but spend time on things that aren't important.
I've found that to manage my time and balance my life I need to keep track of three things: clarity, priority and productivity.
A lack of clarity leads to frustration and time-wasting. Without clarity, you can't set goals, and without goals, you won't have much direction. You need to decide exactly what you want to do or achieve. (Remember that a to-do list is also a form of goal setting.)
Without clarity, it's difficult to determine priority. If you don't know what you want to accomplish today, how will you decide what to prioritize? You can get carried away by whatever grabs your attention in the moment, whether or not it takes you closer to your goal.
If you know what you want to do, and in what order, all that remains is doing it. Having clarity and priority will help you to be more disciplined in managing your time. If you find yourself checking social media or engaging in other time-wasting activities, go back and read your goals or your to-do list to remind yourself what's important.
Balance Your Life
If you don't have clarity, can't prioritize, and aren't productive, there's a good chance that your list of unfinished tasks is always growing, potentially creating an unbalanced life. When I have an obese to-do list I feel too guilty to take time off – and if I do take time off, I feel too guilty to enjoy it. There's no balance in that because your mind is always half at work and half at home.
What Balance Means to You
Remember that the work of achieving your goals is never done. Know when to work, but also know when to stop – the work will still be there tomorrow. Be productive when you work so that you can fully enjoy your downtime. Push aside the things that steal time and give you nothing in return, and focus on what matters most.
During last Friday's #MTtalk, we discussed the importance of living a balanced life. Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:
Q1. What's your definition of "balance"?
@harrisonia Balance is being aware of activities you currently have in process and giving them appropriate, but not necessarily equal, attention.
@Midgie_MT Balance means doing all those things you want to get done and being OK with those things that you do not get done, both professionally and personally.
Q2. How has your understanding of balance changed over the years?
@MicheleDD_MT Early and mid-career my focus was on work, so it took priority – actually took over everything. A life-altering event has changed my priorities. Now I work to live a full life.
@BrainBlenderTec It’s less about compartments and more about fluidity. When the beat changes so do the steps.
Q3. How do you know when your life is out of balance? What are the signs?
@PG_pmp When you feel restless from inside and you're unable to get a hold on things in your personal or professional life.
@KrisGiere Stressors become heavier and more overwhelming. Emotions have a bigger influence over our actions or inactions.
Q4. How does a lack of balance in your life affect your work?
@WonderPix Life and work impact each other… hard to keep separate so if one is out of alignment, it can affect the other.
@Adaolasunmade A lack of life balance will affect one's health and cause frequent absenteeism or low productivity.
Q5. How do you affect the people around you if you live an unbalanced life?
@bentleyu Lack of communication, lack of clarity, lack of direction, lack of trust, lack of drive, lack of collaboration, lack of empathy. Your actions or inactions can create tension and corrode relationships.
@lg217 The people you care about are affected because you show no interest in making time for them because you are working too much. This could lead to losing those you care about the most and sharing and doing things you all love. Life becomes a work feast and you don’t want that.
Q6. When do you feel balanced?
@jojacob_uk When I’m enjoying it all and feeling positive about all the different elements – rare though!
@Yolande_MT I feel "light" when I'm balanced. There's no heavy weight on my shoulders or in my head.
Q7. What strategies do you use to balance personal life and work?
@PdJen A solid routine with time scheduled for the things I enjoy, such as exercise, spending time with friends, and night classes. If I miss them it has to be worth it!
@otramblings Learn to identify your early signs of imbalance. Something I’ve only recently learned to do. When I realize, I scale back whatever I’m doing in that moment. I reset with a deep breath. Work can always wait, your mental health can’t.
Q8. How compatible are your expectations about a balanced life with your other goals?
@SailorsBen I think they're largely in line. I believe in a time and season for things. What I want to do and what it's the right time for are often not in line, and so I just have to be patient and do what's right for now to get to where I can do the other thing.
@hibbikay I find common ground. If not, I handle them with a To-Do list, putting the most priority at the top.
Q9. Outline the conversation you might have with your boss about the need for better balance.
@s_narmadhaa Sometimes the workplace is distracting. We get so much last-minute work that the other important ones take a back seat. Having flexible schedules and working from home can help focus better. That’s how I’d explain it.
@harrisonia TO SELF (boss): "Girl, you've got to get it together. There are 168 hours in a week and it's time to reprioritize yourself and these tasks. Can't afford to burn out; your husband and business need you. Let's do this!"
Q10. What's the one tip you'd like to share with others about achieving and maintaining balance?
@Yolande_MT Be kind to yourself and stop the negative self-talk. Feeling guilty and berating yourself for everything you think you should have done, still won't get it done.
@MapDorcas Although balance is achievable, it can be challenged by unforeseen circumstances. Seeking help at those points is not a sign of failure.
To read all the tweets, have a see the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Living a balanced life means that you need to hold on to certain values, such as taking good care of yourself. You also need to be open-minded and flexible when the situation calls for it. Next time on #MTtalk, we're going to talk about "Preserving Values vs. Closing Your Mind." In which situations have you found yourself being more closed-minded than you normally are? Please vote in our Twitter poll.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to balance:
Top 10 Personal Morale Boosters
The PERMA Model
Surviving Long Work Hours
Working From Home
Dealing With Anxiety
Dealing With Guilt
Finding the Right Work-Life Balance
How Can I Stop Procrastinating?
10 Ways to Getting a Good Night's Sleep
The Life Career Rainbow
Asking for Help