Have you ever found yourself stressed out over trying to get some balance into your life? Like where the actual prospect of trying to achieve some semblance of calm caused you more stress than just working, or just life-ing?
I think it's fair to say that we've all been there - whether we have our own businesses or not.
No matter our situation we may feel like we're never quite working enough or never quite doing it right, or not achieving what we're supposed to be achieving. This is why I am redefining what work life balance really means.
Let's Start with Some Work Life Balance Questions
You can copy and paste these and answer them in the comments below if you like:
- Do you check email outside of work?
- Do you ever work after official work hours, on weekends or check in from holidays?
- Do you get fulfillment from your work?
- Does your work negatively impact your health?
- Do you find yourself making excuses like "It's just a very busy time right now" all the time?
- Does your work frequently and negatively interfere with your personal life?
- Is your working style working for you?
Once upon a time when I started my business, I worked all the time. I worked until dinner and then worked after dinner. Sometimes hosting dinners was my work. I worked on weekends and thought I'd really made it when I had enough work to do that I also worked from the beach, or poolside or from a hammock in the jungle. Working like this made me feel important. Was it effective? I'm not sure.
I should mention that even when I worked 12-14 hours a day building my business, I never let running my own business ruin my health. I had already made that mistake when I worked in advertising.
After nearly a decade of working to make it all work, I have come to redefine what optimal work life balance is to me. Some of what I have learned may resonate with you and hopefully allow you to exhale a little bit to help you find your own sense of balance.
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5 Ways To Redefine Work/Life Balance
1. Work and Life Doesn't Need To Be Compartmentalized
This is a good place to start. In the olden days (what, like 1994?) when the workday was done, it was pretty much done. In fact, if you didn't have a fax machine at home, there really wasn't a way for fresh work to get loaded onto you after hours. You didn't need to Instagram your dinner, join a live chat, or check your email. Well guess what? Now you do! Well, you don't need to, but you can.
Rather than frown about it, be grateful for there are loads of benefits to this connectivity too. This means that if you don't get to everything during regular work hours, you can go home, dine with your family and catch up later, or catch up on the weekend, from home without having to go back into the office.
Once I embraced that it was okay to do some work on life days and do a little life on work days, I was freed from the pressure to get it done by a certain time and then "shut off" in order to feel like I had balance. This definition of work life balance works for my husband and I, and that's what matters.
And if doing two hours of work every day while on holidays meant that we could take longer holidays, well, I was sold on this unified working and living life thing.
Oh and about that working on holidays...
2. Working From The Beach Is Entirely Overrated and Overhyped
If I see one more Instagram post "View from my office today" and it's a picture of a dock, a beach, a jungle, a pool... you get the idea. And I am so very guilty of having done this. Here is something I know for sure to be true.
Being able to work from a beach is great. Even better is being at the beach and not having to work. Finding that down time, that separation once in a while to just play and let creativity and new experiences flood in will power up everything else you do once you get back to the hustle and bustle of your regularly scheduled work life balance. I love to work hard and I love to play hard. When I am travelling, I do my work first thing in the morning, shut it down and then go play. Sure, working from anywhere is a great goal, but being anywhere and not having to work? That's pretty awesome!
3. Working Hard Is A-Okay!
For goodness sake, working hard is awesome. Whether for yourself or the team you're a part of, your effort matters. I think a lot of us spend more time trying to figure out how to work as little as possible with the most gain. Sure we want to see results of our efforts and we want to feel appreciated and recognized, but there is nothing wrong with actually working. Ignite the spark, work in your area of brilliance and bring innovation to what you do and work can and will be fun, fulfilling and inspiring.
The fact is, the more passion you bring to whatever it is you are working on, the harder you will want to work. And that's totally great!
4. It Is Our Responsibility To Create Our Own Boundaries
Guess what? Back in the day when I worked all day and evening and weekends, it was because I chose to. I wanted to ensure that I answered every single email, responded to every single comment, accepted every invitation. I created a work situation that made me feel important and successful. And then I decided I didn't want to work like that anymore. It's a tough pattern to switch.
Unless I have a specific event or my website has broken into a million pieces, I will be home for dinner and rarely work on the weekend. Could I get more done if I worked longer days and gave up some weekends? You bet. Could I sell more books if I travelled more and did more events? Likely.
Would it be worth it? Not to me.
And this is why...
5. Decide At What Point We Have and Are Enough
There's a culture in many corporate positions to consistently be vying for the next rung of the ladder, to be constantly comparing and competing with those around you. In the self-employed arena, we become acutely aware that in most cases, we experience the direct (and often immediate) effect of our efforts.
Think about this - what if all you have and all you are doing is, in fact, enough? What if you don't need or want to work more? What if you earn enough money to live the life you want to live? What if it's more important to you to spend time with your children, or your partner, or with friends, or out exploring your city?
At some point, you're doing just fine and you need to revisit what that work life balance means to you.
Some business coaches might tell you that if you're not working 18 hours a day, you're not maximizing your capacity. Or you may see your girlfriends hopping on the next network marketing craze and claim to be rolling naked in all their passive revenue and you're missing out on it. But what if being home for dinner and spending your evenings watching a movie, doing arts and crafts, or putting in extra hours with work so you can take an extended vacation means more to you?
It might mean checking your ego at the door, but at some point you can decide what is enough and be okay with that, even if more will always be a lingering option.
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Define Your Own Work Life Balance
Did you answer those questions posted above like I asked? Consider your answers honestly, without ego and without fear.
If the way you work works for you, allows you to enjoy life, to thrive from a health perspective and also in personal relationships, then any preconceived notions of a work life balance can be tossed out the window.
The bigger challenge comes if your final answer to the question of whether it's working for you is no. If it's not working for you, then it's time to address the factors that aren't. Are they in your power to change? Does it require a tough conversation with colleagues, your staff, your employer or your family?
The ultimate decision is one that will move us towards happiness. We must decide for ourselves that we are going to happily create and find that place of happiness in the present moment. If we're consistently creating in pain and suffering, that future place of happiness may always remain be just out of reach.