Many an author has penned an article about work-life balance. Yet, this oft-mysterious foundation remains an elusive goal for most of us. Nonetheless, if you are able to achieve that proper mix between career/business and your spiritual/social/personal side, you will achieve better success in your work and so much more satisfaction in your life.
The problem with creating the right blend of work and life was a common one for me. For the first 16 years of my life, that perfectionism was drilled into my brain in everything I did – whether work-related, school, or chores; actually, especially chores. The task wasn’t done until it was done to perfection. I struggled to be this superwoman for 40+ years before I realized how deeply ingrained this was within the very fabric of my being.
I needed to understand that there is a difference between delivering excellence in what you do and striving for perfection in every task. The first is admirable and achievable; the second will lead you to frustration and overwhelm.
Once I overcame the hurdle of perfectionism, I found three key elements that helped me obtain a gratifying and productive day:
1. Proper balance in the allocation of my time;
2. Judicious, yet appropriate, application of my energies; and
3. An awareness of the balancing of those elements that make up my authentic self.
The first fundamental — allocating your time wisely — is commonly addressed in writings that discuss work-life balance. You must have time for everything that is important in your life. The problem is many of us do not recognize that which is essential to us! Things such as exercise, time spent with family or friends, or quiet moments of meditation tend to get pushed aside as the loud, busyness of work intrudes upon every waking hour.
One thing I have found helpful is to schedule my week and then my day. For example, I work specific hours and days of the week. I will also set my exercise routine, time spent with family, and of utmost importance, my daily meditation practice.
One of the things that social science has taught us is that there is a law of diminishing returns with respect to time spent working. Although I know there is a historical context for how the “standard” 40-hour work week came into being, it is also interesting that most humans can be most productive for about 40 hours a week. Once you increase the amount of time spent on the job above that number, a typical individual will become less efficient. This varies from person to person. It may also vary with age. An energetic, 22-year-old may be able to work 55 or 65 hours a week. Someone 40 years older may find less hours in the day within which she is at her best. The fortunate thing is that as we grow older, we are able to substitute wisdom for time in effectively completing our tasks.
As you examine how you balance your week and your days, you will notice certain times of the day where your energy is better suited for a particular task. For example, some of us might be “morning folks” where we find we do our best analytical thinking during that time of day. Conversely, creative individuals often discover their muse when they are a bit tired or at odd hours of the day or night, even while asleep. You may also find that taking advantage of higher energy levels for tasks or activities that you’ve been putting on the back burner will actually give you more energy…and reduce bad stress. This is the second key factor in achieving work-life balance.
Finally, the last element — balancing those elements that make up your authentic self — is the most elusive, yet perhaps the most critical and least noticed. Those things that make us human “beings” rather than human “doings” include self-care, physical, emotional and spiritual health, proper nutrition, good sleep habits and meditation or quiet time. Ironically, the more time you spend on your softer side, those things that truly make you a unique individual, the more productive you will be in your work or business. Moreover, know that maintaining these key things in your life requires an almost ruthless setting of boundaries.
What you will find is that if you achieve the right mix of balancing your time, energy, and your authentic self, you will be more productive, more effective in helping your clients, and a better wife, husband, mother, father, sibling, friend and indeed, a better you! And you will be on your way to achieving or maintaining a successful business as well as finding inner fulfillment.