As a Professional Organizer I get asked almost on a daily basis from new and existing clients how to create work / life balance. Particulary, because I am a single mom of 4 children while running my business full-time and people always ask me how I do it and not go crazy. Here’s the honest truth…THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS WORK/LIFE/PLAY BALANCE
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out the way, I know you’re like so what do I do? Well, you simply create YOUR version of what an idea work/life/play lifestyle looks like for you. There is no magic formula or cookie-cutter method that will work for everyone, because each person’s life is different.
Allow me the opportunity to share with you how I created my idea work/life/play lifestyle with the below 4 tips:
#1. Schedule your lifestyle and get organized
This is something that I actually put into place about 6-months ago and it has changed my way of living incredibly. Whether you use a paper planner / organizer or electronic gadget, this is going to be the most useful and important tool you will need in managing your idea lifestyle. The advice that has been circling around for years is to keep your business and personal life separate, but that is farthest from the truth and incredibly unrealistic. The only thing to keep separate in your business and personal life are your finances. Everything else needs to be merged and managed accordingly.
I recommend using the Google Calendar to my clients because it gives you the ability to create “multiple” calendars into your main calendar and it’s FREE (see illustration above).
You create your calendars based on the areas of your life and you have the option to color code these calendars. You also have the option to choose at any time what calendars you want shown on your main calendar. This tool can be managed on your laptop, tablet and phone simultaneously.
I’ll actually use my calendar breakdown as an example. I currently have the following calendars:
- Personal (all about me, downtime, breaks, pampering, exercising, running errands, etc.)
- Family (my children school events, activities, one-on-one time, appointments and extended family)
- Friends (hanging out, going out to eat, time on the phone, etc.)
- Foundation (giving back)
- Holidays (national as well as industry related observances)
- Meal Planning (so I don’t spend countless time trying to figure out what to cook)
- Networking (conferences, workshops, meet ups, etc.)
- Operations (business meetings, phone calls, professional development, administrative tasks, and revenue generating activities)
- Organizing Sessions (client work)
- Projects (blog / podcast time, or client work)
- Retrogrades (so that I know what is going on in the universe and can plan accordingly)
- Tasks (bills and things to do)
- Workshops (that I host)
Now, you may not need this many calendars or you may need more. However, don’t get overwhelmed at this process. The most difficult task when scheduling your idea lifestyle is the initial set-up and then it takes about 4-6 weeks of remaining consistent with it for it to then become a regular habit. Time blocking is critical because you are making conscious decisions on how YOU want to spend your time. Be sure to also block off time to prepare for the next day (clothes, coffee pot, lunches, etc.) It gives you back control over your life and the freedom to truly breathe and actually live life instead of existing in it.
#2. Include your family in your career life
There were times when I was working in corporate that school was out and my children were too young to stay home alone. Therefore, I negotiated with my employer a half-day work solution. Meaning, I would bring my children to work with me in the morning for about 4 hours and then I would finish working at home. This allowed me to keep my work schedule and their school schedule in sync. When children get off schedule it is a nightmare for parents. While they were at the office I set them up a desk with supplies for them to color along with headphones to watch cartoons. They had breakfast at home and one morning snack at the office. When I got home I took my “lunch break” and prepared our lunch and laid them down for naptime. During naptime (which is about 2 hours) I was able to use this uninterrupted time to work. By the time they woke from naptime I was ready to end my work day and go into full mommy mode.
I use that example because, the key is to communicate with the people in your life what you need so that you can show up and be available comfortably in each area of your life. This scenario can work if you are a work-at-home parent or creating a workable schedule with your spouse where you have the kids in the morning and he has the kids in the afternoon or vice-a-versa. It’s a matter of working with your family and not against them by creating a solution that works for YOU!
#3. Relax and take off the cape
Release and reject the expectations that you have to be super mom / woman because YOU DON’T. There is no handbook out there on how to live life, how to be a wife, mother, business owner, employee, sister and the list goes on and on. Each of us do the very best we can with what we know and have learned. Heck, truth be told we’re all really winging it and hoping that we actually get it right. All you are required to do is show up and take it step by step. Using tip #1 will help you in doing that.
Schedule out as much as you can and then step back and tackle one thing at a time. If something doesn’t work out then remember this … “Failure actually doesn’t exist its just that thing trying to move you in another direction.” (Oprah Winfrey) So don’t allow those moments to get you down. Dust yourself off, reflect, learn and keep moving forward.
Also, if you are in a relationship, then communicate with your partner how they can help and be sure to tell your partner how grateful you are for their support and help.
#4. Take quality time out for yourself
As you can tell from my calendar that I have quite a few areas of my life that I juggle with daily. Therefore, I created the below work schedule to fit the lifestyle I desired. Here is my schedule:
I realized that I never looked forward to Monday’s and maybe that’s from working 15 years in Corporate America. However, I wanted to change that from a negative to a positive. So instead I made Monday’s my very own Personal Day. While most people were going back into the office, I take my children to school and spend the day loving on myself.
This day can be used to stay in bed and binge watch Netflix or Hulu. You can also go to the salon and get your hair and nails done. Maybe have lunch with girlfriends or go to the mall and treat yourself to a pair of shoes or an outfit. Sit in the park, ride a bike, whatever your heart desires.
For me taking quality time out for myself at the beginning of the week gave me a great start and has actually made my work week better. When you are loving yourself, you show up refreshed, alive and joyful in all the other areas of your life.
As women we are naturally amazing jugglers who are expected to fill many roles. However, I challenge you not focus on the never-ending quest for balance but to acknowledge that YOU make a decision everyday to show up and be the best version of yourself in any area of your life that requires it and then give yourself applause for a job well done. There are no “perfect people” with “perfectly balanced lives”. So, have fun designing and embracing a lifestyle that YOU love, in your own way.
Now, tell me which of these lifestyle tips will you implement this month? I would love to hear from you.