Ever since I became a parent, I’ve had to make a more dedicated effort to find a work-life balance. I don’t even remember what things where like before that. Truly, my husband and I both worked full-time-plus (I just made up that word by the way) in startup companies, and I have zero recollection of ever thinking to myself “we should have a better work-life balance”. Not that that never happens by the way, it does. But when we had kids, I was like “wow, we totally suck here”.
And I still suck. I want to be clear about that upfront before I dive into the tips I remind myself of. There’s no mastery of this (I don’t think so anyway) because our lives are too dynamic. Different situations call for different responses, and what we “mastered” yesterday we may not master today, that’s life. It’s okay.
The best we can do (my theory) to achieve a work-life balance is to separate the two while also bringing them together. Does that make any sense? Hopefully it will here soon. So here we go- my tips to a better (note- not mastered) work-life balance. Enjoy my friends 🙂
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR FAMILY
Having the support of your family is paramount, so never underestimate the power of communication. Take the time to sit down with your family (yes, this may just be your spouse) and let them know what you’re trying to accomplish with your work. A conversation won’t guarantee 100% support from all family members, but at least it manages expectations better than keeping your ambitions to yourself. Communicate with them if you’re feeling overstressed, overcommitted, or if any situation at work compromises your ability to contribute normally at home. Tell them what’s going on and how long it will last for if you can. As much as possible, help your family to be proactive in your absence rather than leaving them to quickly adapt to your sudden needs. Acknowledgement is always better than silence.
BE 100% IN A SINGLE MOMENT, NOT 50-50 IN TWO
It’s far too easy to be checking and responding to emails when you’re spending time with your family; don’t do it unless you absolutely have to. Your patience tolerance is guaranteed to go down about 10,000% when you’re trying to get something done and keep getting interrupted. Likewise, your family probably doesn’t appreciate you breaking out your smartphone to check emails while you’re all at the petting zoo. It’s far better for everyone that you wait until you can appropriately check and respond in silence. It’s going to take much longer to get things done when you’re doing things half-ass. Your family feels it, and your job feels it too. Focus on one thing at a time if you can.
SET MINIMUM SILENT HOURS/DAYS
This will depend immensely on the job, but set hours/days that are device/work-free. Maybe it’s as soon as you get home, maybe it’s before dinner time. For me, it’s a minimum hour before bed and an hour after I wake up (I have an online boutique so my hours are fragmented). There are too many amazing things that happen in those hours to be wasting it on my phone, no matter how many emails I have. Feel the sunshine, listen to the birds, marvel at your loved one in your bed, read the paper, make coffee together, etc. Read bedtime stories, play cards, have a dance party, go for a walk, drink wine. Like I said above, be in the moment 100%. Your family deserves it and so do you. Coordinate with your family and take off a random day once and while to just be with them on a weekday. Don’t wait for weekends, create your own anomalies.
KEEP YOUR FAMILY INVOLVED
In line with number one, your family is your biggest fan. Don’t keep them in the dark about exciting projects that you’re working on, interesting things you’ve learned, fun people you’ve met, or even who you like/dislike at work. The more your family is a part of it, the more they stand behind you to push you forward, period. You’re all in it together, you’re family. Likewise, if you’re in a job where you can involve your family (bring-your-child to work day, family day, etc.), do it. It’s good for your professional superiors and peers to know that you’re more than just a professional.
REMEMBER WHO IS OUT OF PLACE
Remind yourself which party is the one interrupting. I can’t tell you how many times my husband or I have taken calls outside of normal working hours, only to get upset with those at home for being loud. I finally stopped one day and thought “No! It’s 7:00pm and I’m at home feeding/playing with my kids. They’re not the ones who are out of place here!” This likely also goes for weeknights, weekends, and anytime during your “silent hours.” Your family deserves as much exclusivity as you give your work, give it to them.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT YOU
Take time for yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re at the center of everything you do. Neglecting your own health and well being will be detrimental to all you’re trying to accomplish. Take time to pause, without distractions. Fight the (deep) urge to use your breaks to do extra laundry, send out one more email, make a surprise run to the grocery store, etc. Try going for a walk/run solo, reading a book at a coffee shop, getting a massage, or just sit there in silence. I understand that there is far too much to do in few too many hours, but you’re always going to run out of time even when you’re “ahead”; so instead create a moment to appreciate yourself and everything you’ve created.
By far, my go-to move to reduce work-life stress is to get elevated. I mean literally go or hike somewhere high so that you can physically and metaphorically put your life into perspective. While you’re up there, take time to marvel at how big and beautiful our world is. Think about how short-lived your time is here, and what is/will be the most important to you during your run here. Appreciate that everyone around you is going through their own thing, and someone’s most difficult hardship may be something they’ll only discover minutes from now. Don’t be afraid to spend some time up there before you come back down to your reality. Go here again when you’re feeling heavy, or take your spouse with you as well. Leave the toddler at home… by God, LEAVE THE TODDLER AT HOME!!!!