As seasons of life come and go, priorities inevitably change. A couple of years ago, I was establishing myself in my career; learning all that I could and applying it, pining to become a valuable, difference-making member of my team. While that ambition still exists within me, the season of my life has shifted. Since my start at Convergence, I have remarried, purchased a home and now have an infant son at home, along with my ten-year-old daughter. This new beginning has awoken a strong desire within me: to be present and available to my family, in every sense. While I continue to value and take pride in my work, one responsibility is often competing with the other, sometimes causing inner conflict and guilt. I have found myself frustrated, wondering at times if I will ever find a healthy balance.
I committed to writing a blog over the weekend, as I was next in line, and find it difficult to write freely during the week, amidst the responsibilities of a typical workday. However, in the full swing of our busy season; this past weekend followed a series of others in which I found myself at my computer, telling the kids, "Just a little longer, I promise." I woke early Saturday morning to write but found myself uninspired. I picked up a book, which usually gets my juices flowing, but to no avail. So, I headed to the porch to enjoy the morning light and sounds of busy birds, holding my little boy and a fresh cup of coffee. I felt my spirit "exhale" and decided to step away from work, unsure of whether an idea would come to me, but took the cue to enjoy some rest and connection.
The next morning, I set out on a forest hike with my family, surrounded by the soothing and indifferent nature around me. As I absorbed the sense of relief I had been wishing for, I realized; No one gave this moment to me. No one stopped me on Saturday morning to say, "It's okay, take a break now, rest." That was a decision I made. As simple as this recognition was, I remembered; Balance isn't something that magically happens one day. It's a practice; a reward achieved through diligence, self-awareness, and the ability to let contrasting priorities come and go at the appropriate time.
I continued along and remembered what I know to be true about cultivating balance, as a dedicated member of my team, both at work and at home.
- I am 100% responsible. This is a bumper-sticker-worthy theme that we often come back to at ConvergenceCoaching®. It's a sure-fire affirmation to take you out of a "poor me" mentality and put you back into the driver's seat. If I can recognize that I am responsible for the perceived imbalance in my life, this is good news, because I am also capable of and responsible for finding a solution.
- Change the narrative. I recently told a member of my team, during a hard day at work, how I was feeling scattered; that things were moving at a rapid pace and I was having trouble focusing. Renee turned on her inner coach and asked me to consider, “What story are you telling yourself?” Feelings come and go, but if I invest energy into reinforcing a negative inner dialogue, my experience of my day will be colored by that. Inversely, I can positively affect my experience by resetting the story, which leads me to the next reflection.
- Practice gratitude. This advice is cliché because it’s so powerful. You cannot be simultaneously gracious and resentful. During busy times, I like to reflect on all that I have gained for my effort: I take pride in my work and feel like a valuable member of my team. My career affords me a home to live in and the ability to care for my family. I have learned lessons in grit here, gained new skills and have an affectionate sense of ownership for my responsibilities. I work with an unstoppable team of talented women who have undoubtedly impacted who I am personally. As I consider these things, another truth-bearing platitude comes to mind; they say nothing worth having comes easy. And if it did, we probably wouldn’t appreciate it. So, let’s take a moment to do just that.
- Maximize time. To me, this is the practice of being “all in.” Doing so is much more likely if you structure your time well. Another personal mantra I often come back to is, discipline earns me freedom. If I am disciplined in setting boundaries and in prioritizing how time is spent, it gives me the freedom to fully commit to whatever I’m doing at a given moment. When it comes to maximizing time at work, I focus on clearing distractions; this might mean putting my phone in a drawer out of sight or muting Outlook notifications. To combat disrupting thoughts, I keep a “brain dump” notepad handy, to get them out of my head and onto paper. Creating a “Work to Do” list for the week helps me prioritize. I schedule blocks of “focus time” for my highest priorities and do my best to observe them.
When it comes to maximizing my time at home, this is simple (but not always easy). I just need to be there, and fully. My kids don’t care how much work I have that day, they just want my time and love. I remind myself how fast their childhood is flying by and try to let everything else go.
- The Power of When. Sometimes, there is extra work to be done and I must be strategic about when I squeeze that in. Each of us has a “chronotype” that dictates when we do our best work. Personally, I feel the “sharpest” in the morning. If I need extra time to work on a project or task, it is best for me to wake a couple hours early and block time before my work or weekend day begins. If I do have to do work in the evenings, I have learned (the hard way) to make sure the work I’m doing is more routine. I know I am more prone to make mistakes in the evening, so if the work I’m doing is detailed or requires critical thought, it’s best to save for the morning. By knowing when to schedule different types of work, I can be more efficient and save myself from mistakes that can be time-consuming to correct.
- Speak up. I’m fortunate to work in an environment where transparency is embraced. Coming back to being 100% responsible, my team expects me to communicate around my capacity, reset expectations when deadlines need pushed and to know when to say, I'm Waving My White Flag. Additionally, it is my responsibility to understand The Art of Saying No and practice it accordingly.
- Know when to step back. This one is harder than it sounds. In her blog, We’re All Selfish, Why Hide It, Jen shares the 4 categories of selfish interest; having more time and control over it, making more money, looking good and feeling good. 90% of the time, the selfish interest that pushes me to excel at work is looking good. At times, I have to check in and remind myself that I’ve established myself as a contributing member of the team and no one is doubting my dedication; then honor my competing selfish interest of having control over my time so I can step away and go be with my family.
I try to listen to my inner voice and if it is shouting at me to let the work rest, I listen. It is no coincidence to me, that this blog would not present itself to me until I took what I really needed.
What do you need? In what ways do you create work-life balance? Let us know in the comments below and if you enjoyed this post, you might like Tamera’s recent blog, Winning at Work Requires Winning at Home. Thanks for reading!