The topic of a life/work balance has been on my mind a lot lately, for several reasons:
- The urge to procreate is strong, although there is no way we are getting pregnant anytime soon. We literally do not have the time or resources to be pregnant, and this makes me worry about when I will have the time.
- “How do you maintain a healthy life/work balance?” is a question I get asked a lot during Operation Beautiful media interviews. I usually laugh really hard, try to catch my breath, and say that I don’t think I have much of a life/work balance.
People suggest that I drop one of my responsibilities, but the truth is that I believe all of my hats are necessary and non-negotiable. Currently active professional hats include Healthy Tipping Point blogger, Operation Beautiful editor, Author, Motivational speaker,
Secretary Administrative Assistant at the Husband’s acupuncture clinic, and Girls on the Run coach. Currently active personal hats include Runner/yogi/exerciser, Healthy eater (this requires time and effort, trust me), Caring wife and dog mom, and Good friend/daughter.
Sometimes I feel guilty or ‘unhealthy’ for not having this life/work balance other people speak of. I envision a life/work balance as 50/50… balanced. I think of a balance as not working on the weekends or not stressing out about work as I lay in bed. When someone says, “Do you have a life/work balance?” I feel like they are asking if I spend equal time with my professional and personal hats, which just isn’t realistic at this time in my life (and perhaps, in five years, it will be impossible to give as much time to my professional life as I’d like).
I think a life/work balance is a myth. Does ANYONE actually ever feel balanced? (if you do, please speak up and share your methods!)
I had a Lightning Bolt Moment the other day: Maybe it’s not always possible to give equal attention to the ‘work’ part of life and the ‘fun’ part (hopefully, they overlap in some way, of course). The truth is that you have to work hard to get what you want. Sometimes this means sacrificing certain things, like lots of free time. But the end result is usually worth it, if you’re gunning for something you really want.
In some ways, I wonder if all this talk about a life/work balance is just another way to make women feel guilty about having professional goals that require they to work really, really hard. Do you ever hear men moaning about a life/work balance? When the Husband is stressed at work, he just says, “Well, I’m doing the best I can.” I asked him about the life/work balance thing, and he commented that women are the most highly self-critical creatures ever. I think he’s right.
Maybe this means a life/work balance is just a weird ‘women’s magazine construct’ and is not the real goal… maybe the real goal should be to achieve your professional and personal goals without succumbing to stress and being unhappy. Being swamped with responsibilities doesn’t mean my sanity has to suffer.
I think the key to achieving life/work sanity is making an effort to destress when you are really busy. Over the last few months, I’ve made a real effort to streamline my professional/personal hats so I have more time to enjoy my life and/or sleep. :)
Here are some of the ‘destressing tricks’ that I’ve been doing lately.
- Don’t Get Distracted: Instead of doing ‘daily’ work tasks each daily, I try to do them all at once, on Sunday or Monday. I’ve found that doing work in huge chunks vs. small bits makes the overall effort go faster and stresses me out less. In particular, I’ve been doing this with the daily Operation Beautiful post, trying to bang out a bunch at once instead of one each morning.
- Plan Out Meals: Anticipating meal needs has been HUGE for me because I was starting to get ‘stuck’ without meals late at night. Some people like to meal plan for the entire week, but it honestly just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of the prep work for dinner, like boiling the brown rice or creating a pasta salad, in the morning. The other thing we’ve been doing a lot is buying frozen healthy pizzas and relying on pizza + salad to carry us through the really rough days. I am not a huge fan of processed foods (cooking from scratch is usually healthier and cheaper), but in this case, it’s worth it.
- Manicures Are My Therapy: I have to look at my hands all day long as I type on the computer, and I cannot tell you how HAPPY a manicure makes me – way beyond the actual painting process. My trick to save money? Opt for a simple polish change (only $12) instead of the pricey full manicure ($25). My salon will shape and fix cuticles during a polish change, too.
- It’s OK To Say No: It really is. If I can’t add something to my to-do list, I just say, “I’m sorry, but I really do not have the time.” It’s empowering and I know it’s what I need to do to maintain sanity. It’s not always easy to say no, but I’m getting better at doing it without guilt.
- Rise Early And Exercise: I’ve been struggling to transition to early morning workouts, but so far – it’s worth it. Working out first thing gives me a definite energy boost and calms me down. Plus, one of my most important ‘personal hat’ tasks gets checked off the list right away. I trained myself to wake up earlier by slowly staggering an earlier wake-up call 15 minutes a day. It’s hard to get under the 6:30 AM mark and still get 8 hours, but I’m trying!
- Stop Requiring Perfection: I’m getting better at being okay with not ticking items off my to-do list. I’m also getting better at not beating myself up if I accidentally sleep in or have trouble having asleep (because guilt-tripping yourself does not make insomnia go away, trust me). I just give myself permission not to do it all, and I end up actually doing more than I would’ve under pressure.
- Hire a Cleaning Service: Oh yes, we did. I crunched the numbers in our budget and decided that, if we sacrificed a meal out and another random and unnecessary expense (manicures fall into the necessary category for me), we could afford to hire a once-monthly cleaning service ($70 a pop). They start on Monday, and I could NOT be more thrilled with the idea. A dirty house is a HUGE source of stress for me (huge!), and the thought of not having to spend four hours every two or three weeks on my hands and knees, scrubbing a toilet, sounds like absolutely heaven. When my/the Husband’s schedule calms down and we have the time to do it ourselves, I’m sure we will. But in the meantime… my sanity is worth $70.
I asked some Twitter friends how they maintain sanity while busy with work responsilities, and here are their thoughts:
Does the concept of a 50/50 life/work balance work for you? Or does striving for that simply stress you out more?! What tricks do you use to minimize stress and get more done?