The five work/life balance tips when you wear many hats are like great tight rope balancing acts my family and I enjoy watching on America’s Got Talent. Watching the great concentration and pure agony on the brave performer’s face as they focus on not slipping is both terrifying and oddly entertaining. I know the performer has spent countless hours training their muscle memory and planning their routines to ensure the next step on the tight rope will not be their last.
In the daily arena of managing balance in life, thankfully making one false move is not a life or death situation. It takes the same level of daily planning, training, and consistent evaluation to ensure that balance is met on a consistent basis. Be assured one thing: you will lose balance and fall off the rope and that’s ok! What matters next is to have the self-awareness that you have fallen, dust yourself off, and get back up on the rope.
For myself, staying on the rope of work-life balance is a daily struggle. For example, I have a fast-paced forty-plus hour a week job that requires not only my time working on individual projects but also leading a team through their daily work. In addition, I have a young family of four, personal ambitions, and the faith that I have committed to grow and nurture for my time on this earth.
Sound familiar. Right?!? If you are reading this post, I am sure you have to bear a similar cross in your life. In this post, I am going to review five work tips and life hacks that I have deployed to help maintain balance in my life:
1. Set Your Priorities
What do you want to accomplish in your life? Do you want to be successful at your job? Have a loving marriage? Develop lasting relationships with friends and family? Raise a family? Stay in shape? Volunteer regularly? Strengthen your faith? Learn a new language? Read Daily? Whatever you want to accomplish, you are unlikely to get there if you have not taken the time to define your priorities and reflect on the type of person that you want to be. How can you achieve balance if you haven’t figured out what is important in your life?
In 2014, my wife and I welcomed our first child. I had just recently been promoted into a leadership role at my job. Life was good! To this point, I thought I had life pretty well figured out. Moreover, I had an idea of the goals I wanted to achieve and the type of person I wanted to be but never really put much thought or effort into the details. I felt like if I did the right things and worked hard then my life’s desires would just magically fall into place. Yes, I had success in aspects of my life, but was I consistently maximizing my talents to reach my true potential?
As my first child arrived, the anxiety of balancing more responsibility set in. I knew my perspective on life needed to change. Right around this time, I stumbled upon an interview with author Tim Ferris for his book “Tools of Titans.” Tim Ferris is a podcaster, author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist that has written extensively on lifestyle changes that help maximize your life’s potential. His perspective on how to balance life without sacrificing your personal ambitions hit me like a ton of bricks. This is what I was looking for! I went online immediately and purchased the book. As I tore through the pages, I was hit with a wave of self-reflection on how to align my lifestyle with my ambitions. But first, I needed to set my own priorities using these work-life balance tips.
My primary priority is to get better every day and align the tasks for each day to focus on three core themes (courtesy of Mr. Ferris): health, wealth, and wisdom. For health, to increase my mental and physical health as well as the health of my personal relationships with my family, friends, and faith. For wealth, to focus on my profession and continue to build on my knowledge of the oil and gas industry. In addition to further evolving my core business skills including leadership. Finally, for wisdom, to reignite my passion for reading books, mentoring others, and further developing and learning new skills.
2. Develop Daily Systems
Now that you have your priorities, it is time to establish a game plan. Priorities look great on paper but unless you have a plan in place you are more likely to remain as lost as you were before you took the time to self-reflect on what you truly want to balance. Similar to a professional football coach who scripts his first 15 offensive plays before heading into a big game, I found scripting my daily routines the night before helps take the stress and anxiety out of my daily life. I also learned the technique of including “systems” that align with my personal priorities.
Furthermore, systems, as defined by author/blogger Scott Adams, are loosely defined goals that are less of a drain on your personal willpower but put more focus on developing knowledge that pushes you towards long-term success. Systems help to form habits which in turn makes setting priorities less of a chore and more of a natural progression to your day. Like brushing your teeth daily, these systems will become habits, and the knowledge gained will compound to set you up for success in multiple facets of life.
Circling back to my personal journey towards work-life balance tips, I have developed multiple systems to align my priorities with my daily tasks. As a health example, I established a daily routine of mindfulness meditation to help with focus and clarity of thought. The knowledge and skills achieved from this simple 10-minute daily task have maximized the time and effort spent at work and building relationships with family. It has helped me compartmentalize thoughts and fully focus on the priority at hand. With a clear head, I am able to give closer to 100% of myself to each priority.
3. Create Personal Accountability
Personal accountability is the belief that you are fully responsible for your own actions and consequences. It is a mindset that you alone make the choices for your life. It is easy to make excuses and blame different distractions for failing in your priorities. However, I found that establishing personal accountability keeps you on your path to maintaining your priorities.
For me, it is maintaining streaks. On my path to mindfulness, I came across an app called “Headspace” that I use to guide my daily meditation. In addition, it keeps a streak counter that celebrates your consecutive day milestones of daily meditation. Seeing that ticker move after each meditation session brings a sense of joy and accomplishment that is hard to describe. I typically aim to meditate first thing in the morning. The sense of accomplishment helps drive my mood in a positive direction every day. As I type this blog, my streak is sitting at 1,328 consecutive days! What keep you motivated to stay on track? Find it and use it!
4. Lose the Ego!
Additionally, ego is the lies that we tell ourselves that make us feel better. They are the artificial excuses we make that drive imbalance in our lives. Famous physicist Richard Feynman provided great advice on how to overcome these voices: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool”. It is very easy to be convinced that the logic and irrational fears that run through your head every day are facts. Everyone has them and they are hard to ignore! Things like “If I don’t stay at work late every day, I won’t get that promotion!” or “I can’t take time off, the team will fail!” will cause you to fall off the work/life balance beam quickly.
The easy advice on how to not fall victim to ego is to ignore it. However, it is not that simple. My advice would be to consistently question the voices that run through your head. Does working late really guarantee me a promotion? Is my team really that fickle that they can’t survive a week without me? When internal self-reflection draws the same conclusion, take your fears to your direct supervisor and get their thoughts. Chances are the appropriate adjustments can be made at your workplace to get you back on balance. Don’t fall victim to the relentless echo chamber in your head!
5. Revaluate Your Priorities Consistently
Priorities in our lives can and will change. When this occurs, do not hesitate to reassess, reflect and most importantly change! It is natural to be afraid of change. Some people are programmed to perform a task or a system that they have blinders on to the benefits that this task was meant to provide. They are scared of change and have convinced themselves that this is the only way.
Right after, I was promoted to a supervisor I noticed one of my employees working late on certain days. I inquired about the task that caused her to stay late. It was a report that her prior supervisor had instructed her to compile and save on our network twice a week. I reviewed the report and inquired what customer was reading it. She did not know the answer. I did more due diligence and came to the conclusion that no one was reading the report! I decided to end the report and that cleared this employee to leave on time. Don’t be afraid to question the priorities in your life that cause you to lose balance.
Work-Life balance is a lifelong journey that will have its ups and downs. Embrace the challenge! It is a daily grind but well worth it. Sometimes things happen in our lives that we cannot avoid that cause us to neglect our priorities. If you have strong enough priorities, the right systems in place will hold you accountable to avoid ego’s excuses. Embrace the changes that life throws at you then you can consistently maintain the balance you are searching for. Good luck and enjoy the journey on implementing the work-life balance tips!