At this point in my life and career, I like to think I have a solid grasp on what I need to achieve work-life balance. Times come along like right now, however, when a manageable busy schedule gets overloaded with end of school planning (finishing those last big school projects; arranging summer child care and transportation), life events (a wedding, graduation and Bat Mitzvah – with required wardrobe upgrades for the whole family – all occurring in the next month) and a small case of spring fever.
The past week was hair-on-fire busy, and the next few weeks promise more of the same. I was reflecting a few days ago on how to get it all done when I realized that I have learned a lot over the years about myself and how I handle stressful time.
I share some of my truths about keeping work and life in balance, in the hopes that they might help you handle the next time your To Do list exceeds the amount of time available to ‘get ‘er done!’
- Asking for help is not a sign of my (lack of) commitment, knowledge or abilities. I need to print this truth and put it up above my desk as a reminder to ask for help more often! I have a great group of colleagues and friends and a great spouse who are always willing to step in when I need extra brainpower or hands. The first step, however, sits with me asking them for help, and then getting out of their way so they can do what they say they will (this is the hardest part for me).
- If I don’t exercise first thing in the morning, I won’t do it at lunch/before dinner/after kids go to bed. My high school calculus teacher used to counsel us that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” He was talking about studying for tests, but his words apply today in how I take care of myself and prioritize my day.
- A daily shower puts me in the right mindset to tackle what I need to do. Working in my pajamas all day yields pajama-quality work. Flexibility in how and when I get work done is a big help in achieving balance, but I find I take myself, and my work, more seriously when I smell better than my 11-year-old son.
- There are as many To Do List templates out there as there are ways to format Excel. Finding a way to keep track of what I need to get done is not easy for me because I am always on the lookout for the next best way. Being able to see what needs to get done first, next, and sooner-rather-than-later saves me a lot of headaches. Find a way that works for you and stick to it. Crunch time is not when you want to find out you have lost track of a key deliverable or actions that needs to get done.
- Setting priorities has made it easier to stick to them. My 14-year-old daughter made a comment the other day that helped me realize I was doing OK here. She said, “Mom, I like that even when you are really busy and stressed out, you still offer my friends a ride home from school when they need it.” Of course, that comment came after we had to return to school to pick up her backpack that fell off the top of the car as I rushed away from picking her up at school! Any sign of support from a 14 year old is good in my book. I am chalking that second trip up to the school as an accomplishment on the #1 Job To Do List.
There is not an easy answer to the question about how to achieve work-life balance; it differs for everyone. I am glad, however, that even during an incredibly busy time I have a few life and career learnings to fall back on.