There’s a huge misconception about balance and life — especially when you own a business (or two). We believe that balance means that all things are of equal value, meaning we should have an equal time of work and play. Instead, for work/life balance, we should be using a different definition of balance: a condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions. This misunderstanding of balance leads us to spend 8 hours a night sleeping, 8 hours a day at work (minimum, if you’re lucky), and the remaining 8 hours doing tasks like eating, exercise, personal time, and spending time with family. We see those 8-hour blocks of time as balance, but we’re missing one huge thing: quality.
When you think about the quality of your life, where does work fall? Likely, somewhere behind family and health, and possibly behind experiences. Our work/life balance doesn’t really fit with the personal importance of each element of our life. Most people, especially business owners, short change their priorities for more work — and this not the best way! So what can we do about it?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve cracked the code for how to add more hours to your day so that you can do it all, but I haven’t. I wish I could tell you that I’ve found a realistic way to cut your work in half so that you have more time for other things, but once again, I haven’t. I can, however, tell you that balance does not mean that all sides are equal, and I can tell you ways to build in more time for things that matter.
Prioritize your work activitiesYou’ve heard time and time again that you need to have a daily task list. You’ve heard that you need to put the most time consuming and easily avoidable tasks first. There is so much advice about how to prioritize your daily work schedule, but few talk about passion. What are you passionate about? What is the reason you started your business? Was it to post an update to Facebook every day? Likely not. When you find tasks like these that you dread, or are time-consuming, outside of your area of expertise or passion, or just plain drain you, delegate them.
About 9 months ago, I realized that I was using too much of my work time doing administrative tasks that didn’t add to the company’s bottom line, that I didn’t enjoy, and that kept me from taking on more clients. I remedied that by hiring a part time virtual assistant. The time I save by delegating work that needs to be done but not by me, adds to my quality of life and minimizes the time I spend doing tedious work. Financially, it’s beneficial because I regained a few billable hours to my week which far outweigh the cost of hiring someone to do the tasks I don’t enjoy.
Prioritize your healthThere was a ridiculous article I read a few weeks ago, explaining all of the things that so-called experts tell us we must do each day to live a healthy life. I’m sure you’ve read how much time you’re supposed to exercise, and what you should be eating, and how sitting is killing you. Yesterday, I read that sitting for 2 hours negates 20 minutes of working out. If that’s correct, then the average employee who sits while working needs to combat that with 80 minutes of exercise (on top of your already busy day).
I fall into that idle employee, but I decided to make a few small changes that help me stay a bit more active. When I can, I work at a standing desk. I thought I would hate it, but I actually enjoy it. When I sit, I use a Yoga ball or stabilizing stool. I raised my computer up so that I wasn’t hunched over all day. Being a consultant, I spend a couple hours daily on my phone. Instead of sitting, I pace. I walk from room to room, back and forth, taking notes when I need to. These small changes mean that instead of sitting for 8 (or more) hours at work, I sit for 2–3, with frequent breaks.
Prioritize your mealsBreakfast is normally grabbed quickly, and lunch is normally something revived in the microwave. I enjoy cooking and typically cook every dinner we eat in a given week. As much as I like to cook, and more so like to eat healthily, this is an area that is time-consuming. Grocery shopping, food prep, and meal planning are important, but as my time feels more and more crunched by outside obligations, fast food and convenience items creep in. Instead of planning a weekly menu, I recently decided to try a meal service. Each week, I receive the ingredients (portion controlled) for 3 meals. Allowing this decision to be made for me frees up not only meal planning and prep times, but it also frees up mental space, allowing me to feel more relaxed and less rushed.
For breakfast, lunch, and snacks, my meal prep time saves the day. Breakfast is typically a protein shake or green smoothie. Having everything portioned out ahead of time in appropriate size containers takes away any excuse that leads me through the McDonald’s drive-thru. Lunch consists of grilled chicken, fresh veggies, a piece of fruit, and some sort of dipping sauce, like ranch or Asian peanut sauce. One day a week, I prep all of the chicken for lunch, then freeze whatever I won’t use within a couple days. Each day at lunchtime, I replenish what I used from the freezer. Snacks consist of sliced salami, cheese, and veggies. Planning ahead of time and taking the excuses out of your meals makes staying on track a lot easier.
Prioritize your family lifeIt’s easy to get caught up and stressed out in work life. It’s easy to be “off the clock,” but still feel like there’s more you can get done if you just do a little work in the evening or on weekends. With running two companies, I definitely feel like I can capitalize on my relaxation time in the evening by doing work. What I realized is that by not shutting off my work brain, I was shortchanging my family. I wasn’t present in their needs and wants. Instead of giving them my full attention, they would get less than half my attention as I typed or read away on my laptop. Instead of enjoying my time away from work, I was trying to fit my family in around work, not the other way around.
Lately, I set a quitting time. What I’ve realized is that a lot of the tasks that I thought were crucial to my success were time fillers and wasters, and rarely added value to my business. I also realized that as a partner and mother, my time with them is limited. In a little over 7 years, my son will be off to college. I want to have a relationship with him while we are under the same roof, and more importantly, I want to build a better relationship with my partner, because while my son will temporarily live with me, my partner will be here long after, and we need to have a good foundation. Instead of focusing on fitting in work in the after-hours, I focus on fitting in games, conversations, and being together.
Prioritize your sleepWhen faced with a 24 hour day, with not enough time to get things done, many people cut sleep first. Reducing your sleep, however, reduces every aspect in your quality of life. A lack of sleep ruins your focus, making you less productive, and more likely to waste time and get less done in your work life. A lack of sleep makes it less likely for you to get up and keep moving throughout your day, making you more likely to shorten your lifespan, among other health-related issues. A lack of sleep makes smarter choices less likely to happen, especially when they’re food or drink related. A lack of sleep makes you short and irritable with your loved ones, hurting feelings and relationships. Sleep is crucial to your success at every level.
What are your favorite steps when prioritizing your day?
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