How to create a work-life balance by asking for help

You can hold out on help, but it won’t help your sanity.

“You can have it all but, you can’t do it all.” said Gloria Steinem in the documentary, Makers: Women Who Make America.

And the sentiment rings true. And not just for women.

Hands up to those who feel that your work life balance has been one big blur after another. From driving your kids to and fro soccer practice or hustling at your day job and then thinking about the things you’re going to achieve, only when the time comes you’re nibbling on chips and watching reruns of Friends, sprawled on the couch after an exhausting week.

Things start to feel even more impossible when you let yourself down with each passing day. Those promises that you made about wanting to cook more often? It went down the drain along with the list of books you want to read. All because you have chores that needs to be done, and you don’t seem to have enough time or hours in the day to cram them all in. Cloning seems to be the only solution (and conveniently, an impossible one at that). Who has time to paint, draw or even sit still to contemplate business strategy, with life happening all around you?

I used to feel this way too, until I reached a point where I had to surrender myself to the fact that I can’t do it all with my two hands. It was two months before my wedding, and Mr. T and I made a list of things that we would have to do. Paint our rooms and bathrooms, fix a few leaking spots on our roof, change the door, clean the entire house — iron grilles and all! — and then maintain enough sanity to do our work on top of it. We did everything by ourselves when we first got our house four years ago — down to cementing and patching up after the wirework was done, painting the house, sanding the grouting, etc. But at this point in my life, I just couldn’t. I raised a white flag — exasperated and desperate at the same time.

So I turned to Mr. T and said, this time, we need to hire people to help us.

Actually I think went more like this:

Me: “No way in heck am I going to paint another wall or get friendly with a 10-foot pole to reach those crevices.” Especially since this is the third house I’ve had to paint within 2 years.

And so we did hire help. I sussed out part-time maids, who came once in two weeks to help me clean up the house, and we asked neighbors to recommend someone who can help us with fixing up the house. Pretty soon, things were getting done and not a moment too soon too. And I was thrilled at how I felt. It felt really good. I was able to concentrate on my work, and sort out things for the wedding, and I didn’t get burned outthat much in the end.

We didn’t spend a lot of money as we were under a budget, and it was a culmination of small things that snowballed into this one giant to-do list that we were really glad to be rid off. But I now still hire those cleaners to help with the house chores once in a few weeks, and I’m the better for it. I felt good because it allowed me to free up my time to pursue the things I want (and need) to do, and not stress about having the weekend roll around because it meant I had to clean the house. I can focus on teaching more. I sketched more. I brainstormed more projects, took on more freelance work and earned more money. All this from hiring some help.

I allowed other people who were really great at what they do take over the things that I would have done poorly anyway. But the amazing thing that came out of it was that paying for other people’s services helped me to stop feeling bad about myself. So I could concentrate on doing the important work that only I can do and leave the rest to the people who were good at theirs.

And I have to share one caveat — I’ve had people telling me that they can’t afford part-time cleaners, etc., because they’re on a tight budget. That’s totally fair. I was on a budget too, and I was sitting on the decision for such a long time that I weighed the option against doing it myself — and DIY-ing won out for more than a year. But then I tried it out. And it was a revelation, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve done a lot of things all by myself for a long time, and while I saved money in the process, I realized that the older I got, the longer it took me to do the things I didn’t like. And I’m glad to have one less thing to worry about.

So my challenge is this: Think about the stuff that you hate doing, and how you can hire some help instead — and see how that will help you maintain a work-life balance. If you hate having to keep tabs on your bills, invoices, etc, hire an accountant. Hate trimming the lawn? Get someone to help you with it — a high-school student who might like to earn extra money for instance. The point is not about the money — you can always barter or trade your services; it’s all about asking for help in little ways that will make a big impact in your life.

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