Maybe There’s No Such Thing as Balance
Making conscious choices to achieve work/life integration.
When I hear someone say they’re “too busy,” what I actually interpret is that they have probably not yet figured out how to accomplish work/life integration. I know because I was once in their shoes.
For the majority of my twenties, I stayed in busy mode, yet accomplished barely anything significant. It was around age thirty when I became fully aware of my own actions — and that every single thing that I do should be a conscious choice rather than out of habit or someone else’s expectations. I was then able to take control of my thoughts and with that, my schedule and rest of my life.
By far, the most asked question to me is, “How did you create balance?” The funny thing is I’m not even sure balance is the correct word — it’s better conceptualized as work/life integration. Work/life integration is understanding that some days are completely work, work, work, work, work, while other days, there’s more flexibility to choose where you want to put your time and energy.
Becoming extremely mindful of your choices is the starting point for all successful ventures. For example, I choose to commit to my yoga practice, knowing it makes my body and brain feel better. However, I can fully understand how easy it is to choose to eat potato chips and binge watch Netflix instead of getting to the yoga studio as that was the old me.
Maybe there’s no such thing as balance — maybe things just need to be properly integrated with each task chosen by which needs to be accomplished as first priority, then second, and then so forth. And here’s the kicker — each priority takes a different place each and every day. Work/life integration starts with conscious choices.
Here are my five life hacks for work/life integration -
- Most of us have smartphones — so get smart about them. Use them to your ultimate advantage. Many phones nowadays come with built-in features, like a syncing calendar. Use the calendar as your daily to do list. Begin to schedule in the menial tasks (like paying a bill, calling a friend, ordering something on Amazon), and not just using for scheduling meetings and other important tasks. Have all of your tasks in the calendar ding out loud so that you have a reminder. Work with the technology, considering it your very own personal assistant.
- When that ding goes off, do the task right then and there. This is something that I have only taken into action during the last few months but, boy, has it really done wonders for me. My looming to do list doesn’t feel as heavy on my shoulders as it did before. When I started to apply this, I realized I was extremely more efficient in all areas of my life. I took the same concept and applied it to my email inbox. In the past, I was extremely guilty of having a ton of unopened emails (labeling them in my brain as “get to later”). I started to schedule in specific times in my day where I check — and respond — to my messages. At the end of my workday, my goal is to always have zero unread emails so that when I wake up, it’s a new day with nothing leftover from the day before. (Side note — roughly 30% of my daily emails are from myself, reminding me to do something later. Now I just do the task right then and there verses the task sitting in my inbox for days.)
- Change your mindset. Like the saying, “You are what you eat,” rings true, so does “You are what you think.” If you’re constantly telling yourself and others that you’re too busy or don’t have time for x, y and z, then that’s exactly what manifests into your life. Perhaps try changing the word to something along the lines of “Right now, this is not a priority for me.” Although if you say that to a friend who is wanting to spend time with you, that kind be a bit blunt — in that case, try changing your wording to “I have a few other priorities to take care of first but I’ll be more open in a few weeks.”
- Learn to say “No.” You don’t have to do everything everyone asks you to do. Only take on things that you can handle. It won’t serve you, or the other person, if you say yes to something that you end up overwhelmed with. This requires getting to really know yourself and listening to your intuition. Your intuition will never fail you. That’s what it’s there for. Create boundaries — everyone will thank you for it.
- Providing yourself with self-care is of utmost importance. If you can take care of you then you can do anything. Kind of like the airplane emergency oxygen mask — put on yours first before helping others. I had weird day last week — my body was sore and I couldn’t get comfortable. I realized then that I hadn’t taken what I call a “spa day” in over two months. I had let other tasks overrun my schedule, placing self-care at the bottom of my priority list and my body was suffering from it. Spa days can mean a multitude of things — a basic mani/pedi, using a sauna or jacuzzi, getting a massage, adding in extra sleep, or even something as simple as taking a bath. When we choose to take moments to relax our bodies, they work better for us in the long run.
Work-life integration starts with conscious choices — choices that help increase productivity, well-being and achieving goals. Do yourself — and everyone in your life — a favor and choose wisely!