We live in a world of distractions. According to Digital Marketing, Americans are exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements per week. You will receive on average up to 121 emails a day (or more) and you will spend at least 10 hours and 24 minutes every week on the internet (compared to 27 hours consumed by the average teenager).
Bottomline: we are busy. I am not going to go any further to set the table on the topic of work-life balance other than to say that if you are reading this, you probably feel the challenge of achieving results at work and balancing a lifestyle that includes rest, family and outside activities. My guess is that you, like me, desire a balanced work-lifestyle. As a professional who juggles business, industry relationships, family and the desire to develop outside (of work) hobbies, then you may find this blog of interest. I will share with you my pursuit to perform work that is purposeful and fulfilling while balancing the deep desires to be a good partner to my husband, a loving mother and fantastic friend.
Do What You Love; Love What You Do
This statement is both profound and inspirational. Is it achievable? Is there really such a thing as the 4-hour work week (that does not come at the expense of other people)? How many of us actually love what we do? How often do we strive for more in order to provide for our families, pay the bills and maintain the lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed? How many of us feel like a prisoner in our own world of work?
As a successful business owner, entrepreneur, and marketing professional, these were the nagging questions in the back of mind. How can one make work and life balance?
I knew that thinking about it alone would not get me closer to my desired “balance”, so I got out a pen and paper and wrote down these three questions:
- What is work-lifestyle balance?
- What keeps me from achieving a balance in both my work and life (outside of work)?
- What are the steps that can be taken to achieve this coveted balance between work and lifestyle?
Work-Lifestyle Balance: What It Is.
Before you can work towards something, you will need a working definition of what it is. Work-lifestyle balance for me is the balance of doing something that adequately compensates me for the work performed, fulfills my need to create, is problem-solving in nature, allows me to engage with people and admire beauty. Those are the motivators that matter most to me. This definition may not be your definition, but you certainly have to define what it is before you can work towards it.
I did some reading.
According to worklifeblanace.com (and yes, there is a website on the topic), work-life balance is not an equal balance because you will never schedule an equal number of hours for each of your personal activities. Work-life balance will also vary over time since what you want today will not be the same five, 15 or 30 years from now. Essentially work-life balance is about finding meaningful, daily achievement and enjoyment in four life quadrants: Work, Family, Friends, and Self.
Could work-lifestyle balance be achieved as an entrepreneur?
Brian Halligan, co-founder and CEO of HubSpot said, “I find that I am at my best professionally when I am well-rested and have time away from email to actually think.”
But not everyone agrees with Brian Halligan. Amy Errett, Entrepreneur and co-founder of Madison Reed doesn’t believe that work-life balance exists when you’re an entrepreneur. “When you start a company and it’s something that you’re passionate about and it requires every attention, it’s unrealistic to think I’m going to have work-life balance.”
Nick Taranto, co-founder of Plated.com said “You can only cut so many pieces from the pie. Work-life balance means making decisions around where, who, and what you’re going to sacrifice because you can’t do it all.”
Another industry entrepreneur recently wrote on LinkedIn, “One of the hardest decision a Small Business Owner makes is the decision to do what it takes to succeed. Wanting to do it and doing what it takes to succeed are totally different things.”
As an entrepreneur myself, I was reminded of a conversation I once had with a mentor that asked me for my definition of success. I told him, “Choosing the work I do from the location that I want to do it.” He told me that according to my definition, I had already achieved success. He then asked a very profound question, “What else are you trying to achieve?” His question challenged the notion of striving for more. When is enough, enough? What is our definition of success and is their balance in being successful?
Which leads to the next question on my list: Which hurdles keep me from achieving work-life balance?
Work-Lifestyle Balance: Why It Is Not.
In my pursuit of finding work-life balance, I decided that the imbalance of work-life balance probably boils down to some of the following contributing factors:
- We are always accessible. Our smart devices have outsmarted us. We now work virtually, around the clock.
- We can be nearly anywhere within 24 hours. Travel is now an expected part of most jobs. After all, what can replace the human-to-human experience?
- Information is in abundance. We have access to self-help, career advice, best practices and how-to [fill in the blank] at our fingertips. There is no shortage of information and knowledge is power.
- Competition is omnipresent. As a marketer, I tell my own customers that if they are not in front of prospective clients, someone else is. Competition is everywhere and the ability to make small, subscription-based purchases has diminished the buyer’s need to remain loyal and sticky to any one brand.
- Waiting can carry serious consequences. In a growing culture that rejects delayed gratification, the perceived repercussions of waiting might be a missed opportunity or missing out on a big “deal”. Customers expect an immediate callback and no one wants to wait. Even more devastating is our inability to take the time to process information while we multi-task and make quick decisions on the fly.
- Perception is the reality. Welcome to the age of the selfie. Never in the history of mankind have we viewed our “self” portrait more than we do today. With countless hours of looking at other people’s smiling faces and the opportunity to view our own, the need to portray a particular self-image replaces a true reflection, appreciation, and understanding of one’s self. The need to be perceived is quickly replacing the need to be known.
- We desire to be connected but exist in a disconnected world. I love work. I love what I do, but at the end of the day, I have to be more than “what I do.” The need to feel like I am connected to a higher purpose in life and to be connected to others will always bring greater fulfillment than the work I perform. No exceptions.
- We are absent from everyday family life. My kids miss me when I am absent (working, traveling, worn-out), and I miss them. No amount of face time and text messages will replace the interaction that takes place when my son walk through the door after school, drops his backpack on the floor and greets me with a familiar smile and a kiss.
My Journey Towards Balance
After answering the three questions mentioned above, I decided it was time to take action.
I started by tackling my diet and health.
I work 50-55 hours a week. Some of you may be rolling your eyes thinking to yourself, “I work 60, 80+ hours a week.” True, but keep this in mind, I work from a home office. Every hour of my day is spent solving problems, leading online discussions, building strategic plans and figuring out why something is not working. Fifty hours of this type of work often leaves me brain dead. And like any entrepreneur, I wear different hats and multitask from morning to night.
Day in the Life BEFORE Re-balancing:
- 6:30am Devotions & Prayer (only if I get up on time)
- 7:00am Breakfast and get the kids ready for school
- 8:15am Drive kids to school
- 9:00am Work! Rummage through my 50+ new emails that have arrived in the last 10 hours and begin appointments
- 3:00 pm Realize I have not left my desk or eaten lunch. I am starving but I still have 3 or 4 appointments ahead of me.
- 6:30 pm Make dinner
- 7:15 pm Attend kids game
- 8:45 pm Kids bath and bedtime reading
- 9:15 pm First time to sit down and relax (if lucky)
What I found in my own life was a lack of personal time; a lack of time to reflect and think; a lack of physical activity.
- 3 days a week of weightlifting and kickboxing
- 1 energizing morning shake for breakfast
- 20 minutes of reading an industry-related marketing book
- Weekly blogging
- 1 glass of Kabocha in place of my last glass of wine for the night
The weight training classes and kick-boxing meant a change in schedule. Being a morning person, I knew I would have to find the time in the morning or else it would probably not happen. I signed up for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes from 8:30-9:30 am. Of course, this means that customer appointments would have to be moved and emails would be pushed to the weekend. But it was worth it to regain some of the much-needed energy that only comes from consistent workouts and good living.
Next, I tackled my diet. I created a breakfast shake concoction that is made up of:
- Bone Broth Protein
- Powder Greens
- Spinach or Berries
- Almond Milk
- Liquid Life Vitamins
- (on the side) Organic apple cider vinegar shots & fish oil
- Stress B Complex
- Milk Thistle
- Thyroid RX
- Andrenal RX
- Green Tea
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
- Vitamin D
While both the weekly workout routine and shake has become a part of my everyday life, I am stilled challenged to forgo that extra glass of wine at the end of the night.
How does work-lifestyle balance impact my ability to do my job better?
Before I took the extra steps to focus on balancing my health and energy, I was always exhausted (sometimes even before I began). I often experienced brain fog and fatigue. Most importantly, I felt like my life was not within my own control. The simple steps to carve out time for me and to exercise gave me the confidence to take additional steps to protect my time and make more space for other activities beyond the office.
Others have found refuge from the co-dependency of work by doing yoga, meditation or signing up for a dance class. Healthy living states that meditation and time to reflect increases the compound nitric oxide that causes blood vessels to open up and subsequently, blood pressure to drop. One study, published in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that 40 of 60 high blood pressure patients who started meditating could stop taking their blood pressure medication.
Whatever you choose to do, do it. Take small steps so that your success won’t be short-term and live the one and only life given just to you. Work-life balance is a choice and it is on purpose.
Live well. Bell well.