All of us have experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed at one time or another. And I’m certain we believe from time to time that “balance” is an unattainable oasis. But if we ignore the possibility entirely we are limiting our capacity to function. It’s like saying I can keep on driving on an empty tank of gasoline.
Don’t expect perfection. Balance, like perfection, is somewhat unrealistic. But there is hope for those who feel overwhelmed and that comes from target practice. While the work-life experts concur that perfect “balance” is unattainable and unsustainable, working towards balance has hugely positive impacts on your life.
Health and wellness coach and consultant, Nicole Guerton, knows this all too well and works with her clients who struggle to grasp the feasibility of balance.
“If I am working on a project with a deadline, I may put in an extra hour or two at work to complete the project, which might mean temporarily sacrificing some home or fun time,” she explains. “Another example might be someone who is in the midst of a health care treatment plan and chooses to set down some of the work tasks for a temporary leave of absence. These types of examples play out in people’s lives every day.”
Sacrificing quality for quantity is a mistake that is costly. It also garners no respect or empathy, despite what you may think. A leader is someone who knows how to delegate and when to decline in order to right the scales of balance. Believing that you are the only one who can do it “right” creates dissention and destruction. Empower others to help you and if they can’t do the job to standard find someone else.
Do find time for what’s important. This must also include “me time.” There is nothing selfish about taking time for you. Even Mother Theresa slept and ate, so why shouldn’t you? Think of it this way: if you don’t care for yourself, including time to heal, be still, rest, and rejuvenate, then you won’t be there to take care of others. While everyone and every thing in your life is vying for a valuable slice of your time, learn to find grace in yourself and ask for grace from others.
“When one child is in an after-school activity that requires more parental involvement, work may have some sacrifices,” Nicole reminds. She encourages being open with others in asking for grace when personal and professional priorities arise. “When clients come in from out of town, a person might need to engage in longer work hours to accommodate the traveling business.”
While you can’t possibly achieve perfect work-life balance, you can take a few steps toward huge improvements in reducing the feeling of being overwhelmed and stressed when it comes to personal and professional expectations by learning to say “no” with grace.
Do revisit your definition of balance. “A thought I’ve considered lately is maybe we pursue work-life integration,” suggests Nicole. She defines this as striving to create and uphold boundaries based on our values, priorities, and energy levels. “For example, I could focus my energy on a task (i.e. reading or writing) at a time of day that I seem to be most alert and focused, whereas I could schedule my exercise time for when I most often need an energy boost during the workday,” Nicole explains.
“Integration is a bit different than the ‘work-life/personal-life’ concept where one can separate work from the rest of life, which sounds plausible theoretically but may not be realistic. Integration may mean weaving personal strengths and values into day-to-day life as a way to be present, engaged, and efficiently productive in whichever aspect of daily life a person is currently in.”
Kim Monaghan, PCC, RYT, CPBS is the owner of KBM Coaching & Consulting LLC, a boutique Human Resources Consulting and Career Coaching Firm serving a national clientele.