Work-Life Balance is B.S.: How to Keep It All in Check
Recently, I’ve been occupied with a flurry of investments that have taken up a lot of my time and energy. Add to that I’ve been working with Techstars to provide a wellness track for the Chicago Startup Week which is just around the corner. And, add to that, in all my “spare time,” I’ve been developing an app for the next Chicago Wellness Challenge in the Spring of 2020. Needless to say, life has been busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
With so much going on, it got me thinking about the concept of “work-life balance,” what it really means to me (it’s bullshit), and how I might use myself as an example for other entrepreneurs who struggle with the concept. I personally take more of a “work-wellness” approach that’s tied to my Purpose Pillars and is ultimately designed to help me be my best self. Below I break down how this plays out.
A Day in the Life
There really is no such thing as a “typical day.” The only thing that’s typical is that days are usually jam-packed with meetings. For this reason, I am diligent about planning my week to ensure that I can fit everything in, including “me time”—time for things like meditation, strength training, and sleep.
I’ve found a lot of success in keeping my weeks fluid—there’s no real beginning or end. I don’t differentiate a Tuesday from a Sunday, for instance, just like I don’t differentiate my work from my life. While this might mean I am working in some regard every day, as long as I do what’s important to me and live according to my Purpose Pillars—values, connection (to family, friends, and community), health, vocation—I feel comfortable with a seven-day “workweek”.
Work, then, is definitely not separate from my life—it is my life (or at least a major component of it). And my ability to balance my workload day-in and day-out is directly related to what I do to stay well and live well.
I like to begin each day with meditation, especially when I am really busy like I am now. I get it in whenever and wherever I can. Sometimes this means meditating for a few minutes before a meeting or in my car in the parking lot. Just 10 minutes of mindful silence helps me to recalibrate and quiet any noises or distractions in my mind.
I also make a practice of regulating my sleep in three-day increments. Ideally, I would get at least seven hours of sleep a night but this is not always doable. When sleep is cut short a couple of days in a row, I make sure to get seven-plus hours on the third day. I know that if I extend past that point, it will start to have an impact on me physically and mentally.
Other steps I take to prioritize my wellness include eating well, reducing alcohol consumption, and getting to the gym. During very busy times, I might reduce my time in the gym, but I will never eliminate it altogether. If I do, my stress increases and my ability to focus on what’s important impacts my ability to make good decisions. Stress also seeps into my engagement with people, which can end up consuming even more of my time.
And when things are so stressful to the point of mental and physical fatigue? I take a hot whirlpool bath with Epsom salt. This allows me to soothe aching muscles (from the stress) and clear my mind from the micro elements (e.g. what someone said, the 100+ emails that I have to answer) and refocus it on the macro elements (prioritizing what matters). It also helps me to sleep better, which is the best remedy for just about anything.
Staying on Track with Purpose
During stressful or busy times, I continue to add at least one action connected to my Purpose Pillars each day. For instance, one of my pillars is “connection” so I will add something like “home for dinner with the family,” which is tied to connection, to my planner. The goal isn’t to overload it with a bunch of actions, but keep it simple and easy to accomplish. Doing this keeps the focus on things that really do matter the most to me.
Everyone has their own way of going about their work and balancing priorities. What works for me as I’ve shared above may not work for everyone, and I get that. But, I also believe there are broader concepts in it that can be applied universally and may help to lessen the toll of stress during busy times.
- Don’t focus on work/life balance. It’s a crazy, B.S. idea. Focus instead on your priorities. (Purpose Pillars can provide the foundation for these.) Of course, priorities will fluctuate day to day, week to week, and month to month. Do an inventory each month to make sure you’re not ignoring things that give you energy. And if do find yourself ‘out of balance,’ re-calibrate, even if it is something as simple as calling your mom.
- Create routines. Make things automatic—like brushing your teeth. For instance, if you want to meditate, make it part of your morning routine. Get up, find a comfortable seat, and meditate for five minutes. Start small, make sure to stay consistent, and before you know it, it will become a habit.
- Set daily micro-goals. Set easy-to-do daily goals and check them off as soon as they’re completed. Even consider non-work-related accomplishments. A few examples: say a prayer, listen to education podcast, read an article about retirement planning, buy a nice card for your partner. Just the act of checking the box is motivating.
I encourage you to put any (or all) of these techniques to the test. I think you’ll find that while they won’t make stress magically go away they will make it more manageable. And, not to mention, you’ll feel a greater sense of ownership over your work, your life, and all that matters most to you.
This story originally appeared on my blog.