(Originally published on Entrepreneur via this link.) The word h“balance” conjures an image of a scale where the two sides are equal in weight and have found equilibrium. As a working mother of two who runs a branding and marketing agency, and is very committed to daily exercise, and juggles a handful of other professional and personal commitments, I’ve learned one thing: finding work-life balance is extremely difficult because it doesn’t exist!
We live in a world that is never offline — we are expected to be responsive on all platforms at all times. Technology has advanced the pace at which we work to such a crazy degree, which could explain why so many of us are completely stressed out. In 2018, Barnes & Noble announced a 25 percent surge in the sales of books on anxiety.
Rather than searching for an elusive balance, work-life has become more of an integration for me, in which I just embrace the chaos. With this shifted perspective, I am less anxious, more fulfilled and am not constantly beating myself up. Below are six tips that have helped me get my head together.
1. Resist time-wasters and distractions.
It’s been estimated that we’re bombarded by over 5,000 ads per day. For those of us who wake up to our smartphones (me included), think of how many messages you see in the first five minutes of your day, and consider if any of them add any real value to your work-life objectives.
News alerts, shopping deals and social media clutter your brain when it’s at its freshest. Try to block out times when you’re not hovering over emails, and turn off or disable most of your phone notifications and you’ll be amazed at how much newfound time you discover to focus on important tasks.
2. Learn to say no.
Whether it’s making it to your son’s baseball game or finishing a project on deadline, you have to force yourself to make some tough decisions. Determine what is most important and will deliver the most value to you — and then do that.
The most productive people don’t have less on their plates; rather, they simply come to the table with an organized plan. Limit-multi-tasking so that you can give people and projects the focused attention they deserve. This also applies to personal time dedicated to your wellness and happiness. Don’t be afraid to say no to opportunities or events that come your way. FOMO is your enemy. Once you empower yourself to say no, you’ll realize what’s most important to you. (And remember, “No” is a complete sentence.)
I used to compete at an elite level in the sport of rowing, where I learned that teamwork truly does make the “dream work,” as clichéd as that sounds. Figure out what you are best at and hire people who are better at all the other tasks you need to be done. My colleagues at work are more talented than I am in their specific skill sets and that’s what makes our team so harmonious and effective.
The same goes for family life. Sort out tasks and responsibilities with your partner or kids so that more can be accomplished more efficiently from day to day.
4. Be realistic and accept limitations.
When I say that I embrace the chaos, I also mean that I accept limitations. Ask yourself how you can be as effective as possible within the constraints you face. So, you might think, for example, “If I have only four hours per day to work, how can I finish that project or make as much money as possible?” Or, “If I can only exercise four hours per week, what are the most effective workouts I can do to build muscle?”
Then use positive affirmations (“I can do this!”) as opposed to negative ones (“It’s not enough time”) to accomplish your plans. Positive affirmations might not work for everyone, but they do for most. Try it and you may learn that constraints might even boost performance!
5. Stop chasing “busy.”
I know that after a big work event, pitch or even a workout, there tends to be a slower period. When you have these moments: Take. Advantage. Don’t feel the need to fill your schedule for the sake of it. Do the things you really wanted to do when you were super busy, or use the slower time to asses your business from a 360-degree perspective.
Update your portfolio, refresh your web site, do some research and meet new people. You have some breathing room to be thoughtful, use it to think!
6. Make time for yourself.
Scheduling time for yourself is a keystone to wellness, and it doesn’t need to be earned. Bottom line, most of us tend to live by everyone’s else’s schedules these days (our kids’, our clients’, etc.) and we no longer follow our own internal compass. The more you do things that you want to do, the more fulfillment and happiness you will get out of work and life.
Start small with your “me time,” be it a walk listening to a great podcast or a 15-minute Epsom salts evening bath. Lots of little things will add up to huge wellness benefits if you let them.