How to balance work and family is a very frequent question I hear working moms asking. As we are entering another year (hopefully less challenging than the previous one) let’s start thinking about some changes we can make in the way we manage our time to find a better work life balance.
So where do we even start? We are going to go over five main steps to create a better balance in your life.
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- Decide what Balance Means to You
- Incorporate the Main Principle of Work-Life Balance: Set Priorities
- Set Life Balance Goals
- Saying NO is Key to Balancing Work and Family in Real Life
- Create Time for Things You Want To Do
Decide what Balance Means to You
The very first step to a better life balance is to decide what that really means to you. Because balance can mean different things to different people.
Definition of work-life balance
When you type into our good friend Google “work-life balance definition” you will see a definition that says it is “equilibrium between personal life and career work”. It means that you are juggling those two aspects of your life in a way that makes you feel happy, fulfilled, and… you got it – balanced.
But what does balancing family and work mean to YOU?
This is a very important question you have to ask yourself. What does work life balance really mean to me?
If you think that there is a formula about how much time to spend on work, and how much time to spend on household responsibilities, and then on family time – I’m sorry to tell you but it does not exist!
We are all so unique that it is impossible to have one formula to fit all of our needs and desires when it comes to balancing it all. One of the things that you might desire is spending all day Sunday outdoors playing with your kids and exploring the local hiking trails. While to another person spending that much time on family activities would not work. They prefer spending some time each day of the week but having Sunday afternoon to themselves where they can read a good book and relax.
Because work life balance is a very personal thing, you have to answer some questions for yourself:
- How does a perfect week look like for me?
- What are the important things I’m trying to accomplish this month or year?
- What season of life am I in right now?
- What are the most important things for me at work?
- What are the most important things for me at home and other areas of my life?
- What makes me happy?
- What creates harmony in my life?
Incorporate the Main Principle of Work-Life Balance: Set Priorities
Setting priorities are the cornerstone of an effective work life balance. Now that you have determined what work-life balance means to you in step one, you can move to deciding on your priorities.
Your priorities should be set based on the stage of life you are in, your family dynamics, your dreams, and the goals you have set for yourself.
Remember, that you can absolutely have it all – just not at the same time.
For example, if you want to serve your family a home cooked gourmet dinner every night then you probably cannot have a job that will require you to travel for work a couple of times a month. You simply cannot be in two places at the same time.
The same way as you probably should postpone your dream of starting your side business when you just accepted a dream position of a CEO in a fast paced company. Yes, you can still fulfill both of those dreams – just not at the same time. Is it possible? Sure! But how stressful do you think you will be trying to do both of those things at the same time?
Decide what things are most important to you in the stage of life you are in right now. Think about all the things that you are trying to balance. Which ones are your priorities?
Those priorities will drive specific tasks that you will be working on to help you with balancing work and family.
What if everything feels out of balance and you don’t know where to start?
If you are in a place where you simply feel like everything is out of balance, then I recommend checking out Life Balance Workbook.
It has an assessment that you can take to determine what area of your life you are most dissatisfied with to help you decide where you need to dedicate additional time. This workbook will also help you work through all the steps described in this blog post.
Set Life Balance Goals
Step 3 is all about goals. At this point you know what your priorities are, so now it’s time to start working on them.
How does it help with work-life balance?
Think of it this way. You might decide that your priority at home is to spend quality time with your family on the weekends. But it seems like every weekend just gets away from you. You either take an extra shift at work or spend the whole weekend cleaning your house.
This is something that can easily happen when we don’t set specific goals and tasks for our priority.
So write down specific goals and action items for your priorities to make sure that they are reflected in what you are actually doing. That will help you manage home and work responsibilities.
Saying NO is Key to Balancing Work and Family in Real Life
We all know that setting goals in one thing but the execution is where we tend to struggle the most.
You know why? Because we quickly become overwhelmed with our responsibilities.
Mostly the problem is the empty calories on our plates of responsibilities! When it comes to food, empty calories are things that we consume that don’t provide us with any nutritional value. In the case of responsibilities, those are things that will keep us busy but don’t bring us any closer to achieving our goals and dreams. They don’t bring us any closer to achieving that life balance that we want.
We dedicate a lot of time and energy to activities that don’t really matter to us. And then we don’t have enough time left over for the things we want to do.
Those are usually the things that we do because other people want us to do them. Those are the things that we don’t really care for, but feel pressured to do. And it will be different things to different people. For you it might be having a two course dinner every night because that has been how dinners looked like when you were a kid. But you really don’t care for it and would be perfectly fine just if you just have one course meal.
Your empty calories might be ironing clothes, taking an active role in all school events, keeping a spotless house, or going to play dates with your kids every single weekend. If it does not energize you and help you work on your priorities – take them off your plate!
Make sure you say NO to things that are not aligned with your priorities and the goals you have set for yourself.
Remember that each day and each week or even month will look differently. Sometimes you will have to say no to an extra work assignment and sometimes it’s a no to a clean house. Work in a life of a full time mom is always full of challenges and surprises.
Create Time for Things You Want To Do
Have you ever said that you can’t do something because you don’t have time? Yes me too. But then I started realizing that I don’t have time because I choose to use it differently. I either use it to fulfill the priorities of other people or I simply waste it (usually without even realizing it).
We already talked about eliminating the empty calories. That is one huge time saver. But we also tend to waste a lot of time – and we need to figure out where that is.
And the most effective way to do that is to track your time. Take a week to track everything that you are doing.
Will it be time consuming?
Yes! Will it be annoying and tedious?
BUT it will also be very effective in showing you where exactly you have gaps of time that you can use differently. This will help you create those gaps of time to concentrate on your priorities.
You can track your time on a piece of paper, spreadsheet, or you can use the section of the Life Balance Workbook.
You will find that you two types of things. The first ones are activities that waste your time. These would be things like extended phone usage, scrolling mindlessly through your social media, or watching hours of TV. And the second one the types of activities are taking a lot of your time. Maybe you will discover that you absolutely take forever to get out of the house in the morning because it’s an absolute chaos in your house at that time.
Discovering those things will help you implement a few improvements to get more time back into your day for the things that you love to do. And that will help you balance your life better.
RELATED: 10 Biggest Time Wasters
Now that you have found some extra time in your day – go do you thing. You know what is important so start doing more of it. Set some specific goals for yourself and write down what you need to do in order to get there.
Remember that work-life balance is an ongoing process. You will have to adjust as you move forwards. As you go through different changes in your life such as workload, schedule, kids activities, or dietary changes you will have to adjust your priorities and set some new goals.
But one thing will always remain the same. You are creating a life balance that works for you and your family. It is your version of balance.