The perfect work-life balance that everyone chases after may just be an urban legend. Instead, use these three keys to find peace through priorities
By Anne Grady
There have been a number of articles and commentaries in the news lately suggesting that we toss out the whole idea of work-life balance. I couldn’t agree more. Why? The whole idea of work-life balance is based on a false premise.
Think about it: our lives are not are not supposed to be balanced. As the mother (and once single mother) of a special needs child, a business owner, friend, daughter, volunteer, etc., I can tell you, emphatically, that there is absolutely no such thing as balance. We are making ourselves crazy chasing this mirage.
We have become obsessed with the idea of work-life balance because it is so ingrained in our culture. The concept was first introduced in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was a different time, and the idea was intended to prevent laborers from having to work 16 hours a day, six days a week.
As our culture has changed, the idea of work-life balance is a little less clear, morphing with the idea of “having it all.” Can you be the executive who thrives at business, the mother who volunteers at her child’s school, the friend who maintains an active social life, and still remain sexy, fit, and fun? Maybe for a short time, but it certainly isn’t sustainable. You might be great at doing each of these things on different days. You may even have some days where you manage to do it all. But no one can consistently balance everything flawlessly.
Be honest with yourself. Most of us like to think that we value relationships more than money, and family more than work. But do we really? When push comes to shove, do your actions support your real priorities? In other words, do your actions match your intentions?
Instead of trying to balance all the areas that seem be competing for your attention, focus on what is most important in your life, one priority at a time. Then you can take steps to make sure you are spending your time and energy accordingly. Here are three keys:
Identify Your Priorities Look at the areas of your life that matter to you (possible areas include career, finance, family, health, relationships, social life, attitude and personal growth). Realize that some areas should take priority over others. Focus on one priority at a time.
Assess Your Priorities Rank how you feel you are doing in each area that’s important to you, from 1 to 10 (poor to perfect). Look at where you can make slight changes. Your goal isn’t necessarily going from a 2 to 10. The goal is making Slight Edge changes, like going from a 2 to a 4.
Devote Yourself to What Matters: Identify your top three to five priorities and spend 80 percent of your time on them without apologizing for it. Schedule time for your priorities. If necessary, save money for them. Make sure you have emotional and physical energy for them.
There are lots of tools and tips for managing the onslaught of information and tasks we have to deal with. One of the most important ideas is making sure that the priorities in your life aren’t passing by while you’re reacting in stress mode.
Make sure you carve out ample time for the things that are most important. Focus on them without multitasking so that you’re giving them your full attention. You’ll be surprised the difference it can make in your happiness, productivity and the sense of wellbeing that comes from devoting yourself to what truly matters to you.
Anne Grady is an entrepreneur, author and expert in personal and organizational transformation. With humor, passion and straight talk, she grew her business as a nationally recognized speaker and consultant while raising her severely mentally ill son. Anne shares lessons she has learned in her new book, 52 Strategies for Life, Love and Work. For more information, visit www.AnneGradyGroup.com and www.Success52.com.