I was speaking at a wonderful woman’s event this last weekend and I was so impressed with the women in that room. So many women are up to so many creative and exciting things! And while we were sharing with each other and enjoying the time, there was a theme that kept coming up over and over again: the question of whether or not we can find balance in our lives.
I heard things like, “It doesn’t exist.” “Let’s stop saying that to each other” and “I’ve just come to terms with the fact that I will never find it.”
Now, what I like about this conversation is that we’re starting to question the ideals we’ve been fed most of our lives. We’re no longer thinking that there is something wrong with us if we can’t do everything perfectly and look like June Cleaver while we do it. Life is imperfect and so are we. I love the honesty!
Add technology and the constant demand placed on us by our bosses, employees, family, friends and ourselves, and we can definitely feel like we’re being pulled in different directions and that there is no way we can find balance between all those directions.
And given the structure of work and business as it is today, it’s pretty clear that our time will never be divided evenly. But all of this doesn’t mean that we can’t have the experience of balance.
So without further ado, here’s the trick:
Do what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
Wait, what? That’s it?
Yes, that’s it. But it sounds a lot easier than it actually is. It takes practice.
When you’re at work, be at work. When you’re writing an e-mail, only write the e-mail. When you’re folding the laundry, fold the laundry. When you’re with your kids, be with the kids.
I’m telling you, it makes a world of difference.
Here are some ways to practice it.
When you’re on a project at work, turn off your e-mail and shut any browser windows you don’t need open. Concentrate and really get it done. At meetings, don’t look at your phone. Just be in the meeting. By the end of the day, you’ll feel like you poured yourself into your work. That way, when you head home, you can leave knowing that your work is done for the day.
When you’re at home, spend five minutes to sit down and really be with your family. No phone, no side conversations, no distractions. Just be with them, talk to them, and share your day. After only five minutes of real connection, you’ll feel like you’ve really been with them. You’ll have the experience of really getting to enjoy their company, taking time to reconnect and share experiences.
When you’re out to dinner with loved ones and friends, put your phone away. Be with your friends and family, and enjoy every minute of your time with them. Relish the food and truly enjoy the connection and love that’s around you.
I believe that one of the reasons we feel like we don’t have balance is that we’re rarely aware of what’s in front of us. And who can blame us? There’s a lot to get done, and a lot that needs our attention. But when we try to do it all at once instead of giving each area of our life the attention it deserves, we end up not remembering what we’ve done, missing important moments and not giving our best to the task at hand. Finding ways to keep ourselves present, and then practicing that daily, will provide us with the experience of “balance”.
I’ve found that it’s incredibly helpful to write out a to-do list in the morning or at night. Then trust yourself that you’ve captured what you need to capture. You may have other systems or habits that help you get out of your head and into the present moment. If you do, make it a habit to use them.
If you need more systems or ideas, start trying different things. I have a friend who carries a pen and small pad of paper around her neck so she can write down anything that comes to her. That way, the new idea or thought gets out of her head, but she doesn’t have to pick up her smart phone. She found that would just distract her even more.
You are one accomplished woman and you can get done what you need to get done. Being in each moment as it happens will leave you feeling calmer, accomplished and balanced. And while the exact amount of time spent on different areas of your life throughout the day may not be “even”, you will have the experience of bringing your best self forward.
Have at it, beauty.
As I was hurriedly walking to pick my children up from school this week, I slowed down and thought of this post. I immediately pulled my attention back to what I was actually doing. The sun was shining, the sounds of kids laughing and moms chatting filled the air. I even heard a bird or two. It was 3:00 in the afternoon and I was outside, having wrapped up another work day. I felt incredibly lucky, even though my mind still wanted to race through all there was to do.
And then I remembered something.
This moment, right here, this is why I left my corporate job and all of that “secure” money to start this venture. Being here to pick up my kids after school was hugely important to me, and working for someone else wouldn’t allow me to be here.
I know that seeing my kids as they walk out of school, often before they even know I’m there, teaches me so much about them. I can see who they’re with, the expression on their faces and their mood. If I miss those 10 seconds, they’re gone. The experiences of the day are long gone by 6:00pm when I would get home.
So there I was, in those 10 seconds, and my mind was back at my office, going through my to-do list, my work, my day, and I was about to miss it. Then I thought of you, and remembered what we had shared on Monday morning.
I ended up having one of the best afternoons I’ve had with my kids in a while.
I really want to thank you for being here with me and going on this adventure together every week. You inspire me to do better, be better, and live better. And I know that together we’ll make the world a much better place.
Thank you. So much.