Everyone talks about work life balance, or blend or flexibility and I just want to say I think it is a total fallacy. I'm a juggling Mumpreneur with several businesses and two small children and I have strived exceptionally hard to create balance and seen others strive too - but let's be honest here... we are all failing miserably.
As soon as we recognise that there is no such thing as balance, we can pivot and shift our focus to managing the imbalance to create genuine flow, productivity, happiness and the wonder in our lives. In my research and experience, the only way we can achieve actual balance (aka "The Wonder Zone") is with good old fashioned boundaries and by managing the imbalance.
I'm one of those people who takes life by the horns and creates the life of my dreams. I'm a qualified hypnotherapist, NLP Master, Reiki Master and Crystal Healer not to mention a Design Thinking and Innovation Coach, so I tend to have a lot of ideas when it comes to solving complex problems or hacking the status quo to hit The Wonder Zone as I like to call it. The Wonder Zone is a space where you are in harmony, you are productive, creative, happy, healthy and in flow. It is pretty much the unicorn of psychological states and I spend most of my days chasing it.
Last year, after several years of working from home as an energetic mumpreneur, working flexibly and juggling things like a pro - I woke up one day in December and realised my life had become a total muddy puddle. There were no boundaries. There was no flow and I was feeling incredibly stressed. I felt really vulnerable and foolish as I had genuinely felt I was living the picture of balance, flexibility and flow only to realise I was not living the dream, in fact I was trudging along in some sort of murky mess destined for failure, illness, disaster.
I'm not one to sit around pontificating about anything for very long, as an action oriented human the first thing I did was get my curiosity on and dig deep to understand what was going wrong and how I could fix it. With wonder as my guide, I curiously said yes to online courses about stress management, calm parenting and finding flow. By December 31st I had completed 5 online courses and read 6 books. It was New Years Eve when the sun was shining, the girls were playing and I found myself sat on a sun lounge by the pool reading Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of not giving a F#ck" that suddenly, like lightening it hit me. Everything I'd been learning came into crystal clear vision and I was suddenly aware - I have no boundaries. Like none, not even a little bit. I work from home, with kids and my partner and I am working on multiple projects and I am giving all of my energy all of the time to everything and everyone. I have no balance... but I have no balance because I have no boundaries. It was time for me to take back control.
I love to picture one of those scales when I think of balance. The reason I like this is because it helps demonstrate that for things to be in balance, flow, the wonder zone or whatever you want to call it... there needs to be some stuff on one side and some stuff on another side. This represents boundaries. The other thing is that the "stuff" is all in neat little parcels, like you can't imagine lumps of slime melting into each other on each side of the scales, this is messy, so each of the elements is individual and has boundaries too. Stick with me, I have a point...
For us to strike a balance, we need to do a little clean up, we need to take back control. We need to put up some boundaries and create some lines. We need to sort and prioritise and line things up. We need to get the sides right and work out what goes where.
It all sort of crept up on us really, first we could access our emails remotely from home with a login, then we had our emails on our phones, before we knew it we were available 24 x 7 to anyone and everyone - work, friends, family - the illusion of privacy and the 40 hour work week slowly disintegrated into a big muddy puddle of doom. It is time that we take back control and put in place some guidelines.
How long should it take to reply to an email, a text message, a voicemail, a handwritten letter? When I first started work email was still hand in hand with the good old fashioned land line for communication from the office. Face to face and 'meetings' were still king and emails were a way to send documents, send chase ups etc. Over time, the blur between the modes of communication had become rather messy and people's expectations in terms of availability and turnaround are freakishly out of control. I could rant on here for pages about the need for us to rethink communications at work and for play - but instead I'm going to jump straight to my top 10 ways to get more balance in your life...
1. Life audit time!
Where are you spending time now, where can you save time?
2. Where are your boundaries?
Are they clear? Do people know what they are? Have you communicated them to work/family/friends?
3. STOP, think, make a plan
Take some time out each day to check in on your boundaries and balance - are things in alignment today? If not, what is out of whack and what can you do to get it back on track?
4. Know your priorities
This is key to achieving balance, know what matters so you can shift and move around parts and pieces accordingly.
5. Repeat after me "NO"
See that wasn't so hard now was it? How can one of the smallest words in our vocabulary be so damn difficult to say? This little life saver is here to bring instant boundaries, balance and energy back into your life.
6. Colour code me happy
Get into your calendar and colour code for happiness, work, family, friends, health etc - get in there are realise how out of whack you are and then start to make changes... all work and no play makes you one boundaryless and out of balance human!
7. Pop an out of office on
Letting people know how you communicate and when. If you only check emails once a day, then let people know that it may take you a little while to reply, get yourself some breathing space and let people know how you flow. Own it!
8. Ditch voicemail
Since 2013 I've had "sorry I don't check my voicemail" as my voicemail because people would say "did you get my voicemail" and I would be like... "no, I don't check voicemail" - know your tools and how you use them so you can educate people on the best way to get in touch with you.
9. Plan a holiday
And another one, and another one - make sure you have trips (they can be cheap and cheerful weekends away or bigger and longer experiences), but make sure you have things to look forward to in your diary so it isn't one big hustle without any flow.
10. Embrace failure
I say this because the reality is, balance is a fallacy - nobody really has it - every single day something is a little out of whack at the expense of something else - but if you understand that and aim for teeny little weeny imbalances instead of mega life disrupting ones, then your life becomes full of flow, of minor adjustments and joy instead of disruption, major deficiencies and disaster.
Hopefully some of these resonate for you and give you a little more balance back today, tomorrow and next week! Keep at it and before you know it, life will be in sweet and wondrous flow.
Come and restore your balance with me at our female only Business Retreat in Fiji this October 24-28th. There are only a few spots left www.nurtureher.com
Sarah is wired to create and connect; obsessed with wonder, productivity, creativity, innovation and curious about all things, the weirder the better. She has a gift for sythesizing seemingly disparate concepts and ideas, a human metadata analyst with a knack for seeing new solutions to old problems.
She is a qualified hypnotherapist and obsessive meditator who is passionate about changing the future of work, normalising flexibility, mumpreneurs and women in business.
She produces mind altering events (including www.nurtureher.com, www.wiredforwonder.com).
She is the founder of The Wonder Tribe (www.thewondertribe.co), a creative consultancy to create the kind of culture you want to be famous for, Female Business Retreat (www.nurtureher.com) and successful baby shoe company Sienna baby (www.siennababy.com.au) She is a Design Thinking Coach, Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner with a Bbus Human Resource Management and Psychology from Monash University in Melbourne.