Finding Work-Life BalanceAuthor: Shannon A. Garcia
By: Shannon A. Garcia, Registered Dietitian, Owner of Lone Star Nutrition, LLC
It’s possible reading this very blog may be the only thing you do for yourself today that isn't work related. We live in the fastest pace society known to man, and we will continue becoming exponentially busy until we either no longer have the ability to do so OR we draw a purposeful line in the sand declaring the intention to begin establishing our work-life balance.
Although I normally blog about nutrition-related topics, work-life balance in many ways is a form of nourishment. Nourishing our hearts and souls with time devoted to what we love and need is just as important as nourishing our bodies with healthy food. After coming across many different definitions for the word nourish, this particular one really resonated with me: “to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.”. The work-life balance concept is near and dear to my [overworked] heart. As a small business owner, achieving balance between work and all other components of my life has been hard (understatement of the year). I would almost say I've failed, but I haven’t - I've learned what doesn't work and how to improve. Moreover, I am happy to share with you five takeaways I've learned through this evolving process. It is my hope it helps you translate your intentions into meaningful action to achieve more happiness and balance.
Write it Down
When we have tasks to manage at the office or groceries to get at the store, we often make lists. We have a written plan and we execute accordingly. So why not do the same for the important things that help us maintain our sanity? Thinking you’ll make time for yourself without making an obvious visual reminder is not fully committing to carving the time out. If it's truly important, write it down.
Furthermore, rethink the way you jot your personal to-do’s, and consider them your personal “to-enjoys”. I have recently started writing positive action words when making lists. Instead of “get a massage”, I write “Enjoy a massage” to remind myself it’s my time to de-stress and enjoy something for myself. Although work-life balance is crucial to our lives, we still need reminders that it’s not only important, but also OK to do a few things for ourselves.
We all know it’s important, and all of us struggle with it. However, knowing where you’re drawing the line is crucial to maintaining work-life balance. This could be a time of day where you shut the work side down; e.g. “By 8pm the computer is off, my cell phone is on silent and both will be back on at 5am but for now, this is my time to do…”. Or this could be instituting a family rule that the kiddos will only participate in one extracurricular activity per season - this will teach them the importance of quality over quantity.
This is a huge one for me. I've started taking a mental (then written) snapshot of my week, and identify at a minimum what I want and need to do for myself. This will obviously be highly individual, but I urge you to know what nourishes you and make it one of your minimums! Don’t compromise on it - or at least not regularly. Some of my minimums are:
- One class a week with my favorite workout instructor (she makes me laugh while I’m getting a killer workout - talk about getting the most bang for your buck!).
- A coffee, lunch or happy hour with a good girlfriend.
- At least one relaxing, cell-phone free dinner with my husband.
These are the small things that nourish my body, mind and soul. Do you know what nourishes yours? And if you do, how effective have you been at identifying and executing your minimums?
Quality over Quantity
I don’t know a single person who hasn't wished for more hours in a day before. Time is one of the most precious commodities we have. Realistically, as we struggle to achieve work-life balance, we realize time is the driving factor in many of our decisions. Because there is a finite quantity of daily time, it’s up to us to turn that quantity into quality. Savor the moments you have when enjoying your minimums. Be present in the moment and enjoy the journey. Journal about them - a single sentence or two to remind you later how much you truly cherish the quality time you spent for yourself or with another person. From a longevity perspective, we are also more likely to have more quantity of days to focus on quality if we have a healthy work-life balance and make stress management a priority.
Find yourself not getting to your minimums in the week? Put up post-its, put a phone alarm or have a friend/partner keep you accountable. But also remind yourself not only of what you enjoy, but WHY you enjoy it. We are much better to take care of others when we also take care of ourselves. We are much more pleasant people when we are pleasant to ourselves. And we are better able to nourish our relationships, careers and many other roles when we are nourishing ourselves.