Has Anyone Ever Told You They Hate the Term ‘Work-Life Balance’?
Well, let me be the first. I’m totally serious. What’s work life balance for a working mom? Totally bogus. Let me give you a little background on it.
I used to work in a large multi-national company and whenever we’d hear HR talk about ‘work-life balance,’ I thought, oh, that’s great… they’re going to be doing things to help make sure that we’re able to get out of the office and go do good things for our lives.
At the same time, we had a CEO that would talk about how it’s “an AND world.” He would say, “It’s not if you’re going to do this, or you’re going to do that. It’s how are you going to do this AND that?“
The Conflict of Trying to ‘Balance’ Work & Life
HR was trying to make sure we were taking care of ‘life.’ Our CEO wanted to make sure we were taking care of ‘work.’ Yet, for many people, this drove a bit of a conflict in their minds. Yes… I need to take time for my life outside of work, but I better not let a thing drop in the office. What’s work life balance if you can’t manage mixed priorities?
Often instead of being able to compartmentalize and prioritize these areas of our lives, we try to do it all. Then, nothing is done to the best of your ability.
Yet, the greatest epiphany to me was the irony within this discussion:
- You can’t be happy if you try to do it all.
- You can’t focus on just one aspect of your life all the time.
This is especially true since I became a mom. As a single girl, I could flip the work/life switch fairly easily. That’s because my ‘life’ was all about me.
As a mom, ‘life’ is your family, household, finances, school, meals, chauffeuring, etc. The ‘me’ aspect of your life gets pushed out because everything else is a squeeky wheel. (Or, actually 50+ squeeky wheels.)
What I Focus on Instead
So, if this ‘work-life balance’ thing is so bogus for a working mom, then what is work life balance for moms? I choose to add ME into the equation. I’ts not work & life… it’s ME, LIFE & WORK.
If you can look at what you need to do for LIFE, what you need to do for WORK and critically, what you need to do for ME, then you plan that out. And that’s where you actually find the balance. But there’s no such thing as work-life balance. It’s about that fluctuation and how you can plan that flow of all of those different leavers going on.
Work-life balance makes it sound like there’s one lever, but instead it’s this constant flipping of multiple levers. That’s the working mom, that’s our life, right? It’s getting the kids ready for school, flipping the laundry, taking out the trash, feeding the dog and getting yourself dolled-up at the same time each morning. So it’s about managing the flow of all of your roles and being able to get through the day. The only way to manage this is to plan ahead.
Planning Ahead is Key to Finding My Own Balance
At the end of each day, I like to sit down with my planner and say, “OK, what’s going to happen the next day? What do I need to do for me, life & work?” That helps me make sure that my next day is planned with the balance I need to keep my head on straight. The allocation of that balance can change from day-to-day, but by being flexible, I can make sure I’m focusing on what is important.
This process helps me make sure that life and work don’t overtake me.
How do I know what to do for me, life and work on which day, you ask? Simple. I make a plan.
Planning Well: Finding Your Me, Life & Work Flow
I like to do my planning process before the start of each year. Then, do a refresh each quarter; with mini-audits each month. That allows me to stay on top of my me, life & work fluctuation before things get out-of-control again. Here’s a top-level look at the process:
- DREAM Your Ideal: It all starts with visualizing what your ideal life looks like. (Yes, like a mood board.) I think about what my dream scenarios are for all areas: me, life & work. I do rough bullet points and just let my thoughts flow.
- WHAT Has to Happen: Once you have your dreams in place, you want to determine what has to happen in order to make those come to life. These are your measurable objectives that establish a pathway for your success.
- HOW You’ll Get There: You’ll now want to build in projects under each of your ‘what’ objectives that help you make sure that things get done. Then, within each ‘how,’ you’ll build specific tasks that will get executed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
Those of you with formal business planning experience will see this as the standard ‘situation, objectives, strategies and tactics’ process. Yet, that’s typically used for work stuff. I decided to also use it for me and life, too. Otherwise, the work to-do list overwhelms each day, with life ’emergencies’ filling in any gaps. We know how it goes… then your me goals just don’t happen.
That inspired me to develop the Planning Well™ course. It takes you through a formal process like the one listed above, via simple-to-follow PDFs. You start in the dream stage and then end-up with a list of monthly tasks for me, life and work. There’s even a set of weekly planner PDFs that allow you to start executing right away.
I’m super excited about this course and look forward to seeing everyone’s success stories once they’ve completed it. To incentivize folks joining, the price is super inexpensive right now (February 2022). This could be a great opportunity for you to jump in… let me know if you have any questions.
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