How Do We Balance Work And Life?
“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot. I am learning to live between effort and surrender.”
~ Danielle Orner
In this piece, I share with you my thoughts on work/life balance and a few practical strategies to better manage your business when life seemingly gets in the way.
Let me begin by sharing something I heard many years ago from Danielle Laporte.
Balance is a myth.
I remember being struck by those words and whilst I don’t remember everything she said on the topic I remember feeling the truth of those 4 words deep in my bones.
The idea here is that we don’t get to a place where work and life are perfectly balanced, without one taking up more space than the other. Instead the balance tips in favour of one or the other at different points in time. Allow me to explain. If you are sick or need to take care of a sick loved one, then for sure life is going to take priority. It has to.
If all is well on the personal front and we’re in the middle of a big launch in our business, then the scales are going to tip on the side of business for a while. That’s inevitable.
The liberating key here is to acknowledge that. To understand that the balance we often strive for is a myth. That then frees us up to figure out how to better manage things when the scales are tipped one way vs the other. I.e. how do we not drop all the balls on our business when life is feeling full on? And how do we not lose ourselves in our work when business is full on?
I can’t claim to have all the answers here, but for what they are worth, here are my thoughts for how to stay connected with your work when life is fighting for your attention.
Manage your expectations
Whilst on a call with a fellow business owner whose Dad has been seriously ill and who is herself recovering from a second bout of Covid, she shared that she hadn’t been feeling the ability to create content lately, which has never happened before and was asking how she might get her inspiration back. When I reminded her how much she is dealing with on a personal level and how normal it is therefore that she isn’t feeling creative, she broke down in tears.
I see some version of this all the time.
We don’t acknowledge what is going on for us and then on top of everything we might already be dealing with on a personal level, we have unreasonable expectations of ourselves to keep on keeping on. When we can truly acknowledge that our capacity for work may be limited, we’re better able to do the bare minimum than when we try to carry on at full capacity, which just adds more weight to an already unbearably heavy load.
On this same call, I was asked what I wanted to commit to for the next two weeks and without missing a beat I said: maintaining my business until our house renovation is complete. That means nothing extra, no big launches, no working on new things, no bold moves, or big steps. As boring and as safe as it might sound, my only job for the next month is to stick to my content schedule and serve my existing clients.
Even though that is more than enough, there still was a voice that whispered but you should be doing more.
It’s so important to be aware of that voice and to gently and respectively ignore her.
This one is a work in progress for me but making the most of the extra time I have in my business when things are quiet on the personal front is key to feeling less stressed when life gets busy or challenging.
That means that when I know I’ll be taking time off for a planned holiday, I can, for example, work a bit harder in advance to prepare content to be scheduled in my absence.
Much like it was in my old corporate life when I knew I had to take leave, there would also be a little bit of intensity ahead of the break, getting things set up for when I wouldn’t be there or handing stuff over to colleagues.
This doesn’t necessarily help when unexpected things happen like sudden sickness, but if you can endeavour to get ahead of yourself in for example your content creation, then you’ll have some leeway to work with when you suddenly find yourself busy with personal things. The trick is to be more productive when the space is there to do it so that you can step back when you need to, without dropping your business essentials.
Even though most of us work solo in our business that doesn’t mean we can’t recruit others to help take up the slack when we need to take a step back. There are several things you can do to find cover for while you are away that doesn’t require too much work up front for you.
You might, for example, invite a colleague to do a content takeover for your newsletter. This is something I’ve done for my dear colleague Eli Trier in the past. When she was busy getting married, she invited two or three of her most trusted colleagues to come in and write a newsletter on a topic relevant to her audience that she could schedule to go out while she was busy with her wedding. It was great for us as we got the opportunity to be exposed to a new group of people and could share links to our business and therefore get new followers and it was great for Eli, who had three weeks of quality newsletters she didn’t have to write or pre-prepare.
You can even do this with services. Years ago when I was on maternity leave with my first son, I was running a women’s circle with weekly calls. I invited 3 of my dearest colleagues to host calls in my absence and it was great, my women really appreciated that the calls continued while I was away bonding with my baby and my colleagues loved the opportunity to host a group call and share their skills.
And inside my mastermind program, I had a week off and had to miss one of the group calls, instead of cancelling it, I invited one of the amazing women inside the program to test out her new workshop on her fellow mastermind participants, meaning that the women benefited from her wisdom and she was able to get some validation and feedback on her new workshop. So it was a win win, with no extra work from me.
Give yourself grace
Always important but specifically relevant for those times when planning and calling in help just isn’t viable, it’s important to give yourself some grace when navigating difficult personal issues like illness, death of a loved one, birth of a child, children home from school, moving house (or house renovations!!) and all other big life events that inevitably mean our work has to take a back seat.
We would never be hard on a friend or valued colleague during times like these and would find it super easy to show empathy, understanding and love to someone else in this situation. Why then is it so hard for us to extend this kindness to ourselves?
Next time you find yourself in a situation where you’re dealing with some big personal life issues and catch yourself being hard on yourself about work, remember to show yourself some compassion. All being hard on ourselves does is make things even harder. In my experience, the more you’re able to lean into self-compassion, the sooner you’ll be ready to get back to doing what you can.
And there you have it, three things you can do to survive in business when your personal life is a struggle. Is there anything you’d add to this list? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.
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