Spoiler: you cannot. Full stop. Balancing life and work is a myth, and by constantly searching for balance you end up creating more work for yourself. That being said, I have three steps that we can all take to find a more natural flow in our lives, letting us continue to float down the middle of the river, rather that bouncing off the the riverbeds, struggling to stay afloat in the rapids, and then finally just giving up.
Step 1: “Some Balls Are Glass, Some Are Plastic”
To start, you have to free yourself from the limiting belief that you need to be chasing someone else’s idea of “perfection”. It does NOT EXIST. Author Nora Roberts said “know which balls are plastic and which are glass. Some balls shatter and some bounce, and that’s OK”. Rather than running around trying to keep all of your balls in the air, acknowledge that some days, you work is a glass ball and your family is a plastic ball.
What does that mean? MY KIDS ARE NOT PLASTIC BALLS! MY SPOUSE IS NOT PLASTIC. Calm down. It means that some days, your family just doesn’t have emotional needs that are as urgent as your work. Your spouse can cook dinner. Your kids can watch some extra TV while you work to meet your deadlines, or you practice self care.
Some days your work is the plastic ball. It is OKAY if you need to extend a deadline while your mom needs help with her sick dog or your spouse is overwhelmed and needs a day date.
The thing is, there are that most days, you will be dealing with some plastic balls, and it is OKAY if you drop them. You are human, and life is not a race to perfection. Take a breathe! You’re doing great!
Step 2: Healthy Boundaries
Let be honest, I sound like a broken record here, but boundaries are essential, especially when you are working from home. Rather than telling you the WHY, I have a few ideas for HOW.
Balancing Life and Work – Boundaries
Have a separate work space. When I lived in an apartment with my two kids, husband, and puppy while building our house, it was HARD. However, I managed to find a corner of my bedroom and set up a mini office. It can be done, and separating your work space from your couch is a must towards creating boundaries.
Have a morning routine and an evening routine. This does not have to be perfect every time, but following those steps as you wake up and before going to bed can help you set mental boundaries, separating your LIFE from your WORK.
Organize your phone and your computer. I know…weird, right? Separating your apps on your phone and organizing your desktop can help you separate your real life thoughts from your work related thoughts.
Take breaks. Go for a walk, get on your bike, do some yoga, water your plants. Whatever grounds you, do that. Even if you work in an office, you can probably carve our 5 minutes every hour or two to take a lap around the office. Carry your coffee cup and make it look like you’re headed to the break room for a heater. Whatever you need to do to mentally separate from work for a few moments can help you gain some clarity.
Step 3: Say NO.
No seriously, say NO. Stop saying yes to things that you do not want to do. You’re wasting your time. Sure, if something will really benefit your career and it isn’t exactly a huge YES, you can go for it. But when we are constantly saying YES to things we do not enjoy, and then feeling burnt out and miserable with absolutely zero gain…what is the point?
The truth is, the urge to constantly be balancing life and work is torture. So what is we stop torturing ourselves trying to find balance? Think of yourself as a small boat on a large river. Your goal is to say safely in the middle by breathing, staying true to yourself, and enjoying as much of the ride as possible.
Caitlin Thomas is the Founder of Beyond Boss, a professional photographer, and a mama of two. She is passionate about helping other women make more time for living and enjoying life, without sacrificing their dreams and ambitions.