We hear it all of the time- you need to have a good work-life balance. Okay, that's fine, but honestly- what does it look like?
I think there's a better question to ask—what does good balance look like for YOU. Most people looking at my life from the outside would say that I have an unhealthy work-life balance. One in-house job, one freelance business, plus tack on the multiple pro-bono projects for friends and church and my own personal projects (if there's room). What people don't see are the three things that help me figure out what a good work-life balance is for my life: my routine, my reactions, and my results. These three things help me accomplish my balance (woo!), and I hope that as you evaluate your own life, you'll be able to discover your balance through these three things as well. So let me break it down for you.
How do I get where I want to be?
My routine is key in getting me where I need to be. These are where the practical tips for creating balance will come in (part 3 of my blog series). Start by asking yourself important questions to figure out what your ideal routine would be.
When do I work at my best ability? When do I need to call it quits? What's my list of "most importants" that I have to accomplish before I can really focus? In what situations do you thrive?
Learn to be able to evaluate yourself and how you're feeling. Figure out your cues when it comes to "too much" and what the moment BEFORE you've hit the wall feels like. Pay attention to your routine and ask yourself what works and what doesn't. This is all trial and error, so pay close attention to every aspect of your day.
What's my attitude towards the events getting me there?
Balance has a ton to do with attitude and how you're reacting to both your personal life and your work. You can figure out the perfect routine, but then you let something like self-doubt creep in. You start asking yourself if what you're doing really does work, because today? You just REALLY don't want to sit down and write a blog post, or sketch up a logo, or pour any time or energy into anything productive. All you want is ice cream and all six seasons of Lost. Don't let your reaction to today derail you completely. (Remember: we ALL have our off days!)
But at the same time—keep your reaction and your attitude in check. It's going to be what shapes your happiness and harmony with the balance of your life. This is how I can explain to you that the balance of my life is okay. I love my freelance, I know it's going to benefit my future, and the relationships I've formed through it are invaluable to me. For those reasons, coming home and working at night is OKAY. I've been able to find my happy balance through it because of my attitude towards it.
There are still things I do to keep how much I work into check (which greatly affects my attitude), but we'll get to that.
What fruit am I seeing from the things that fill my life?
You should be seeing the results that come from how hard you're working, or the time you're dedicating to your family, or the hour you've set aside for your faith. If you're not seeing results, you should reevaluate what you're doing and make sure that the things you've made a priority are speaking into your life in positive ways and propelling you forward.
I'll share a quick story with you.
Recently, I came home from an AWESOME vacation. There really wasn't anything spectacular about it except that I got entirely away from everything at home- work, responsibilities, problems... it was two weeks full of escaping and enjoying every moment, often into the early morning hours with dear friends. I was pretty down when we started the drive to the airport, so my husband asked me, "Why aren't you looking forward to going back home?" I answered—REALITY. Then he asked me an even more important question: "What don't you like about your reality?" My reality? Wasn't reality just the way it is? I have no say in the matter, right? I came home and thought about what he asked me. Then I made a list of the things I don't like about my reality right now. I made a commitment to work towards changing the things I don't like about my reality and moving my future into a place where I'll be happy—but most importantly, wherever God wants me (which if I'm really where He wants me, I'll be happy). So I prayed about it, and I'm hanging onto it. It's a great reminder for me every day, and something that helps me keep my perspective in check. Everything I do should be a reflection of where I'm heading.
Let me challenge you to take a first step today:
Make a list of all of the things you love about your reality. Then make a list of what you don't like about your reality. Go back through the second list and figure out the solutions to changing those parts of your life. What's it going to take? What results do you want to see? What can you start doing today to get yourself there?
Are you working REALLY hard on your blog but seeing no reward? Maybe you should switch your focus, try a new promotion strategy, or focus on your poetry instead of your photography that you just aren't enjoying as much. Busy with freelance work but your bank account is drained? Maybe it's time to raise your rates. Try new things that make your time well spent and rewarding. Tired of not spending enough time with your three-year-old son? Figure out how to work in an extra hour a day for one-on-one time with him, and then write out a plan to make that hour happen.
Be where you want to be, have the best attitude towards where you are in life, and see the fruit of the ways you're balancing your life. All of these things will come together to show you real balance, no matter what stage of life you're in— and it'll just feel right.