Is a great work/life balance possible? It seems like this has been the hot topic of conversation for me lately - at client appointments, at expos, at speeches, and even within the online networking groups I belong to. When your job title is "Professional Organizer" people tend to assume that you've got it all together and must know some secrets that they don't. While it's true that I occasionally have days where I want to hide under the covers, it's more often than not a good day.
Balance can mean many things and if you are shooting for 100% happiness all the time, well I'm afraid I can't help you. However if you are looking for more good days than bad, then I've got 5 ways to get you there. The blissful part comes in when you've finally mastered the good/bad ratio (which doesn't happen overnight) and have moved on to mostly good, tweaking your life for the better, each step of the way, until you reach... well, what? That's all up to you.
Part of the reason Professional Organizers exist is because there is no one way to organize your home, your business, or your life.
It's a completely personalized and individual endeavor that is constantly evolving. Just when you think you've got it all done, a baby, a new job, or a new home pops up. Achieving a work/life balance is somewhat like that as well. You strive to simplify things in your work life to make more room for your family, but then a new project comes up. Or maybe your goal is to be more efficient with your time as a mom so you can finally get going on your business, but then a new sports season starts, reducing your work time even further.
How do you get ahead? How do you balance it all? When are you there?
You can’t anticipate a job relocation, a sick kid, or a death in the family. However you can anticipate everyday life. Streamline the expected things, so you have extra time built in for the unexpected and unwanted ones that just show up. Make school lunches the night before so you have time the morning of school to find the beloved shirt that’s gone missing.
Plan your business projects out based on their deadlines: schedule the due date in your calendar, then back track to break up the work into manageable pieces, with empty space left for emergencies that crop up. Always try to plan ahead and be proactive, not reactive, with the things you do daily, weekly, or monthly on a regular basis.
This is normally my go to tip for most people as it’s something everyone struggles with. If you need more time with your family, consider outsourcing the lawn care, your taxes, your housecleaning, and anything else you loathe doing (painting bedrooms, grocery shopping, or whatever).
I actually cut my husband’s and my boys’ hair once a month because it’s more cost effective and it saves me from apologizing profusely during the 30 minutes my little one would be crying at the barber shop. The thought of that may make you cringe but I’d rather save the $60 and do something fun with my family – you choose what’s best for you.
Maybe you can bring some paperwork to do at the barbershop and multitask during the haircuts! If you are trying to be more efficient with your small business, consider outsourcing the marketing, bookkeeping, or even basic office chores to an assistant. If you pay them $20/hr but can make $50/hr at the same time by working with a client or finishing up a project, it’s a win-win for everyone. Do only what you love!
Celebrate Your Uniqueness
Don’t use Facebook as an excuse for a pity party.
People normally only post the really good and the really bad and it’s only natural to compare yourself, but don’t. If you’ve done something to be proud of, post it and celebrate yourself, but don’t feel less worthy if no one “likes” it within 5 minutes.
Social media is a necessary evil, especially if you run your own small business, but don’t let it rule your life. Find your happy place and don’t let anybody tell you it’s not good enough. There’s a reason that there are dozens of brands of cereal - everyone likes different things – so make your goals about what you want to achieve in your work and life. Then when you hit those goals (and you will), don’t forget to make new ones so you keep on keepin’ on. That really is one of the true secrets of the work/life balance that it’s not something you can attain and it’s done. It’s a lifelong process and you have to keep at it to stay in the blissful zone.
Structure Your Day
A successful day can leave you feeling glorious, but a stressful one can start a domino downfall effect that may last several days ‘till you shake it off. Plan for meal times, family time, work time, fun time, and then pepper in your to dos around those “must haves” and not the other way around. You will probably find yourself actually getting more done because there is so much on your calendar and no time to waste.
Think about a typical 8 hour day at work – how much is wasted with shop talk, coffee breaks, and internet surfing? Do more in less time by being really focused and then you’ll be able to do everything you wanted.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
A lot of people are what I like to call ironic perfectionists. They want to implement a new system, or re-do their closets, but they don’t want it to be less than perfect, so they keep researching and researching… and never actually start the project. My answer to them is one of my favorite sayings, “Done is better than perfect.”
If you are upset with your job because you missed your kid’s soccer game yet again, well maybe you need to look at how you are spending your time at work. A lot of people procrastinate and take too long to do simple projects that they are dreading when in reality they were quick tasks. You might be spending too much time rescheduling meetings, moving things on your calendar, fine-tuning silly details, and making yet another to do list.
If you would actually just sit down and do the task at the first opportunity, it would be done already. And after all, 5 tasks done are better than 1 done perfectly. Streamline your time, get your work done faster, and find the fun again.
So, Now What?
Maybe you’re thinking that all of these ideas look good on paper, but they’re just not doable for you. Something is bound to come up and wreck your schedule, so why bother? Well, it’s small steps. I never tell people to organize their kitchen all in one shot on their own; I suggest starting small with the junk drawer and letting progress build from there. Implementing just one suggestion may make enough difference for you that it pushes you into that next realm of happy, not just hanging on.
I get it - I've got a crazy busy life, too. I have several jobs, kids, networking groups, friends, family, and errands that I find the time to juggle. It’s all about the choices you make to prioritize the things in your life. I’ve learned that asking for help is good and not a sign of weakness. I’ve learned to share my knowledge with others instead of keeping it hidden. I’ve learned how important communication is and that people can’t read your mind so don’t be afraid to speak out. I’ve learned that chocolate solves a lot of problems and mommy kisses can heal anything. So don’t give up hope. If it can’t happen tomorrow, at least it’s on the horizon. Keep striving towards that life you want and in the meantime, make it a joyful one.