You get an email from a colleague at 7 PM on a Friday night that makes your blood boil. This leads to a fitful night of sleep. You wake up Saturday and know you have to alert your boss but you don’t want to mess up her weekend. You get a text in the middle of a staff meeting that your kid split his pants at school. You HAVE to head home and cart the new pants out to the middle school. There is no “balance” to work-life or life-work. There is only a blended cocktail. There is no separating of the two anymore.
Apparently, according to Wikipedia, “the expression ‘work–life balance’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual’s work and personal life.” The 1970s were before smart phones, the internet and the flood of information transfer created by current technology. It made me wonder what we even had to balance in 1970? I’m pretty sure I was balancing doing homework versus watching The Brady Bunch. Now we spend so much time on being in front of a screen because of phones, tablets, computers and television that it’s impossible to keep a separation between work and life. So let’s give in and figure out how to mix the best work-life cocktail.
Here are the ingredients:
- Red bull. In other words, energy. The ingredient that fuels any life is energy. As George Mienie wrote, “In my world, it’s about managing your energies rather than balancing time. Identifying when your energy levels are high vs. when they are low helps you apportion your tasks to match your energy levels.” I work best in the morning. I make sure that I put the biggest, gnarliest task first thing in the morning when I have the most energy. I can assume you have the most energy in the morning but there are many folks who are night owls. So figure out when your “red bull” zone is and capitalize on it.
- Know what your key results are supposed to look like. If you are making a Piña Colada, you don’t need a martini glass. So if you want to make sure you have a weekly date with your spouse to enhance your relationship, don’t plan bi-weekly business trips that bleed into the weekend. Do you have a vision statement? Do you know what success looks like? Pick the shape of your life and then choose the glass. Don’t let the glass choose you.
- It’s your cocktail. Don’t buy into someone else’s cocktail. You’ve done it. You see your friend is in Thailand, leading an elephant and you say to yourself, “Damn, I want to do that.” Social media creates cocktail envy. I remember telling my friend that I wanted her life and she promptly said, “You want your life.” She’s right. I can’t live by someone else’s rules and priorities. As Don Gregory wrote in Success, “Ignore other people’s judgments and focus on what makes you feel healthy and happy.” Figure out what you want in a cocktail and stick with it. Don’t go jumping from cocktail to cocktail.
- Time. Quit trying to balance the time you spend between work and life. Watching the clock is not going to balance the scale. There is way too much bleed through. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I can lose an entire night of sleep about an errant email. So there are 6 hours I can’t get back, and there is no way my job is going to repay me for that lost night’s sleep. As written by Gregory, “When looking for work-life balance, time is not a good thing by which to judge.” I spend about an hour a week setting up positive posts on social media. I cannot tell you how many people comment on my posts and value the positivity. The value I add far outweighs the time I take to set up the posts. Quit watching the clock. Focus on the cocktail and the value it brings.
- Bitters. I love a cocktail with a splash of bitters. My bitters are my morning routine that set me up for my day. I’ve been studying Spanish for the last year on my Duolingo app. Some mornings, I trudge through my lesson for the day; sometimes I look forward to it. Sometimes I pick an easier lesson so I can finish it faster. It’s OK. The point is I suck up the bitters to keep my mind in better shape. Learning something new is linked to longevity. Don’t you want a long lived cocktail? Be sure to add some bitters.
- Mindfulness. I see you rolling your eyes. Cathy is always preaching mindfulness. I recently purchased an iWatch and there is an app on there called Breathe. It’s awesome. You don’t need to have a pillow or incense or a statue of a Buddha. The app helps you breathe for one minute. You have one minute. We all have one minute. Getting back into your body and out of your head is important for a calmer mind. Mix some mindfulness into your cocktail.
Have I convinced you to stop trying to balance all the parts of your life? Try and focus on what’s important to you and look at what value you want to bring in your life’s cocktail.