Life Balance is so elusive…

Improving Life Balance

Why does LIFE BALANCE seem to be so elusive? Because it’s imaginary.  No one is ever in equal balance.  An admired colleague Krista Clive Smith once described it more like a symphony where different parts are louder than others at different times, but when listening to it as a whole it is harmonic and beautiful.

What would be possible if you gave yourself permission to live in harmony and not strive for perfect balance all the time?

I divide my “life pie” into 4 parts; business, family, service and self-care.  No day, week or month is ever the same.  If I lived in balance, my pie would look like this:finding life balance

Not only is this unrealistic, imagine how boring life would be if every day and every week were the same.  More realistically my life looks like this:Finding Life BalanceOne may say I’m never in balance, but that’s okay.  Collectively my pies makes sense.  By accepting that my life pie isn’t always going to look the same I find peace and harmony.  Understanding this makes me feel grounded, happy and successful.  How do you think a shift of perspective about life balance would effect you?

Vacations + Boundaries + Time off = > Productivity

August Calendar

It’s August and it’s been one heck of a year, not just for me but for so many friends, colleagues, and clients. Yet Tuesday morning beckons and I know that means it is time to write my blog post for the week.  Most of the time the words just pour onto the page.  Unlike some bloggers I don’t pre-write, my posts are inspired by my clients, my week, and my life.

Except today I’m stuck.  Maybe it’s how sad I am about the loss of Robin Williams.  Maybe it is because both my children are leaving for college on Saturday (sad, excited and super busy all at the same time), maybe it is because I need a vacation. I think that’s it. I have been reading all these great articles about how productivity improves with down time. This is what I’ve picked up:

  • Take true vacations: “If we can train ourselves to take regular vacations – true vacations without work – and to set aside time for naps and contemplation, we will be in a more powerful position to start solving some of the world’s biggest problems. (New York Times article on creative thought: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/opinion/sunday/hit-the-reset-button-in-your-brain.html?smid=fb-share)
  • Create and respect boundaries. “You cannot achieve your balance if you don’t respect the boundaries you have put in place. It will be hard in the beginning but you need to stick with it so you develop a routine and drive a culture and lifestyle of predictability. You will find that there is also something else you can do. There is always another email to reply to or a problem to work, but you need to PERSONALLY respect your boundaries. If you don’t then you can’t expect others to respect them.” (Entrepreneur Magazine article on Work-Life Balance: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/235427)
  • Time off improves productivity: “The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.”  (Economist Magazine article: http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2013/09/working-hours)

So, my productivity tip for the week is to take some down time.  Happy August, vacation, and napping.  Talk to you next week – then it’s VACATION TIME!

“Work Before Play” Just Doesn’t Work Anymore

work play
work before play???

I don’t know if you were raised like I was, but when was little I was taught to finish my work before I played.  It made sense in to finish my homework before I went out to play.  It made sense to study for a test or clean my room before my friends came over.  It made sense then.

But does it make sense now?  Will we EVER be done with our work?  I don’t think so.  As a business professional, homeowner, and mom I could work 72 hours a day and still not be done.  In this day and age of information overload and cutting budgets we are all trying to fit the work of 3 or 4 people into one.  It’s time for a shift.

It’s hard to up your game when you’re burned out and overwhelmed. It’s hard to think clearly and productively when you don’t have the bandwidth.  Our short term memories are finite and sometimes there is just no more room.  If you don’t take time to care for yourself it will take longer to get your important work done.  As Abe Lincoln said “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my ax.”

So now in the middle of summer, when things are a little slower, it maybe the perfect time for you to set some “self-care” boundaries and make new habits.  How can you build enjoyment and downtime in to your life:

  • Find a class you like, sign up and go regularly
  • Schedule technology vacations – pick a day or two every month and turn it off
  • Schedule fun time out with friends, family and/or just yourself
  • Close up shop at a scheduled time each evening

But most importantly, think differently.  Balance work and play.  Know that work before play is obsolete.  Know that if you don’t take care of yourself your work will suffer.

Get a Handle on Mail and Beat Mail Obligation

Magazines That Matter
Magazines That Matter

As I was sorting through 5 days of mail yesterday (I was out of town) I exclaimed “I’m never subscribing to another magazine again.”  For years when I’ve spoken to groups we’ve discussed why we feel so obligated to read things we didn’t ask for.  And last night I realized I’ve been doing the same thing.  My Harvard Business Review and Cooking Light barely get open, yet I read the local magazines that are sent, and I read the grocery store flyers, and I look at the catalogs that come.  YES – My casual reading time is being spent on the things that don’t matter, and the things that do matter aren’t getting any attention.

I need a new system!  Here it is:

  • Instead of putting my favorite reading aside (nightstand, reading nook) where I never really read, I’ll move it to the places that I’m likely to pick up a magazine (kitchen table, family room, etc.)
  • Instead of keeping the reading that doesn’t matter I’ll toss that in recycling right away
  • Instead of spending 15 minutes reading the mail I didn’t ask for, I’ll spend that same 15 minutes reading what I’ve chosen is important

The truth is I do most of my reading on my computer.  My Facebook and LinkedIn feed seems to bring me relevant and interesting articles daily.  That seems manageable and digestible.  I really don’t want to give up all my magazines, but if I want to be sure the ones I value can be looked at, then I best be ruthless with the ones I don’t.

 

Sometimes Doing Nothing is the Most Productive Thing You Can Do

Kripalu
My Favorite Thinking Spot

If you’ve subscribed to my weekly tips for awhile you’ll know that I try to get away a couple of times a year for a few days of retreat.  I’ve just returned from Kripalu (http://kripalu.org/about_us/435/) and feel much more clear and focused.  I’m pretty sure that this quiet week of learning and renewal is one of the best things I do to keep myself productive.

With the numerous demands in today’s crazy-busy world, good productivity practices focus on doing the work that matters most.  But, when our minds are full, and bodies exhausted, it’s hard to think clearly enough to know which exactly those things are.  Quite and reflection helps me to identify where in-fact my priorities lay. It helps me identify what my most important work is.

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Pull the Weeds So the Flowers Can Thrive

We weed our garden so the nutrients and water are available to the flowers. If we leave the weeds they end up sucking the vitality from the soil and our flowers might die; certainly our flowers will be healthier without them.

Are there weeds sucking the vitality out of your life? Are they on your schedule, in your self-care, on your desk?

  • Are there things on your schedule that take more than they give? Is it time to pull that weed?
  • Is there something that you can stop doing (or start doing) to take better care of yourself? Is it time to weed your choices?
  • Is there clutter in your space that’s making you less effective, stifling you, or slowing you down? Is it time to weed your space?

I’m sitting here at my desk with the window open listening to the birds singing. Certainly spring has sprung here in New Jersey. As we move into spring think about which “weeds” you can pull so the most important things in your life can thrive.