Here is a confession: I have never had work-life balance in my life. I love my family, my work, and myself, but I cannot think of a single stretch of time where it was all “balanced.” To be honest, I think that trying to achieve so-called balance causes undue stress and is ultimately unattainable. It implies that we dedicate an equal amount of time to every aspect of our lives, which is an unrealistic expectation.
As a small business owner, I am constantly working on new projects or coming up with content and sometimes work past my bedtime. As a mother, I will drop everything to tend to my babies when they are sick or need a cuddle. Sometimes I need to dedicate more time to personal commitments and other times I need to focus more on work… and I’m okay with that.
There is no prescribed balance in my life, but I strive every day to live according to my intentions. And that is precisely what this article is about, the deliberate use of your time and energy toward the goals you have today and for the future.
Clarity vs. Balance
There are many areas of life that need your energy and attention. And it is okay to have different priorities at different stages or “seasons” of your life. I believe that a state of perfect equilibrium between personal life, professional life, and family life is not only unattainable but inadvisable. Instead, I encourage you to give yourself the permission to focus on whatever you are working on at the moment. To achieve this, you need to know yourself and be kind to yourself:
- Be honest with yourself and others
Self-awareness is at the heart of work-life clarity. You must know your preferences and priorities and be honest with yourself about what areas of your life need your attention the most. You should also strive to be authentic and transparent with those around you—your boss, partner, family, and friends. Share your plans and successes, but also learn to set boundaries so your time is not stretched-out thin to please others.
- Be kind to yourself
We all do better when we feel energized and refreshed. So, learn to rest. Everyone recharges differently. I enjoy coffee, reading, spending time with family, and the occasional Hallmark movie, but I know friends that need music in their lives and others that get grumpy if they have not had enough alone time. Listen to yourself and practice self-care; it will increase your work-life clarity and improve your relationships.
How to Improve Your Work-Life Clarity
There is no definitive list of habits that will magically solve the problem. I have found, however, that time management and accountability play a very important role in achieving better work-life clarity. The key is to be intentional with how we use our time and energy.
Make Yourself Accountable: Keep Track of Your Goals
Work-life clarity requires an almost-daily reevaluation of your present priorities. I like using the Eisenhower matrix to help me determine what is most important and urgent on my to-do list and what are things I should schedule, delegate or eliminate. This quick review of your to-do list will help you determine where to begin and how to classify your items in your list so you can develop a plan of action and be more efficient and intentional.
- Set clear and attainable goals
If you’re like most people, your head hurts from balancing your time, responsibilities, and objectives, so it’s crucial to write them down! There are many ways of keeping track of your tasks and goals, such as using yearly planners, vision boards, to-do lists, or digital applications; it’s a matter of trying them out to see what works for you.
Write down all of your ideas and/or projects, and then break them down into actionable steps (for now or the future), so you can allocate your time based on your priorities and deadlines. To take it one step further, I use Michael Hyatt’s 3×3 goal-setting framework which helps you delineate three quarterly, weekly, and daily goals. By being crystal clear on your priorities, you can set attainable goals with concrete steps and allot your time effectively.
- Put it on your calendar
Most importantly: if it’s not on your calendar, it won’t get done! I always recommend that my coaching clients develop the habit of putting all important tasks, events, meetings, and goals on their calendar. This is not just for work-related matters, but also for family and social commitments, and for personal time like going to the gym or allowing for “strategic thinking time.”
Benefits of Work-Life Clarity
Work-life clarity gives you the confidence and permission to work as hard as you can in whatever area of your life you need to prioritize. It helps us put aside unrealistic expectations we either make up in our heads or are imposed by society. It also makes it much easier to make decisions because you will do so based on what will move you closer to your personal and professional goals. So, pull that all-nighter or take a mental health day to read or enjoy nature. Do what YOU need to do. Evaluate and reevaluate your priorities because life is your own journey.
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