It’s All About That Balance
When it comes to finding balance between work and family, it’s always, well, a balancing act. There is no one, right way to make it happen. Instead, finding that balance is a process—one that is forever shifting.
One that is dependent on a number of factors. And while there may be any number of paths to creating that balance, most would agree that intention and goal-setting play key roles in bringing balance to fruition.
For those of us who work from home, setting boundaries between work and family tasks is essential. As a work-from-home mom, I know too well how work and family life can bleed into each other. It is too easy to get up from the work to clean a bathroom, fold some laundry, or make dinner plans. Unlike my husband, who is able to compartmentalize work and family (work happens outside the home), I must set up my own boundaries in order to find balance.
Using a combination of writing and online calendar system is what is working best for me. On my phone’s calendar, I put appointments and events. In my notepad, I write down what I have to do, day by day, and I put time blocks beside those to-dos. I find writing down the goals by themselves is not enough when it comes to blocking out work / family time.
Instead, blocking out specific times for specific tasks works much better. This includes the cleaning, laundry and meal prep. But because the best time to complete these house-related tasks varies week to week, I have a practice that is both enjoyable and effective. Each week, on Sunday, I mentally visualize the week ahead. I sit with both my phone calendar and notepad in front of me as I go over the week’s events. And when I do this, I consider the time I will be able to spend with my family. So for example, this week we have a birthday party Friday and a trip to NYC on Saturday. Plus we have church Sunday. All this I consider family time (in addition to the weekday evenings) so when I look at my week ahead, I can see balance there.
Clearly, planning the week and even month ahead is central to developing balance. But those “long view” sessions, as I like to think of them, need to be constantly refined. That’s why, at the end of each day, I take a few moments to consider the remainder of the week, to “check in” with my blocks of time and make sure they still work for me. Changes in appointments (or new ones) often change the overall schedule. That’s why it’s important to remember that calendar blocking will often require some renegotiating.
Another strategy that I use is setting intentions and specific goals for technology.
Instagram and Facebook may be key aspects to my online business, but I approach them with care. On Instagram for example, my goals may include posting something original, or making ten meaningful comments on others’ pages. Setting these intentions helps keep me from falling into the habit of spending too much time mindlessly scrolling. And it also helps move my business goals forward.
All this is part of planning, and organizing, as a means of achieving family and work balance. But what about the other sides to balance? The unplugging? The tuning in, and prioritizing? Turns out, they are possibly even more important than planning.
We need to unplug. While technology has enriched our lives, it has also made it possible to constantly be “on.”
Accessing information. Engaging with others, but just briefly, not in deep or meaningful ways. As someone living with an autoimmune condition, I can feel in my body when I’ve spent too much time doing any of the above. I start getting a headache, and just start feeling “off.” What helps? Making quality time real quality time by not checking my phone or multi-tasking.
Underlying unplugging is the act of tuning in. By tuning in to what I really need—what my body and soul are really asking or longing for—I’m better able to prioritize what is most meaningful to me. Tuning in has shown me, for example, that I want to make time for the things I had stopped doing, that always brought me joy: browsing a book store. Reading some pages of poetry.
Listening to favorite music while going for a short hike. I’ve begun incorporating these activities into my week, and the result is I am more centered and calm.
As important as the planning is, at the day’s end, it is the tuning in, the time spent in meditation, in listening to myself, that in turn informs and shapes everything else that is important. Like my family. If I’m caught up constantly responding to work demands, I can’t enjoy the family trip to NYC, or the afternoon spent playing outside with my daughter.
It’s when we find balance for ourselves that the work / family life balance more naturally, more easily, falls into place.