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Achieve More With Less Stress

Long ago, I remember someone telling me:   “If you want a nine-to-five job never go into business for yourself.”

The reality is that most entrepreneurs and business owners work harder and longer than anyone else I know.  Be it personal ownership, duty, responsibility, a need for success; whatever the case may be, if you’ve created a business or own a business you know this is the truth.

Your success and the success of your business depends upon your work.   Even still, it is crucial to find balance in your life – what was termed in the HR world about a decade ago as “work-life balance”.   Now, before you throw your hands up and walk out on me saying that’s impossible, let me start by offering the notion that balance does not equate to equal.

During the early years of the “work-life balance” program, I worked with many managers who heard the word “balance” and suddenly envisioned things must be equal.  They argued on end with me that they couldn’t get everything done and still have the same amount of time/effort/energy to give to their regular life.

Let’s start on the right footing here and be clear that “balance” means:

… mental steadiness or emotional stability … [dictionary.com]

You need to have balance to avoid burnout or drive yourself up the wall.  It’s that quiet time, that moment that allows your mind and body to rest.  Have you ever experienced situations where you’re working hard to resolve a problem and no matter what you do you just can’t figure it out but then you take a walk or a step back and suddenly the answer comes to you?  That’s the reset that balance gives you… the ability to achieve more because your mind is clear.

Balance is different for every person and does change over time depending on what your needs are.

So how do you figure out what your balance is?  Try the following simple exercises.

Determine your balance

When I was working with managers to try to determine their work-life balance, I did a few exercises that really helped them gain focus.  They involved the following questions:

  1. Think about a moment where you felt the most relaxed, what were you doing?
  2. What is the first thing you look forward to doing when you get off work?
  3. How do you celebrate a great accomplishment?
  4. What one activity or event makes you feel like you’re on top of the world?

Avoid the guilt

One key point, I don’t emphasize people here.  Many people feel guilty that they are supposed to answer:  Spending time with their kids or spouse.

As much as I love both my husband and my children, the reality is they aren’t my balance.  They can participate with me in finding my balance but they aren’t the balance in and of itself.  For instance, I’m not the type of mother to grab a ball and suddenly go out and play soccer with my kids. In fact, that would probably cause me more stress and anxiety than work does.  Now, break out a movie or let me enjoy a deliciously cooked dinner and I’m in my element… both of which I can participate in with my family and still be perfectly happy.

For some people, balance may be solitary time or activities.  That’s perfectly okay.  Recognize it and allow yourself the freedom to spend that alone time.

Also be honest with yourself and conscious of your own emotions.  If you’re not feeling like you gain balance from doing your event/activity, take a moment to evaluate yourself again.  Perhaps there is some other activity that works better or perhaps it’s a feeling or an emotion you’re looking for that you are no longer achieving.

Balance can and does change over time depending on what is happening in your life and your interests.  Again, don’t feel guilty because you’ve changed or chosen another activity.  This is natural and most people need different influences at different points in their lives.

In fact, most people who do balancing effectively have several different balance activities they can rely upon.  Depending on the situation and what they need, they vary what they do and how much time they allot to each.

Making time for your balance

Now that you’ve identified your balance, it’s time to make an effort to achieve it.  Again, this is where I received a lot of resistance from my well-meaning managers.  Many challenged me saying:  “There’s not enough time/money/{insert limit} here to do my balance activity.”

So here are some tips to achieving your balance:

  1. Schedule the time as you would any other important event in your day and try to avoid rescheduling or cancelling it.
  2. Break it down into smaller chunks to make it possible to accomplish in the time you have.
  3. Get creative with how you want to accomplish your balance.  For instance, if you like to travel but don’t always have the time, try local trips.  Join travel or adventure groups that can give you the feeling of excitement without having to go anywhere.
  4. Talk about and share your interest.  For many of us, just the ability to share in our experiences with those around us helps us achieve that balance.

Good luck in finding your “balance”!

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