Work-life balance? Is it even possible? Maybe there’s a better question we can ask ourselves.
How does one live better?
That’s a pretty loaded question If I’ve ever heard one. But one I’m sure you’ve asked yourself before.
The last 13 years of my life have been spent learning and experimenting. A quest to answer that question.
- Better health
- Improved relationships
- Better work
- Stronger personal finances
I’m striving to become the best version of myself in all aspects and I know that’s why you’re here. You’re striving for the same thing. One area I really struggle to live better is with my work.
Raise your hand if you’re a borderline workaholic?
Yeah, I’ve got two hands up too. I’m not borderline, I’m a full-fledged VIP member of the workaholic society.
It affects my energy, health, and personal relationships. It’s the one area of my life I’m spending the most time trying to improve.
In this search I came across a book called Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction by Matthew Kelly.
It’s helped me realize that it’s not balanced in my life that I’m after something else.
THE PROBLEM WITH WORK-LIFE BALANCE
When you think of work-life balance you most likely think of them as independent of one another. For instance, when you’re at work you’re at work and when you’re at home you’re at home.
But that’s the problem, they’re not. They’re totally connected in every way.
- When you have a rough day at work it affects your personal life.
- If you were to have a baby it’s going to affect your work life.
- A huge project at work is going to affect your personal life.
- The end of a long-term relationship is going to affect you at work.
When I decide to stay up late working and responding to emails, writing articles, or working on projects it affects my life. My energy isn’t as high, I’m less social, my moods may change, my workouts are not as intense, and my nutrition isn’t as great.
Work is a part of your life and your life is a part of your work. They’re basically best friends forever.
INSTEAD OF STRIVING FOR WORK-LIFE BALANCE STRIVE FOR THIS
In the book, Matthew says that it’s not balanced you should strive for but satisfaction.
Instead of a balanced life how about one that you’re satisfied with?
Think about it for a second. Would you rather have a balanced life or one that you’re satisfied with? I know where I stand with that question, I want one that I am totally satisfied with.
Ask everyone in your office today if they’d rather have a satisfying life or a balanced one. Ask your friends too while you’re at it and see what kind of responses you get.
But now it gets kinda tricky, right? What does a “satisfied life” look like?
EXAMINE YOUR LIFE. WHAT DO YOU WANT IT TO LOOK LIKE?
Most of us try to avoid things that are not satisfying. are uncomfortable, or upset us. We try to put them on the back burner, ignore them, or simply hope that they’ll correct themselves or just go away.
You know as well as I do that they never will.
Use your dissatisfaction as a motivating factor for living a satisfying life and creating change. Floyd Consulting as a fantastic resource to help you get in touch with this.
In the book, Matthew tells us why getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to him. It forced him to look at areas of his life that he was not satisfied with. It put into perspective what was really important and helped him get clear on his values.
You don’t need to be on your death-bed to discover what’s really important to you.
For me, I just needed to have more experiences. A trip around the world alone clarified those things for me.
What do you want your life to look like?
- Your health
- Personal finances
- How you contribute to society
- How you spend your free time/leisure/hobbies
What time do you want to wake up every day? What do you want to do first thing in the morning? How do you want to spend your free time with your family, friends, your significant other?
I know that can be a little tough to answer but take your time, there’s no rush. If it helps here is a quick little snippet of mine.
I want to wake up at 5 am every day, meditate for 10 minutes, and get a 10-minute bodyweight workout. After that, I want to enjoy a cup of coffee or matcha green tea and read for 30 minutes.
After reading I want to sit quietly and go over my three most important tasks for the day. After my M.I.T analysis, I want to coach clients from 7 am to Noon. The afternoon I want to take a 30-minute nap and when I wake up I want to research or write for a few hours (until no later than 4 pm). I want to wrap up my day with one hour of good conversation with someone close to me and then by pursuing one physical, mental, or learning goal that I have for myself.
Seems doable right?
If you need a little extra help use this resource to help discover your own values and what’s most important to you.
WORK-LIFE BALANCE: ALIGN YOUR ACTIONS WITH WHAT YOU WANT YOUR LIFE TO LOOK LIKE
- You probably already know that you should be eating real food
- You probably already know that you should be exercising consistently
- You probably already know that you should be practicing gratitude
But why don’t we do those things consistently?
We don’t do the things we know we should be doing consistently because our system for doing so is either flawed or broken. Systems drive behaviors and behaviors determine outcomes.
Flaw #1: Believing that you have to change dramatically to achieve the outcomes that you want.
- If you want to start eating healthier you don’t need to wake up tomorrow and have the perfect diet.
- If you want to start exercising you don’t need to trash your body for 60 minutes right away.
- If you want to start your own business you don’t need to quit your job right now and go all-in.
You just need to take one small step and build a little momentum.
- What is the specific outcome that you’re trying to achieve?
- What are the three specific behaviors that lead to that outcome?
- How can you implement those behaviors into your life daily?
What’s one action that you can take today that will get you one step closer to where you want to be? If you’re trying to improve your nutrition how about just focusing on not drinking liquid calories at first?
Flaw #2: Addictions in which satisfaction is sacrificed.
Pleasure cannot be sustained past whatever activity produces it. Eating is a great example of this, so is sex, and so is doing drugs or drinking alcohol. All of them provide an almost insane amount of gratification at first only to have it slowly decline as time goes on.
It’s the law of diminishing returns at its finest. You’re starving and that piece of cheesecake sure does look good doesn’t it? You take a bite and it has been confirmed… DELICIOUS, and you’re happy about it. Every subsequent bite thereafter doesn’t quite produce the same level of satisfaction.
You’ve finished the cheesecake and then what? The amount of pleasure you received from it slowly disappears until the next time.
Satisfaction, on the other hand, doesn’t need to be renewed. I’ve never met anyone that maintains a healthy diet and isn’t satisfied with it. They never say, “dang, I wish I ate more junk food.”
It’s the same with exercise. Have you ever felt like skipping your workout for some reason or another but instead you tough it out and go anyway? You always feel good about it, you’re always satisfied that you went and got it in.
Flaw #3: Believing you won’t have to sacrifice one area of your life in order to build up or improve in another area.
Put the handcuffs on me because I’m entirely guilty of this. I don’t know about you but I believe I can do everything. It’s a tough pill to swallow (and one I try to fight to the death) but if you’re looking to bring up one area of your life other areas might have to suffer a little.
- If you’re trying to advance in your career there’s a good chance your personal life or health may take a hit.
- If you’re getting married and having kids your career may have to be put on the back burner.
In Off Balance, Matthew gives the example of a working mother unable to be as attentive to her kids.
Our culture tells us that we can have it all. However, it’s not about having it all – it’s about removing the limitations that we place upon ourselves to maximize our abilities with the circumstances you’ve been given. So that not only you benefit, but the world as a whole does.
The key again is to start small. This will allow you to seamlessly transition from focusing on one area of your life to the next.
Start your day by be incorporating one small change into the area of your life that you’re trying to improve. If you’re trying to live healthier you could wake up 30 minutes earlier and prepare your meals for the day.
How do some of your best days start?
Or what would be 3 to 4 things you know you could start your day with that would almost guarantee that you have a great day?
- Drink a cup of coffee?
- Practice gratitude?
- Have a good conversation?
End your day taking action in the area that you’re looking to improve. If you’re looking to start your own business how about 30 minutes of work on it?
Flaw #4: Minimalist Effort
Not to be confused with living a minimalist life but instead striving for the least amount of effort to produce the greatest reward.
There’s really no better example than when it comes to the health and fitness industry.
- What hot new supplement can I take to drop body fat?
- What’s the least amount I can work out and get into great shape?
This philosophy shows itself up in other areas of our lives as well.
- What’s the least amount of work you can get away with and still keep your job?
- What’s the least amount of studying I can do and still get good grades?
A fulfilling and satisfying life is going to take work, hard work, consistent work.
Flaw #5: Lone Wolf Syndrome
We live in a society that emphasizes individualism and competition. The problem with this is that it can often lead to a mentality in which you’re only looking out for yourself, “what’s in it for me?”
I’ve asked people what they think a limitless life would look like for them and some of them describing it as being able to do what they want when they want, how, and where they want to do it – essentially never answering to anyone.
I like the sound of that too but it doesn’t work the majority of the time because there are billions of other people who we share the world with. If this is your attitude as you navigate through life you’re going to end up neglecting a lot of people that you care about.
Many of you are mothers, fathers, or are in committed relationships. How would that sort of attitude work in those environments?
WORK-LIFE BALANCE IS ALL ABOUT ENERGY MANAGEMENT
I’m certain that I’ve read just about every book on time management there is. Most of them offer up some pretty awesome strategies for increasing your productivity, from batching certain tasks to delegating others and completely ditching some.
The best time management strategy I’ve ever come across and one that is referenced in Off Balance is “Energy Management.”
Your experience of life greatly increases with the more energy you have. -Matthew Kelly
There has never been a truer statement. When your energy is high you’re more productive, your mood is better, your health is better, your willpower is stronger and the list goes on and on.
When your energy is low your life experience dramatically decreases. Your mood is affected, how efficient you are suffers, you’re less likely to work out and eat right, and your relationships will suffer.
When you’re exhausted you don’t have the energy to do the things you know you should be doing. You also don’t have the energy to do the things you love! You’re less engaged in living.
So what are some ways you can improve on your energy?
Well, there are the obvious ones.
- Sleeping 7 to 9 hours and getting to sleep no later than 11 pm.
- Exercising regularly
- Eating more real food and ditching the junk
- Strengthening positive relationships and dropping those that drain you and bring you down.
- Being in certain environments. Sometimes when you walk into a setting immediately it feels like the energy is sucked out of you while at other places it feels like you get a shot of adrenaline.
- Engaging in specific activities. Certain activities will give you energy while others may make you feel run down and lethargic.
What are some things you’ve noticed that energize you?
There’s something else you can do to help with energy management. You can work in intervals.
Studies have shown that we are most effective when we work in short bursts followed by brief bouts of recovery. Working all out for 90-minute bouts followed by 15 to 30-minute breaks
Knowing that you have a break following 60 to 90 minutes of work can motivate you to push harder and get more done.
Inc.com says that working in 60 to 90-minute intervals is one of the 7 traits of highly productive people.
“Your brain uses up more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically you will have spent most of it after 60-90 minutes. (That’s why you feel so burned out after super long meetings.) So take a break: Get up, go for a walk, have a snack, do something completely different to recharge. And yes, that means you need an extra hour for breaks, not including lunch, so if you’re required to get eight hours of work done each day, plan to be there for 9.5-10 hours.” – Inc.com
In the book, Matthew gives the example of trying to hold a full glass of water out in front of you for as long as you can. That’s going to get pretty tough really soon, right? But what if you just hold it up for a minute, put it down for 10 to 20 seconds, and then pick it up and hold it for another minute?
You could go all day like that!
HOW TO START LIVING BETTER TODAY
I hope that today’s articles gave you a little insight into Matthew’s book Off Balance. I highly recommend picking it up and participating in the challenges – I know it’s done some wonders for me.
So if you wanted to start living better today what can you do?
1. Discover your pain point
What area of your life is giving you the most stress, discomfort, pain, and unhappiness? Expressing your pain verbally is a great idea here. I wrote down on a piece of paper what was causing me the most pain in my life and I stared at it. I then proceeded to address it.
“Personal relationships, you are causing me the greatest stress in my life. I just wanted you to know that I acknowledge you. Be ready to be taken down.”
Is this totally weird? Yup! But it worked for me.
2. Determine where you want to go (outcomes)
What is the final result that you are striving for? Get super-specific. What exactly is your ultimate goal?
3. List the behaviors that will get you there
What will you need to do to get to your desired outcome? Will you have to start preparing healthy meals? Exercising regularly? Regardless of the goal what are the core habits you will need to display to reach your outcome?
Don’t forget to express your intent. What days will you be exercising? What time of day will you do it? Where you will do it?
Prioritize these behaviors in your life. If you’re trying to get into shape but are skipping workouts because it’s laundry day or because your favorite show is on then your priorities are all mixed up. Here is a great worksheet that can help you to determine what your real priorities are.
4. Measure your progress:
If you’re not assessing what you’re doing then you’re just guessing. Measure your progress daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
If you are trying to change your body use a daily habit tracker to see if you are making healthy choices each day and exercising consistently. You can hop on the scale and take body measurements each week too. You can also take before and after photos to assess your progress.
Every three months take a look at what you’ve recorded and decided whether you need to change things up and try something new or if what you’re currently doing is working. If it does not then change your system.
I’d like to leave you with this.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this book was that everything is better when you have a partner. Someone that has your back, supports you and will hold you accountable. Partner with people who you trust and give you energy and support each other in pursuit of your dreams.
Ask around. Who can get your back over the course of your journey and whose back can you get?
I got you!
Photo – Matieu Turle