In Search of a Balanced Life

I always talk about life balance when I do a presentation on time management. That’s because it’s such an important skill in your time management toolkit. And if you’re one of those people that always get sick during the first few days of vacation, I’m especially talking to you!

It’s simple really. When you are fresh, well-rested and energetic, you perform better. Tired work takes longer.  The mind becomes sludgy.  When your system is worn down, then effective decision making, working memory, and logical analysis are impaired.

Putting yourself first

Many of us believe we are responsible to our jobs and employers 24/7 — even before ourselves.  And if you are, you’ll likely keep working even when you feel dead on your feet. But if you’ve ever traveled by plane, you’ll be familiar with the safety speech about fitting your own oxygen mask before helping others. It’s an apt metaphor for what you’re aiming to do here: looking after yourself first, so then you can be of service to your clients and co-workers.

Your health is your greatest wealth

In my own interviews with top performers, they consistently show that they take self-care seriously — and treat it as a job responsibility. For the best of the best, bringing their A-game to every work day means being at their physical and mental peak.

I know, it’s easy to say and hard to do.  Deadlines are deadlines. It’s tempting to give in to that pressure to produce and perform.  But our bodies and minds require recharging and refueling to work efficiently. The plain truth is that if you don’t stop to fill the tank, you will eventually run out of gas.

Awareness is key

Building balance is a core time management skill. It will be a work in progress for you.  And like all the other aspects of time management, building awareness is the first important step. Next time you are tempted to power through, despite yawning, stop! Ask instead: in my current state, am I bringing my best to this work? Or might I better serve my client/ my firm/ myself by getting some rest/ taking a break/ having a meal and attacking this when I’m fresh?

What are your own personal signs that it’s time to recharge?  For me, it’s when I start to crave coffee to get me through the evening. I know that when I reach for that second cup several days in a row, it’s time for a vacation day.

One change at a time

Read the following questions. If you answer no, ask, what is one thing I can do right now to bring myself back to balance in this area of my life?  Some possible action steps are listed after each to get you started thinking about simple changes.

Do I get enough sleep?

Action: kick the dogs off the bed at night, invest in foam earplugs to drown out your spouse’s noisy snoring.

Am I eating healthy food? 

Action: sign up for a fresh produce delivery service, visit the farmer’s market one day a week, prepare workday breakfasts the night before, make up a menu plan.

Am I getting enough physical exercise? 

Action: go for a brisk walk at lunchtime with a colleague (don’t talk shop), get on the treadmill for ten minutes while you watch TV at night.

Are my stress levels through the roof? 

Action: do a five-minute meditation during your day, book a massage, read a book just for pleasure, sit outside in the sun.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” And before you know it, you will be starting to feel more balanced.