Finding Work-Life Balance When Time and Energy Are Low
By Michelle Cederberg, Certified Speaking Professional, MKin, BA Psyc, CEP, CPCC
If there is one common challenge most of my clients and audiences struggle with it is without a doubt the belief that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. “Too much to do and not enough time to do it.” As Ag women, you’ve always got something that needs your attention: Working the farm, working a second job outside of it, simultaneously raising kids or caring for aging parents, juggling career, family, friends, and self in a never-ending chase for a bit of free time. You’re probably thinking, “If I barely find time to brush my teeth and comb my hair how will I ever find time to balance my life?”
Your job title could be Professional Juggler, and guess what, you’re not alone!
75% of Canadians don’t believe that work-life balance is possible. And pandemic-living has no doubt made it worse. We’re working more than ever, spending less time with our friends and family, and inevitably watching our health and happiness drift away.
You want to exercise, eat right, build the business, write, partake in leisure activities, socialize with family and friends, try new hobbies, travel, even sleep. But no matter how badly you want it your schedule doesn’t seem to have room for it, so your tired, busy life stays busy and tiring.
You’re probably thinking “And that sucks because I know that if I had enough time I’d have more energy, and if I had more energy, I’d get things done.” Yes, you would but it’s a vicious cycle that requires a bit of creativity to escape from.
When life gets chaotic it’s easy to exclude everything but putting out fires and dealing with ‘to do’s’. So, how do we break the cycle?
Life Balance through Small ‘Energizing’ Steps
The first goal is to gain a bit of energy through self-care, and that doesn’t need to happen in giant leaps to qualify as success. You can do that by simply taking small steps every day in key energy-boosting areas of your life. Let’s face it, you likely don’t have a lot of free time right now anyway and if you do, you probably don’t have the energy or motivation to ‘go big’ out of the gates, so the decision should be easy.
To gain energy now, I’d much rather you take a 10 minute walk every day than a 2-hour hike once a month. You’ll have more long-term nutrition success if you cut out one little daily food vice like your morning muffin or afternoon soda, than if you deprive yourself of every food you enjoy. And going to bed 20 minutes earlier every weeknight will make a bigger impact on your everyday energy than a catch-up sleep-in on Sunday morning. What good is one mammoth effort at change if you only get to it every now and again?
The first step is small steps. After that you just repeat the steps day after day, week after week, until they become a welcome part of your routine. Your energy will start to improve if the efforts you make are even slightly larger than what you normally do.
When it comes to integrating new habits into your busy day it’s so important to remember that less is more. It’s the biggest reason that the initial steps need to be small, so you have a greater likelihood of getting to them before that little voice in your head starts spouting excuses. If you stick with small steps, you won’t be able to reasonably say you have no time, no energy or motivation. Before the first “I’ll do it tomorrow” even percolates from your grey matter you’ll already be done!
I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive toward bigger objectives with your health and energy plan, I’m just suggesting you start at a level you can sustain and then build from there. Your goal may well be to exercise 4 times per week for an hour each time, and get your nutrition to ‘mostly healthy’. Heck, maybe you want to quit smoking too? That sounds great! You’ve got a much better chance of achieving your goals if you don’t overwhelm yourself with an overhaul.
Decide what you want to work on, implement changes you know you can sustain, and repeat all steps next week. Before long you’ll have higher energy levels, a clearer head, and more energy to tackle the juggling act.
Finding Work-life Balance When Time and Energy Are Low
It’s true that if you have more personal energy you’ll get more done, but even the most energetic individual can shift off balance without proper time and schedule management. Below are 4 scheduling strategies that will do just that.
Overhaul your priorities
Of all the tasks you have to conquer in a typical week, how many of them can be re-scheduled or eliminated? Re-prioritizing is particularly important in a time-cramped schedule. Maybe your volunteer efforts need to be scaled back for the moment? It’s possible the car, dog and floors don’t all need to be washed this week. Look at your home andwork-based commitments and diligently eliminate or re-schedule at least one low priority task in each area.
Schedule ‘white space’
We all need time during the day to absorb the unforeseen. If your schedule is jammed from morning to evening, stress will increase when unexpected meetings or emergencies pop up. Schedule up to 60% of your day and leave 40% for task management and unexpected events. In an 8-hour workday that means almost 5 hours can be scheduled, leaving just over 3 hours of flexible ‘white space’. I know the typical workday in the life of an Ag woman is usually longer than 8 hours, but you get the idea. Allow for a bit of flexibility.
Make a ‘two’ do list
The next time you put a task on your ‘to do’ list make an immediate entry in your schedule – your ‘two’ do entry – for when you will complete it. When I agreed to do this article, I opened my daytimer immediately and blocked out the time I knew it would take me to write it. That way I could be sure I wouldn’t over-schedule and I’d have time set aside to complete the work before the deadline.
Be wise and revise
No matter how organized you get, allow yourself the option in work, as in life, to revise. I open my schedule at the start of each week and review the week ahead. Depending on my energy and stress levels at that moment, I will give myself permission to revise my upcoming schedule to allow for steps 1 and 2 above to come into play once again.
What would it take to implement even a few of the life-balance steps above? If you embrace even small changes in important aspects of your health and scheduling, you’ll realize significant improvements in energy and output sooner than you think. Chart your progress as you go, and celebrate your success … one step at a time, because that’s all it takes.
Let us know your thoughts or experiences on this topic in the comments below!