A coworker sent me a message last week asking if she could talk to me about work-life balance. I laughed out loud. At that moment, I found myself sitting in my home office, which was a complete disaster. In order to enter or leave, I had to step over piles of papers, boxes and other work debris. I agreed to FaceTime with her to show her my reality.
I don't have it all together. I struggle to find—let alone maintain—any semblance of balance.
But I'm always striving to find it, to keep it.
Here are ways I actively try to keep my work-life balance.
Keep It Organized: I function better when everything is in its place. I feel more peaceful. This includes my office, my home and even my computer. I like files and apps organized in folders so I can easily find anything I need. I sit down on Sunday evenings to work on my schedule for the week. I also give my office a once-over (or a complete cleanup if necessary) so that on Monday morning I can sit down and get to work without a mess.
Keep It Active: Honestly, if I don't get up and walk around or even take a run during my lunch break, I get tense. My work personality is one that I can forget to get up from my desk all day because I'm so focused and driven. However, that does my personal life no good. When my physical body gets tense, I tend to get emotionally tense too. That means when I'm done with my work day, I'll end up being tense in my personal life. That's not balance. So I'll take a five-minute break to pull a few weeds in my flower garden, to chase the boys or to walk the dog. It does both my mind and body good.
Keep It Protected: When I first started working from home in 2006, I didn't understand the importance of protecting my personal life and family time. I let work bleed over from my days into my nights and found myself working all day, every day. It took me a few years to feel comfortable enough to protect my family time by shutting my office door and walking away once my work was done for the day. Since I've learned to do that, I find myself less stressed and can easily disengage from work and engage with family. It's been good for all of us.
Keep It Real: When I'm struggling to find the balance, I'll let my boss, husband, coworkers and kids know what's up. I'll even share about it online. Telling those in my life that I'm feeling stressed not only offers me support from those people but keeps me accountable. Instead of faking it until I make it, I've found that being honest nets me more help and more time to figure it out—all with a better result.
It's not perfect and it doesn't have to be. Work-life balance involves an ebb and flow, and learning to go with it, to accept it and to ask for help when needed has helped me become a more productive worker, mother, wife, friend and all-around human being.