If you want to be totally balanced (in your job, with your friends and family, and in your life), it pretty much all boils down to the same basic set of rules. Here they are:
The 7 Key Strategies to Achieve Work-Life Balance:
1. Balance Family and Work Time.
When I was starting out, I was tempted to put all my waking hours into building my business. After a couple of months of this, my wife called me aside and told me I needed to make a decision. Did I want JUST a family, JUST a business, or BOTH? Since I certainly didn’t want to forsake either family OR business, I said both. She responded by saying that I needed to spend as much time with my family as I did on my business, about 40 hours/week to each (Ah-h-h, the wisdom of mothers). When I thought about it, it made perfect sense, though. Work days would be between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Family time would be in the early mornings and late evenings during weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. It turned out to be a fabulous arrangement, and though it took quite a bit of personal discipline at first, this division of work/family time served my business well and kept the home fires burning brightly.
2. Sleep. (That’s right, sleep.)
If you are the person who walks around bragging about how you only need four hours of sleep a night, you are fooling yourself. According to WebMD, just about everyone needs between six and eight hours of sleep to function at their optimal best. Too little sleep can make you ineffective, unhealthy, and overweight. To get your best night’s sleep, turn off all your electronics at least a half hour before you turn in and make sure your bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark.
3. Get up an hour earlier
Once you are getting enough sleep, it’s time to get up an hour earlier than you do now. Henry Ward Beecher’s quote: “The first hour is the rudder of the day – the Golden Hour” has become famous because it is true. If you start your day searching for your keys/papers/cell phone, rushing out the door, getting stuck in traffic, and arriving at your office already stressed out, there is a good chance that you will not have your most productive day. So get up an hour earlier and use that time to exercise, meditate, read something inspirational, or just sit and eat a mindful, leisurely breakfast. It will change the course of your day, and, in time, your life.
4. Eat Right
No, you don’t have to give up your wings and pizza. Just make sure you have five servings of fruits and vegetables with your daily meals. A serving is one half cup. It’s not an unreasonable amount and it will provide you with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients and also leave you feeling fuller so you eat less of the other stuff. It will nourish both your brain and body.
Exercise is essential if you want to have a sound body, mind, and spirit. If you’re one of those folks who hate taking time out for either exercise or meditation, try combining the two. I hope on my exercise bike almost every day, and while I’m on the bike I repeat affirmations using Louise Hay’s “Power Thought Cards.” That way I get a two-fer by combining the two, and you can too!
On the days when you think you have no time to exercise, remember – somebody busier than you is working out right now!
6. Never stop learning.
Information is everywhere. Don’t drown in it, use it. On the Internet, there are free online tools, books, and classes that can teach you everything from how to make the perfect cup of tea to how to program a computer. Take advantage of all that the Internet, continuing education, and your local library have to offer.
One great resource is Coursera, an education company that partners with top universities and organizations around the world to offer free online courses. They have over 500 courses that cover a broad range of topics including business, art, and science. Whether it is work related or strictly personal, the act of learning creates new neural pathways in your brain, exposes you to new ideas, and boosts your self-confidence. There is always more to learn about your profession, but don’t stop there — what have you always wanted to learn? learn A new language? A new sport? A new dance?
In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell puts forth the 10,000 hour rule that states: “to become an expert in a field of study, it merely takes 10,000 hours of focus and practice on the topic at hand.” So, if you want to become an expert at anything, it takes 20 hours a week for the next 10 years. Don’t have that much time? How about an hour a day for one year? You might not end up an expert, but if you spent 365 hours this year practicing the guitar how good would you be in a year? If you read one article each weekday about your profession, how far would those 260 hours take you in your job or your professional organization?
Bonus Tip: Cultivate Integrity.
Towards your family, friends, work colleagues, and, most important, yourself. Be true to your word. If you say the report will be finished by Friday, finish it. If you have a meeting at 9 am, be there and be fully present, not on your cell phone or computer. If you tell your child you will be at her baseball game, don’t let anything keep you from being there. Keep your promises. Especially the ones you make to yourself. If you say that this is the year you are going to lose weight, stop smoking, spend more time with your family or friends – then do it.
Are there more things you could do to balance your life and work? Sure. You can always focus your intentions so that you’re more positive, kind, bold, on time – the list is endless. There are very few truly balanced people in the world, but if you incorporate just the 8 tips listed above, you’ll be well on your way to becoming one of them.
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