I’ve long ago given up the pursuit of a work-life balance. Work is one of many aspects of life, and mine is rarely in perfect harmony on any one day. Instead, I aim to be as present as possible no matter what I’m engaged in, and I try to make sure my personal connections and my individual goals get as much time and attention as needed. I don’t keep track of which role is getting the most of my hours, in other words, but I do strive to keep myself balanced.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
What does it mean to be balanced?
The feeling of balance is like the feeling of happiness: somewhat difficult to explain and totally unique to the individual. You know it when you’re in it, and I absolutely know it when I’m out of it.
For me, being balanced means being able to show up for my work, my family, and my friends as my whole self. It means being open and authentic. It means being grounded in who I am and what I believe. It means, in short, being able to give my all because I’m totally in tune with my all.
That’s a tall order, and an ideal I aspire to more than a reality I live all the time. Life knocks me out of balance constantly. Anything from an early morning, unexpected phone call to a kid who presents with a stomach ache on the day of a big meeting can kick me out of that happy place of balance.
Balance, then, isn’t so much something I achieve as something I have to come back to. Constantly.
How I find balance again
This is where yoga comes in. I try, as often as possible, to start my day with yoga. I don’t have the time or budget to hit a yoga studio every morning, so I rely on YouTube videos to guide me through a session. On a good day, I can go through an hour-long video. On a normal day, I search for a 10-minute sun salutation before diving into my to-do list.
I don’t always get to do yoga in the morning, however. I sleep in, have meetings entirely too early, and just blow it off sometimes. On those days, I’m much more likely to react, react, react instead of performing at my best. If I notice that happening, I can get myself back to center with a short meditation.
Meditation can be done anywhere and only requires about ten minutes at a time. I like to use guided meditation podcasts, but closing your eyes for a few minutes in a park can be just as effective.
In addition to using meditation in the middle of the day – either because I didn’t make time for morning yoga or because life itself has blown me way off course – I also use it at night. I confess that this has less to do with wanting to be present and more to do with my troubles falling asleep. Fifteen minutes with a meditation podcast knocks me out (and I suppose it’s a good way to balance out the whole day).
This is what works for me. I know the idea of yoga feels awkward for some people, and I get it. But I suspect that people who run in the morning enjoy the same benefits. The key, I think, is to do something that gets you out of your own head before you jump into your day. In the same way, meditation – or going for a short walk – gives you a chance to re-center yourself in the middle of the day.
When I make the effort to center myself (or balance, or whatever we’re calling it) regularly, I feel like I do everything better. I create better things at work, and I connect better with my family and friends. I get to the end of my day feeling more energized and accomplished.
Someone remind me of this the next time you see me running around like a chicken with my head cut off, OK? (Because I totally get out of the balancing habit all the dang time.)
How do you balance yourself?