Beyond the 9-to-5: Three Proven Strategies for a Fulfilling Work-Life Balance

#LeadandLift | Episode 98 | Chabidaye Jaglal Ramnath

What do you picture in your mind when you hear the phrase, “work-life balance”? For me, I remember back then, in Trinidad, that we’d go to the market and buy fruits and vegetables. If you were to buy two pounds of tomatoes, they would put two pounds of weight on one side of the scale and tomatoes on the other side of the scale. They would keep adjusting the amount of tomatoes on the other side of the scale until they became balanced with the two-pound weight.

In short, when I hear “work-life balance”, I imagine equilibrium - where one side is equal to the other. In this case, one side would be your work productivity, and the other would be your personal life and relationships.

There are a lot of perspectives on this topic from psychology, sociology, management, personal development, and other areas. The viewpoint from where I will share with you strategies for achieving work-life balance will come from the high-performance perspective.

Firstly, I’d like to emphasize that work-life balance, as in having equal time in both work and life, is a myth. You should not spend equal time at work and in life. Your professional life is not equal to your personal life. 

The consequences of a wrong mindset

One of my favorite quotes is one by Dolly Parton. She said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

The number one mistake I’ve seen a lot of people make is that they look at work-life balance in terms of hours spent.

One day has 24 hours and most people work eight hours a day from nine to five. Sleep research also says that adults should sleep approximately eight hours per night. With sleep and work out of the way, we’re only left with eight hours to spend on whatever else.

However, based on my experience working for corporate, you don’t just work for eight hours a day straight. They will stack so much on your plate that you’ll end up working extra hours. Remember that you only ever have 24 hours in a day, and so when you add extra time into your working hours, then that means you’re taking it away from other areas.

When you spend too much time on work, you’ll end up sacrificing your sleep hours and your family time - two things that are so much more critical and significant than most people think. Sleep, for one thing, is something that’s directly related to psychological and physical health.

By letting your life become unbalanced, you’ll end up shortening your lifespan, health span, and your relationship with the people that matter in your life.

The cake of your life

There’s a better way of visualizing and understanding balance and it starts with imagining a single-level, round cake.

This cake is your life, and just like a cake, you cut your life into several different pieces. In this case, that particular cake is cut into 10 slices or 10 triangles and each one of those represents an area of life:

●  Health

●  Mental and emotional well-being

●  Partner/spouse

●  Family

●  Friends

●  Mission or Career

●  Experience and Hobbies

●  Spirituality

●  Finances

●  Learning and growing

How many slices does your work get from your “life cake”? That’s right, just one. If you try to balance these ten things on a scale, you’ll be putting one slice (which is work) on the left side and the other nine slices on the right side. They’re not going to balance!

As a high-performance coach, I keep hearing from people that they feel like they’re working all the time because there is just so much to do and when they’re with their family, they feel guilty because they’re not working. It’s especially harder today to get your mind off of work when you can do some work tasks on your phone anytime and anywhere.

"As you can see, this is not a balance issue. The issue is that we have no boundaries and we let activities bleed into all aspects of life"

I don’t know what’s going on in your life and what kind of boss you are working under, but what I know is that if you are not mindful of your priorities, if you are not aware of where your time goes, then you’ll only be running around all day being busy and then feeling empty, unfocused, underappreciated, and unfulfilled at the end of each day.

For 23 long years, I’ve worked in the corporate space and I’ve been in that position. I had to lead the team and then be there for my children and maintain a positive relationship with my husband. I sucked at it until I admitted that I needed help. Coaching helped turn my life around and now, when I’m doing my corporate consulting gigs, I can actually thrive in that environment whereas previously, it was a survival every single day.

If you are ready to make a change, then read on to learn about three strategies that can help you find balance in your life.

Setting boundaries for balance

Each person has their own interpretation of what “balance” means. What may feel like balance to me may not feel like balance to you. The first thing you’ve got to do is to define what balance means for you.

Shift your perspective from balancing hours to introducing boundaries for your work time, your family time, and your personal time. For example, I work from home and I have an office in the basement. Corporate talks about an open-door policy but when I’m in my home office, I have a closed-door policy. My kids know that when I’m in the office, then I’m speaking with a client or I’m doing focused work so they don’t just barge into the office whenever they please. They know that they can knock, or schedule some time with me. The change wasn’t instant, but it is possible.

My coach, Brendon Burchard, says “If you aren’t consistently measuring the major areas of life, then you couldn’t possibly know what the balance you seek is or is not.” The first strategy I would like you to try is to do a weekly measure to find out where you’re actually at and what balance means to you and then establish some boundaries so that you can maintain the balance that you’ve got.

Score yourself from 1 to 10 on each slice or area of the cake we discussed above with one being the lowest and ten being the highest. Assess where you’re at honestly in each of those areas. Do that weekly, and you’ll start seeing a trend - that’s how you can tell that you’re out of balance.

Making your habits serve you

Our habits shape most of our actions during the day. Let’s say that you scroll on social media one hour a day, which is still a pretty healthy amount considering the average that people spend on their phones, then that means you are spending seven hours on this activity per week. Think about how many hours that would be for one month, or even one year.

"People say they don’t have time. You do have time, you just don’t realize where it’s going"

If your habits are not supporting you, then know that you have the power to change them and you must change them if you truly do want to create the balance that you want. As a high-performance coach, I help clients with removing unwanted habits and developing six success habits that the most successful people have.

Everyone needs these six habits in their life and it’s from Brendon Burchard’s book, High Performance Habits. There is decades of research that narrowed down these habits into six

This morning, as I was driving the kids to school, there was a thick fog and I could barely see in front of me. The lack of clarity in our lives will make you feel like you’re navigating through a dense fog and that will make us lose our balance. Do you know what you want in your life? Do you know where you are at right now and where you want to go? Do you have goals for yourself or does the word goal scare you?

Clarity, the courage to establish and communicate your boundaries, and productivity and influence are high-performance habits.

Discovering your priority and creating harmony

The third strategy revolves around your priority. Take note that I mention “priority” and not “priorities”. Earlier I asked you to visualize a circular cake with ten slices, each of which represent one life area. Which one of those areas would you say is your top priority?

Work-life balance, ironically, is not really about balance but about priority.

One of my clients used to talk about taking her work with her at home. Since she’s working late at night, it impacts her sleep and then the next day, she would be cranky and the lack of sleep would impact her productivity and the way she interacts and influences the team. This effect snowballs until she gets to Friday.

After our one-on-one coaching, we went through her weekly measures, she had identified her priority, and then she discovered that she could become more focused when she got the work done during work hours.

Another change she made was that whenever she got home, she made sure to leave her phone at home and go for walks at night with her husband since she wanted to make him her priority.

Knowing your priority will help you make decisions in your life that are aligned with your priority. Being congruent with what really matters in your heart will make you feel happier with yourself because you will feel that you are doing the thing that you need to do.

If your work cannot support that, then it’s worth considering if you could move to another place. Living a meaningful life is the most important thing, it’s so much more important than work. You only have one life to live here on earth.

Living a meaningful, harmonious, and congruent life

If you’re not doing work that is engaging and meaningful; if you feel that you’re putting in eight hours at work for nothing, then you’re going to start feeling empty. You’re going to start feeling out of balance.

Let me leave you with this action point: block 30 minutes on your calendar, take a seat, and score yourself from one to ten in all the ten life areas that I shared with you. Awareness is the first step to change and if you do this exercise, you’re going to see the areas that make you feel off balance. You also can narrow it down to less than ten to however many key areas are applicable for you.

Identify which areas take the top priority in your life because that will help you greatly achieve something more than balance, it will give you harmony, happiness, and fulfillment.

Personally, my family is my priority. I choose to drop them off at school each day and pick them up from school. Like every other parent, I’m there in the lineup waiting for them, using that time waiting as my reading time. I’m also with my kids during dinner time, I’m not on my phone reading texts or emptying my inbox.

I worked for corporate for 23 years and I missed out on a lot of things. When I got laid off, nobody cared that I missed events in my kids’ lives. I didn’t set any boundaries and I missed time that I’ll never be able to get back. Now, because I’ve set my priorities and have committed to being congruent to them, I feel much more like the parent that I want to be. I can give myself a nine on my score because I was there with them.

My friends, the answer you seek on work-life harmony lies within you. If you don’t want to do this exercise on your own, know that I am here and I am willing and available to help you.

Gift For YOU!

Do you feel you’re being as productive, influential and successful as you want to?

Are you struggling to stay focused, to get ahead, or to better influence your team or customers?

Have you reached a plateau in your progress and struggled to breakthrough to the next level of joy, power and achievement? I can help!

Sign up now for a gift of 60 minutes of High Performance Coaching where we cover the six principles of high performance you can use to better master your body, mind and ability to be more productive and persuasive.

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