work - life balance

"I don't have enough time for me!": balancing life and career advice


There aren't enough breaks in my life...with work, home -- consisting of 2 kids, 1 hubby, 2 dogs, and not enough time for ME!” Cathy adds: “It's hardly an original thought, I know, but sometimes it just feels good to say it!

It is not an original thought indeed: how many of us can claim to never have felt this way? So let's take another look at the issue of work-and-life balance.

Do you remember back when you were in school, and you had regular report cards? Imagine that you are still getting report cards. Except now, the subjects are no longer English, Math or Phys Ed.

Let’s say you’re doing very well at “Work”, pretty well at “Family”… but “Self” needs more work.

When something’s gotta give, the one thing that gives is often “Self”. If pressed to explain how come you’re floundering in this subject, you’d probably say: “It really has to do with the teachers. In “Work”, and to some extent in “Family”, we have a pretty stern taskmaster. The “Self” teacher, on the other hand, doesn’t really put much pressure on us to perform on a day-to-day basis. We put our energy where the pressure is.

In a way, it’s like how it was at school. You wouldn’t be held back for low performance in Phys Ed if you were doing well in academic subjects. It pays to focus your efforts on what’s most important, doesn’t it? Now, that’s quite OK if the subject is really of no importance to you.

But you do care about yourself, don’t you? So, what are you going to do about neglecting yourself on a day-to-day basis?

The answer is straightforward. Bring “Self” into the process. Don’t let “Work” and “Family” be the only voices when you plan. In practical terms, ask yourself: “What am I doing for myself today?… this week?… this month?… this year?…

Now, this doesn’t mean turning “Self” into a stern taskmaster. You probably have enough of those already. Just make room for “Self” in your planning and time management.

This seems like it’s no big deal. And it’s actually no big deal if you’re accustomed to making time for yourself. But, if you’re among the many people who don’t, this is the crux of the matter.

When you do any kind of planning, choose to make time for yourself. Choosing is an active process: you don’t just hope to find time for yourself, you make time. What if you actually tried planning your time around what is actually most important to you? Dessert need not always come at the end of the meal.

This may seem like a gratuitous comment, totally out of touch with the reality of your life. Who do I think you are? Don’t I understand that you have a job, a demanding one at that? You’re in an office all day, and therefore you can’t be outside… Or: you’re on sales calls all day, and therefore you can’t be inside… Or: you work from home, and therefore you can’t have contact with peers…

It is a fact that most of us can’t decide on a whim, when we wake up, that we’d like to fly to Acapulco today. Does this really mean we can’t plan for more of a break within the day? Or for a more pleasant break?

Besides, focusing on “Self” is not just about taking breaks. It can be about putting more of your energy and enjoyment on those tasks that are more fulfilling for you.

What if there is no room in your life for these kinds of choices? Well, then, it’s a pretty good indication that you need to make some serious changes in your life.

Now, why would I, as a coach, address such issues? Isn’t coaching essentially about performance? What does it have to do with having time for yourself?

I subscribe to a “whole life” or “whole self” approach to coaching. My experience is that, when we consistently ignore important needs, it actually hampers our performance. Here’s an analogy: which army do you think will fight better: one that is well-fed and rested, or one that is starving and tired? Take time to take good care of your army.


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