Next Thursday, June 21, depending on where you live, is either the longest or the shortest day of the year. The solstice marks a change in season and, in the northern hemisphere, it’s a time when there’s an illusion of more hours in each day – leading to hope of a life in perfect balance. As I contemplate the arrival of summer, I got to thinking how, as professionals, we set ourselves up to believe that we can achieve balance in life – balance among work, health, family and friends, and outside passions.
But maybe balance actually isn’t an attainable goal, and we should stop treating it as such. After all, if the earth is only in balance twice a year during the spring and fall equinox, why should we expect to be in balance on a daily basis?
As someone who struggles with balance, I have realized that the concept might benefit from a revision. Perhaps balance is really more of a long game. Is the trick really to better understand what it is we want in our lives and work to ensure we achieve that? To find ways to bring short bursts of balance into our daily lives, despite a hectic and unpredictable schedule?
Here are a few tips I’ve been working on to add more “moments of balance” into my life.
Work with the Rhythm of Work.
For my team, there are fewer big events in the heat of the summer and business is slightly more predictable. To take advantage, I’ve put time on my team’s calendar for “Fresh Air Fridays,” hour-long trips during which we will get out, walk and visit a local sculpture garden. The simple goal – spend enjoyable time outside with those you work with. It helps offset a workday filled with meetings and deadlines, and helps balance out those weeks when you can’t get away.
Create a Moment for Everything.
Try devoting your entire attention to a single task before moving on to the next one. I’ve read that when we multi-task, we actually waste, not save, mental energy, and that it actually takes more time to do activities simultaneously. If you focus on doing one thing well, you know it’ll be done right, you won’t have to do it again and you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
Start the Week with Intention.
On Sundays, I try to think through what needs to get done during the week. Then, when a meeting is unexpectedly moved or canceled, I take advantage of that “found time” and move on to other items – be it an email or creative proposal that needs some thought, or a personal errand or call that needs to be done during work hours. I stay motivated knowing that doing something for even 15 minutes every day gives you almost two hours by the end of the week.
End the Week with a Night Out.
Perhaps my biggest trick for finding balance is to make Friday the start of the weekend. Even when I’m tired, I push myself to do something after work. Get out with friends. Get out for a walk. Doing so makes Friday one of the days of the weekend and not just the end of the week.
As I continue to struggle with the concept of balance, I’ve come to believe that if I am focused on seizing the moments that arise and working with the rhythm of work and life, it’s the short bursts of balance that bring long-lasting results along with that wonderful feeling that it can all come together.