Ashley has a demanding career and two young children. Between work and family, she has no time for anything else. She rarely sees friends and ends up putting herself last. Sound familiar? With limited time, many women feel frustrated with conflicting priorities. For many of us, there’s a disconnect between what we value and how we spend our time. For example:
- We value time with our children, but we have to work long hours and also travel on the job.
- We enjoy spending time with our spouse, but our weekends are filled with household chores, grocery shopping, laundry, etc. instead of quality time with our spouse.
- We value good health, but we can’t find time to exercise. We eat meals on the go which are unhealthy, and then end up feeling tired or sick.
After weeks, months and even years of not being able to live like we want, we give up and accept that this is the way it’s going to be. But it doesn’t have to be this way! You don’t have to be at the mercy of your job and other people. Instead of feeling angry and resentful, make up your mind to change what you have and what you do. You can make changes.
Start by making a list of what you value in life (family? friends? health? career? charitable service? leisure time? etc.). Then track your time and record how many hours you spend each week devoted to each item on your list. In order to focus more time on your values and priorities, schedule time on your calendar for these things – such as reading to your kids, spending time with your spouse or friends, exercising, etc. Then follow through and devote the time.
If you’re able to successfully realign your time and activity with your values, you’ll gain valuable benefits. You’ll understand the true tradeoff between time and money, have deeper relationships with your spouse and children, and have more “free time” to spend as you like.
For more information on balancing work and life, listen to the audio “The Balancing Act: Managing Work and Life“.
Because of the many demands on our lives, many of us do not spend time on the things that are most important to us. Take a look at what your life centers around. What are you driven by? Where do you spend your time?
For some, it’s family or friends. Although family is important, it is possible to become imbalanced. Some people, women in particular, tend to the needs of others at their own expense. Many of us have been socialized to be caregivers and nurturers. We become so focused on others, that we forget our own needs, especially when it comes to getting enough rest or exercise. One of my past clients told me, “Between work & family, I put myself last. Some days I get so busy, I don’t take time to eat. Now that I’m middle-aged, I need to be concerned about my health too.”
When we’re so focused on our marriage or our family to the exclusion of all else, then if we divorce or a spouse dies, we are devastated. We can lose the one thing that we hold most dear. Our life feels like it’s crashing in on us.
For some, their center is their work. Some people stake everything on their career. They invest time and energy into their careers at the expense of other areas. Then if they lose their job, they are devastated, because their self-worth is tied up in their job.
I was an example of career imbalance. Years ago, I was married, working full-time at a high-tech firm, and going to school. My goal was to earn my MBA to further my career. I spent all my time working, studying and going to school. I’d get up at 6:00 a.m., go to work, work at least ten hours, come home, cook dinner, clean up, and then ‘hit the books’ until about 11:00 o’clock at night when I would fall into bed exhausted. As a result I had no time for anything else. I had no time for my husband much less myself.
My hectic schedule was affecting my marriage. My husband finally put his foot down. He said, “This is not my idea of a marriage. You’re so busy, we never see each other. Something has got to change, or this isn’t going to work.” That’s when it hit me. I realized that my priorities were out of whack. I was so caught up in the ‘rat race’. I was so intent on pursuing my career, that I had totally lost sight of what was truly important to me.
What about you? Is your work so all-consuming that you’re ignoring other important areas of your life? Are you living your life according to your priorities? A good way to test this is to look at your calendar for the past week. How did you spend your time? Then compare it with your most important priorities. Do they align? If you’re like most people, the answer is “no”. If so, then you need to make some changes in your life.
My wake-up call occurred more than 20 years ago. That was the start of my life balance journey. I made changes in order to focus on my values and priorities. By living your life according to your purpose, values, and priorities, you’ll experience greater peace and fulfillment.
To learn more about living a balanced life, listen to the audio “The Balancing Act: Managing Work and Life”.
How do you define success? Do you define success as making a certain amount of money? Having a certain job title? Awards for professional achievement? Or do you define success in terms of your relationships with others – family and friends? Or service to others?
Here are some definitions of success:
“Success is being the best in your chosen field.”
“Success is serving God and your fellow man.”
“You’re not successful until someone brags they sat beside you in grade school.”
“She has achieved success who has lived long, laughed often, and loved much.”
Thomas Wolfe defined success this way: “If a man has a talent and learns how to use it … he has gloriously succeeded and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know.”
Do you agree or disagree with any of these statements? Which of these statements resonate with you?
You need to determine how you will measure your own success. How you define success determines how you live your life. Your mission, values, and definition of success translates into everyday decisions. Decisions such as what job you’ll pursue, how much overtime you’ll work, how much time you’ll spend with family or friends. It also determines what time you’ll devote to community projects or to self-improvement. When you’re clear about what success means to you, then you’re able to make decisions more easily about how to spend your time and what activities to get involved in. Ultimately, your quality of life will depend upon your pursuit of success as you define it.
Reflect on your life. What would you like to have? What would you like to accomplish? Who would you like to become? Jot down your thoughts, and then synthesize them into an axiom you want to live by. By doing so, you’ll feel a sense of purpose and mission.
How about you? How do you define success? Please share with other readers.
What’s important to you? Your health, family, career, financial security? In order to lead a balanced life, we need to know what’s most important to us. Otherwise, we can get pulled in a lot of different directions. So start by clarifying your values. Values are deeply held beliefs that govern and guide our behavior. They are at the core of our being. It’s essential to clarify our values, since everything flows from our values – our decisions, actions, and behaviors.
Start by brainstorming, and make a list of the most important things in life. For me, they are my faith, family, career, friends, health and integrity. What’s most important to you? Write it down. Next, prioritize your values. This is the tough part, because they’re all important to you. But some are more important than others. So how do you prioritize? Ask yourself, “What would I be willing to give up if my life depended upon it?”
Ideally, we should live according to our values and priorities. A good way to determine this is to look at how you spend your time. Think about how you spent your time this past week. How much time did you spend at work, at home, with your family, doing household chores, with friends, or for fun and recreation? Now look at your list of most important priorities. Are these two aligned? If you’re like most people, the answer is “no”. If your time is not aligned with your priorities, then you need to make some changes. Only by living according to your values and priorities, will you feel more peace, less stress and greater balance in your life. So make it a point to focus on the important things in life!