5min readLifestyle 17 November 2019
The word balance connotes images of a scale where the two sides are equal in weight in order to have equilibrium.
As a working mother of 2 children who runs a Branding and Marketing Agency, is very committed to daily exercise, and juggles a handful of other professional and personal commitments, I've learned to accept that balance doesn't really exist. (And I know I am NOT alone!) The elusive work-life balance is BS.
Years back, people worked what we call 9-5 or forty-hour weeks. Today, we live in a world that is half online and half offline, and society tends to demand for us to be responsive on all platforms at all times. Technology has advanced the pace at which we work, which explains why we are seeing more anxiety across the board, so much that in 2018 Barnes and Noble announced a 25% surge in the sales of books on anxiety, up from 2017.
Rather than a balance, work-life has become more of integration for me, in which I just embrace the chaos. With this shifted perspective, I am less anxious, more fulfilled and am not beating myself up about trying to separate work and life. Below are 6 tips that have helped me refine the work-life balance to more of a work-life integration:
Resist the Time Wasters and Distractions.
We are targeted by over 4,000 ads per day, and that's a conservative number. For those of us who wake up to our smartphones (yes, me included), think of how many messages you see in the first 5 minutes of your day that truly don't add value to your work-life objectives for that day. Be it the eNewsletters from YETI's latest collection to the 25% off discount from Crate & Barrel, or the Instagram scrolling that turns you away from your own personal agenda and goals for the day, these couple of minutes of time-wasters add up. Social media, in particular, clutters your brain when it's at its freshest. Now think of how many times during the day you pull yourself into social media or get caught in the trap of click-bait articles. Try logging these minutes and soon you'll realize that these "time-wasters" can be limited. Instead, set times when you're not hovering over email, turn off or disable most of your phone notifications, and be focused on the task at hand.
Sort out your Priorities and Learn to Say No
Be it making it to your son's baseball game or finishing a project on deadline, determine what is most important and will deliver most value to you. The most productive people don't have less on their plates; rather, they simply come to the table with an organized plan. Limit-multi-tasking and give people and projects the focused attention they deserve. This applies to personal time dedicated to your wellness and happiness just as much as it does for work time. Don't be afraid to say "No" to opportunities or events that come your way if they are truly not worthwhile. The FOMO, judging and guilt of saying now has been built up by today's "crazy busy" and caffeine drive lifestyles; however, once you accustom yourself to say no, you realize what's most important to you.
Trusting and empowering others to help you achieve your goals is difficult to do. Luckily, I use to compete at an elite level in the sport of rowing, where I learned that teamwork truly does make the "dream work" for as cliché as it sounds. (If you're less into sports and more into music and entertainment, the recent Bohemian Rhapsody film reinforced that for as big as Freddie Mercury was, he was unable to succeed as a star without his team. The rock band Queen was a team.) Figure out what you are able to do best and what others are able to help you with. Maximize the skill sets around you and hire people that do the jobs you need done better than you. My colleagues at work are more talented than I am in their specific skill sets and that's what makes our team so harmonious and effective. So, embrace a "We" as opposed to a "Me" mentality when it comes to getting things done. The same goes for family life. Sort our tasks and responsibilities with your partner or kids, so that more can be accomplished efficiently day to day.
Be Realistic and Accept Limitations
When I say that I embrace the chaos, I also mean that I am realistic to accept limitations. Find inner peace and shift your mindset to a more positive one that embraces constraints. Ask yourself, "How can I be as effective as possible within these constraints?" So for example, "If I have only 4 hours per day to work, how can I finish that project or make as much money as possible?" Or, "If I can only exercise 4 hours per week, what are the most effective workouts I can do to lose weight?" Then use positive affirmations ("I can do this!") as opposed to negative ones ("It's not enough time") to accomplish your plans. Positive affirmations might not work for everyone, but they do for most. Try it and you may learn that constraints might even boost performance!
Ride the Wave and Cherish The Slow
We feel this need to be busy, busy, busy, go, go, go, because if we are not, there must be something wrong with us, right? Wrong. Try this: Stop chasing busy. I know that after a big work event, pitch or even a workout (think of savannas after yoga), there tends to be a slower period. For me, it was in December of last year when work slowed down, and for others, it could be a seasonal cycle of when sales are strongest for their products; think of sunblock or beach accessories in the summer. When you have these moments: Take. Advantage. Don't feel the need to fill your schedule for the sake of it, rather do something to embrace the slower time. Be it a pedicure, going for a run-walk (find more info here), or a cooking class you've wanted to try, a special activity with your family or lunch with your friends, make those things happen. And if you're one who feels the need to continue to work on your business, use the slower time to asses your business from a 360 degree perspective, for instance, update your portfolio, refresh your web site, do some research and meet new people. Ideally, you will have more clarity to remember your "Why" and benefit your business and well-being to a new degree.
Make time for yourself.
Scheduling time for yourself is a keystone to wellness, and it doesn't need to be earned. Even for those of us who love our work, it's important to let go of "the good stress" and plan time for you. This is Non-Negotiable. Bottom line, most of us tend to live off of everyone's else's schedules these days (our kids, our clients, etc.) and we no longer follow our own internal compass. The more you do things that you want to do, the more fulfillment and happiness you will get out of work and life.
Luckily, workplace flexibility is allowing for more of this work-life integration, as the 9-5 workday is about as existent as payphone at a train station. Stop chasing the 50/50 balance, because it doesn't exist. Rather, embrace the chaos, and be as true as you can to who you want to be and what makes you feel most fulfilled.
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Whether it's your child or your brand, there is nothing quite like the excitement you get when you see the fruits of your efforts grow. In the face of aversion, you must remain cool-minded and adaptable to remain effective. This can be quite stressful, and every minute counts. Alone, the responsibility can be overwhelming - wouldn't it be nice if things just ran themselves sometimes? Especially those things that we do mindlessly all the time, and seem to take up most of our time?
When you start a business, you soon come to realize that in order to grow your brand, you need to be extremely organized. And to be efficiently organized, it is imperative that you master the art of managing your time. The saying 'time is money' rings true when it comes to growth. This is why we're going to provide you with helpful tips that will allow you to save time so you can focus on growing your brand.
Use the Right Tools
Technology has changed the way we conduct our business with each other. Today, more than ever before, we have access to data which gives us clearer insight and vision, as well as better tools for productivity. However, as we all know, this is all conditional to your intent. As much as a smartphone can be a tool for productivity, it can also be a fantastic source of distraction and procrastination, which is directly detrimental to said productivity. Automation is an advantage that is available to almost everyone today when it would have been unthinkable just a generation ago.
When a brand is still young, the team is still close-knit and there isn't too much coordination necessary when it comes to keeping up to date and on top of work. Chat groups and video calls can do, as well as simple task-managing apps. But as you grow, your workflow becomes more complex and the volume of data generated by your company will very quickly become a logistical nightmare.
Telltale signs of data overwhelming are endless excel sheets, frantic Post-it notes all around the (real or digital) office, and relying on the consumer rather than business-oriented data storage and communications solutions. These have their limits, and investing in a holistic company-wide system will not be a waste.
Work More Effectively
Your workflow can be simplified into smaller tasks which follow each other in a sequence, which can have conditional elements to it. That's where automation comes in. If you can draw it in a flowchart, you can automate it. Tasks that would have taken days can be outsourced to a machine that will not only perform but also learn in the process.
There is now a myriad of online services for freelancers which essentially give them the productivity potential of a small firm. We're now at the point where bots at https://www.hellobonsai.com/contract-templates can generate custom templates for the documents your brand needs, replacing the need for a legal consultant to intervene. You just need to know what you want to automate, and what you want to make out of it. If you create a logical process from the inception of your brand, then the automation will be seamless, as all you will need to do is add more tasks.
Be Mobile and Flexible
Most of your coworkers and clients will probably already have a smartphone, or will soon. It is also very likely that beyond using these for leisure and social activities, they use them for work. It is now normal to switch off the heating in that apartment you've been renting out while you are on holiday because your AirBNB tenants are overusing it. Or to track the status of your latest food delivery while you are sitting on the toilet.
Consumers today are not only constantly on the move, but they are also increasingly data-focused. They will be looking for results and have the capabilities they need to research, analyze, and calculate what they deem necessary to ensure they will be making the right decision. They thus also expect the same in return, in the form of bespoke customer service that is both intelligent and responsive.
Data is everywhere and is relatively easy to obtain. In a single click, you can generate a web analysis that will reveal more information about your blog or website than your doctor will ever tell you about your own body. Before diving into this ocean of data, take time to identify what is really important to you. Brainstorming is a great tool to really identify and prioritize what you and your team should be focusing on first. If you try to wage war on all fronts, then the chances of winning are slim.
With the right tools and the right method, you can save yourself quite a considerable amount of time. With both the agility and flexibility that data managing and automation software brings to the table, you will see an increase in your productivity. Careful planning is key, and if you focus on streamlining your workflow, you will be able to take your brand to the next level.