This time last week I was at Blissdom, where I had the honor of moderating a panel on work/life balance. Panelists Deb Rox, Megan Jordan, Carmen Stacier, and I wanted to foster a candid conversation, free of “achieve balance by getting up earlier and getting more organized!” type advice, and I think we conveyed a realism that was very different from typical balance panels. Here are the key takeaways, some of which have served me extremely well this week while I’ve been playing catch up with work:
Do a few things well. Instead of driving yourself crazy trying to do everything (and potentially letting quality suffer across the board), focus on doing a few things well.
Focus on the present. It can be challenging to not feel work and household minutia looming over you at all times. But when you are home with your kids, be present. Those days where you spend the entire day saying, "Just a second, let me finish one last e-mail" to your kids are a disservice to everyone.
Make realistic goals. Don't set expectations so high that they are hard to achieve and set you up for frustration. Set small, realistic goals. (Admittedly, I even sometimes add tasks that I’ve already completed to my checklist simply for the satisfaction of checking them off.)
Don't make comparisons. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself and whatever it is you are creating. Instead of fretting over not making it on to best-of blogger lists (or other similar accolades), focus on making your kids' list.
Play by your own rules. It's very easy to get swept up in the frantic pace of work (particularly for those of us in social media, where a lot of emphasis is placed on being online constantly), but shifting your perspective so that you aren’t living in fear of missing out on opportunities is very powerful. Be willing to lose so you can play by your own rules.
Opportunity can be dangerous. There's a tendency to jump and say yes in the face of opportunity, even if it's not necessarily the right fit. Analyze each opportunity and decide whether it's something you really want to do vs. something you feel you should do. Remember that there will always be another opportunity; follow your instincts and remember that all opportunities are not necessarily good opportunities.
Change your response. There's a tendency to say yes to everything (sometimes before even knowing what it is) due to worry that people otherwise won’t like you. Change your response strategy from “Yes” to "Can I get back to you?" This response allows you the space to evaluate the opportunity.
Don't be motivated by the gold star. Take on projects or tasks because you feel passionate about and energized by them, not because you are motivated by the gold star on the forehead.
Ask for help. Asking for help is not a weakness. Remember that asking for help does not reflect that you are incapable of doing something; you’re simply opting not to do something in the moment.
Let go. For the control freaks out there, there's a tendency to shoulder all burdens, but it's important to let go and remember that there is more than one way to do things. Bring your family into helping with chores, etc. and embrace that they may get to the finish line in a totally different way than you do, and that that is perfectly fine.
Focus. In our current tech driven world, attention is spread thin on a minute to minute basis. Carve out time in your day where you shut off everything -- Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, etc. -- so you can devote total focus to the task at hand. You’ll be amazed by how much you can accomplish when your attention is undivided.
Do you have other tips for achieving balance? I would love to read about them if you'd like to comment in below. And if you're interested in reading about some of my personal highlights from the conference, you can check them out over at Pop Discourse.
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