What does a well-balanced life look like exactly?
We all know how essential it is to our health and well-being to have more balance in our lives. But how do we actually go about achieving balance?
We all know that we need to avoid work emails on weekends, but how do we achieve that without burning bridges at the office?
We all know that we should be more present with our family members, but how do we communicate our own needs?
We all know that we should develop our skill sets and networks to advance our personal goals, but how do we do so without exhausting ourselves?
If you’re seeking to have more balance in your life, it is possible. The key is to establish boundaries. Sound hard? It might feel hard at first, but practice makes perfect - and the more you can remember that your boundaries are actually what enable you to keep showing up for the people in your life, the easier it will be. (Because you can't be amazing if you're completely burnt out.)
Here are tips and strategies you can actually use to have more well-rounded days without pushing yourself to the brink.
Establishing boundaries to achieve balance
If we want more balance in our lives, we first need to place clear and defined boundaries around our days.
Boundaries aren’t restrictive. In fact, they give us more freedom. When we have clear boundaries and an understanding of our own limits, we can have more flexibility to work within the parameters that support us.
Set email parameters: If you have bosses or coworkers who send emails on weekends and/or late at night, it can be easy to fall into matching their email patterns. You end up shifting your schedule to respond to their needs and reacting to their days.
It’s okay to create your own email standards and abide by them. While we may not be able to control the email habits of others, we can manage our own behavior.
Try setting your own email parameters. What is your cut-off time for checking or responding to email? If you want to stop reading emails at 6pm, choose that time and honor it.
If you’re used to responding right away and having trouble breaking that habit, take baby steps. You can send short but firm responses like “I’ll check on Monday” or “Confirming receipt. Will respond when I return to work.”
You can also try delaying your own response time. If you feel guilty about avoiding work emails on the weekend, try sending your email an hour or two later than you typically would. It’s about taking the smallest step possible to begin with, so that you can realistically modify your behavior.
Have structured meetings: Do you have meetings that seem to go on and on? Regain control of that time by taking the simple step of creating meeting agendas.
You can use the Ink+Volt 1:1 meeting pad to define agenda items in advance and ensure that meetings with your boss stay on track. Creating structured meetings could also be a good solution to constant emails or check-ins from others.
For instance, if your boss tends to email and text you at all hours of the day, you can set boundaries by creating one-on-one meetings. Not only will your boss be apprised of what’s going on, but you’ll get some relief in your inbox.
So the next time a boss or coworker stops by your office to ask for updates or insists on sending you emails on the weekends, you can let them know that they can add that request to the meeting agenda for followup then.
Creating new boundaries is not unlike building new habits. Introduce one micro change at a time, and you’ll see that you’ll have an easier and easier time establishing firm boundaries at work.
Create boundaries around chores: Managing chores at home is similar to organizing and delegating tasks at work. Start by identifying your core home tasks and then divide them with your partner/roommate/kids. Maybe your partner can take up meal planning while you take on cleaning/organizing or vice versa.
Try to assign chores based on each other’s interests and strengths - you’ll both be more likely to stick to your tasks that way. So if your partner loves cooking, let them take on kitchen-related tasks. If you’re better at maintaining laundry, then take on all laundry tasks. You can even maintain a family Google calendar to help keep track of your chores.
Communicate your boundaries: When it comes to being honest with our family, sometimes it can feel more challenging than communicating with our boss! The key to communicating with our loved ones is to be honest but tactful. Remember that when you create space for yourself, you make it possible to maintain a healthy relationship that lasts.
Maybe your parents really want you to come home for the holidays but you’re feeling burned out and you don’t feel like traveling. Find a way to express your needs firmly but compassionately. Maybe you can say, “I’d love to and I know how important it is to you, but I won’t make it down this time around.” You can even try softening the blow by adding that you’re excited to visit for a different holiday or an upcoming family event.
Say no to things that don’t excite you
Here’s a scenario: You’re juggling multiple work deadlines when your boss asks if you’d like to take on an extra project. Maybe this project could advance your career or help you acquire some new skills. Or maybe it will just add more to your plate. How do you decide?
Here are some ways to examine if a side project is worth taking on:
Will this extra work help you develop a new skill that is relevant to your interests and career path? If you’re being asked to take on a sales assignment but you have no interest in sales, decline (if possible) or find ways to minimize your role. Delegate tasks or suggest alternative people.
Does this project excite you? Will you get to work with interesting people? Or work on something that inspires you? If this project doesn’t elicit any excitement and you're already full-up with work, it’s a sure sign that you will feel drained by the task, rather than inspired.
You can even use this test to help you make decisions in your personal life. Does the thought of going to an outdoor concert with friends excite you? Or would you rather spend that time doing something low-key? Does the thought of going to a party with a big group of people excite you? Or would you rather hang out with friends one-on-one?
While it’s important to say no to things, it’s also helpful to identify why we’re saying no, so that we can choose the things that make us say yes. When we can fill our days with experiences that excite and nourish us, we can be closer to achieving more balance in our lives.Need more ideas on achieving balance? Here’s a guide on how to be productive on your own terms.