There seems to be a trend lately where people are saying that work/life balance is a myth. That it doesn’t exist… that you shouldn’t even try to achieve it.
It’s true that no one can achieve a perfect work/life balance, because no one is perfect. And I don’t think we should beat ourselves up over our imperfections. But I think if we closely evaluate what our priorities and circumstances are, and act upon them, most of us would be able to come up with a balance that works for us.
I’m not holding myself up as the perfect example here. I’ve made plenty of mistakes — that’s for sure. But as a mother of two small children/wife/artist/business owner, etc… this is an area I’ve thought about and worked on quite a bit over the years. For what it’s worth, I’d like to share the little trick that works for me.
My secret to work/life balance after the jump…
Are you ready? Okay, here’s the trick. Imagine your life as a closet.
That’s right. A closet. A closet that’s crammed to the gills with coats and boots and soccer equipment and back copies of Martha Stewart Living and baby clothes and candlesticks and who knows what else. The door won’t even close, that’s how stuffed it is.
Now imagine that you need to organize that closet. And in order to get it really organized, you will need to purge. There are two ways to go about this:
1) You painfully go through everything in the closet one at a time and decide what stays and what goes. After you’re done going through everything, you cross your fingers that the remaining stuff will fit back in the closet, knowing that it will probably still be overstuffed (if not quite as stuffed as before).
2) You take everything out of the closet, carefully choose the most essential items, and start putting them back in. As soon as you’ve reached a point where the closet is not quite full, you stop. And then you get rid of everything else.
For a truly organized closet, method #2 works best.
For some reason, method # 2 is not the way we normally go about organizing our closets — or our lives. We don’t want to do it that way because we’d have to get rid of so many wonderful sweaters/magazines/activities that we enjoy.
But I think it’s the best way to go. It forces you to think really hard about what the most essential things in your life are at that moment. You make room for those things, and when you start to feel that your life / time is almost full, you stop. You say no to the rest.
It’s hard. Believe me, I know. There are things I used to like doing — and in some cases I LOVED doing — that I’ve given up. Here are just some of them: making fine art and exhibiting in galleries, writing songs and playing in bands, taking fitness classes, playing tennis, hanging out frequently with friends, skiing, regular vintage shopping, keeping up to date with music, going to lots of concerts, teaching university classes, gardening, etc… the list could go on.
However, because I gave up those other good things, I am able to better focus on the things in life that I am truly passionate about. My essentials/biggest priorities: my family & loved ones, my work, my beliefs, and my health.
Even within that short list, I can’t do everything. I still have to pare things down to make sure it will comfortably all fit in the closet, and it’s a constantly changing process. For example, Monday through Thursday, I work and have to let someone else take care of the kids during the day. But Friday through Sunday, I’m with the kids all day and don’t work.
So I still have to constantly re-evaluate what I’m letting fill up my time, but because I’ve whittled my life down to the most essential things, balancing those things is much simpler.
And yes, sometimes I get a bit nostalgic and miss the things I used to do. It doesn’t mean I’ll never do them again, though. Hopefully one day I’ll start painting on canvas again, go out every Friday and Saturday night, take up skiing again, etc…
But I can honestly say that right now I am happy without all those things. In fact, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’ve got my priorities straight, I’m filling my life with them, and they bring me so much joy. My life is far from perfect — trust me on that. But I know that I’m trying my best each day to do what really counts.
Now, of course I’m not saying that my top priorities should be everyone else’s, too. You each have to figure out for yourselves which essentials you are going to keep in your closet.
And I realize that there are circumstances in life that make it incredible hard, if not impossible, to keep that closet organized / maintain balance in life.
For example, last year, my second child was born with acid reflux, food intolerances, and colic, and needed to be held and comforted by me, around the clock, for about 4 months straight. That became my top priority, and such a huge one, that it crowded practically everything else out. I knew that’s what I needed to be doing, but I’ll admit that I felt overwhelmed and out of balance. It came at a critical transitional time for both my business and my toddler, and I worried I was letting them down. But with the help of my team at work, my family at home, and a lot of prayer, the business and the toddler survived. A year later, we are all thriving.
Some of you may be in much more difficult circumstances than the one I described above. Please know that my heart goes out to you. And as silly as it may sound, you may still want to try and think about the closet. What can you reasonably fit in there right now? Maybe it’s just one thing. One thing that is taking up all the room in your closet, your life, your heart. And that’s okay. That’s your balance for the moment, even though it may not feel very balanced. Just focus on that and remember to ask for (and accept!) help whenever possible. And hopefully soon, you’ll get through it, find room for a few more things, and the balance will come more easily.
So, that’s it. Empty your closet, figure out what your essentials are, put them back in, and then once the closet is almost full, get rid of the rest.
You’ll need to re-evaluate often, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. xo, Eva
p.s. If you have any other tips for finding balance that you’d like to share, please comment below! Thanks!
Image Source: Hand lettering by me, Eva Jorgensen. They’re a part of the #EvasEverydayLettering project on my Instagram feed: @SycamoreStreetPress.