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Jul 8, 2008

Work-Life Balance 101: The Failproof Way To Make a Breakthrough

Work-life balance (or even life balance in general) is not an easy task to master.  If it were, the life coach industry wouldn’t be flourishing the way it is now – a quick Google search on “life balance” will give you no less than 25 million resultsClearly, we’re all feeling the strain – and it’s more than likely we’ve all felt the frustration of trying to “get our lives balanced” again and again, only to have it fail to work out as we’d hoped.

That royally sucks. And frankly, it’s unacceptable.  We deserve better than to live reactive lives, hoping things will get better but feeling in our gut like they never will.  So let’s start putting an end to the cycle.

How To Overcome A Lack Of Balance (Or Just About Anything Else)

The truth is, we only get better at things we spend a bunch of time on. That’s really all there is to it.  If you just approach things on a hit-or-miss basis, you’re going to get results that, well, suck.  But if you work on it every day – and you pay attention – you begin to do something magical.  You begin to become aware of things.  Sometimes happily aware (as in “wow, I never noticed that before”), sometimes painfully aware (as in “oh, shit.”).  But the bottom line is that you become aware.

And when you’re aware, you have the knowledge you need to change things.  It’s like learning a skill such as archery.  If you fire one arrow a week, you’re going to say to yourself, “Damn, I can’t hit that bulls-eye at all.”  If you fire seven arrows in a row, you’re going to notice, “Damn, I’m veering to the left.”  Now you have something to work with.

The secret, magic formula isn’t secret or magic at all.  It’s ridiculously simple.

  1. Do something – anything.
  2. Keep tabs on the results.
  3. Adjust what you’re doing as necessary and go back to step 2.

The problem is, most people do this:

  1. Do something – anything.
  2. Keep ta– oh crap I forgot I have to do this and that and there’s another 5 emails and now the phone is ringing and this person is yelling at me and I’m late with this other thing and man, where did the day go I’m wiped
  3. Feel like crap, and wonder why you can’t get it right.

You see where I’m going with this.  The way to overcome a lack of work life balance is to make the time every day/other day/three days/week/whatever to regroup, refine your strategy, and try again.  That’s how you improve.

Life Is Going To Explode On You, Messily And Without Mercy

Balance isn’t something you can get by winging it, unless you have a very slow-paced life to begin with.  No matter what you have for your goals, life throws urgencies your way.  No way to avoid it.  The way to survive that is to create an island of time where you can shut away the world and focus on what you can do today to get your life more balanced, and how yesterday’s strategy panned out.

Most people do the “Ready, fire, fire” thing.  This is the “aim” part that nobody wants to do because they feel so overwhelmed by the need to fire. Back up.  Remind yourself that getting even a tiny bit of extra power in your life gives you a base to build on.  You’ve probably heard of the debt snowball (or even the “income snowball“) – this is the balance snowball.  No matter how busy you feel, you can find 15 minutes, somewhere, to start making a strategy and working it continuously.

The bottom line is, we lack balance not because we’re too busy, but because we’re not regrouping often enough to handle things actively (rather than reactively).  We’re not asking ourselves “What will it take to make things balance the way I want them to?” every single day.  We’re not taking a hard look at the results we’re getting every day, and we’re not adjusting our strategy accordingly.

My 7 Day Challenge: Make A Daily Appointment In The War Room

Though I’ve got a good handle on time management (hell, I wrote the book on it, so to speak), I have to admit I haven’t mastered the work-life balance thing yet.  Here’s what I’m going to do – and I invite you to do the same.  For the next seven days, I’m going to carve out at least 30 minutes a day (I’ll use the morning, since I wake up early) to assess where I lack balance, how I can start turning the tide, and how my strategy works. I’ll share what I’m learning with you.

I actually have a lot of the tools I need … I just haven’t been using them.  But for the next 7 days, they’re getting used, and my home office will become my “war room.”  Your war room can be anything – an office, your car, even the bathroom (hey, when you have a house full of people, you know that’s the one place you can be alone in).

I welcome your comments, advice and tips – and if you happen to be a life balance coach, drop me a note in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to getting started,

Dave

26 Responses to “Work-Life Balance 101: The Failproof Way To Make a Breakthrough”

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    As I was just sharing with you via email, for the first time in three years or so, I have balance. I hit my “Huh… look at that,” moment a day or two ago. Things haven’t been balanced like this for more than a week or two, but I’ve seen changes already and realized a few things:

    My family and I aren’t fighting anymore (teens. a miracle.)
    My toddler isn’t throwing tantrums
    My family is generally more helpful and social
    I feel more relaxed and generally happy
    If I take a half hour break, I don’t feel like I have to *DO* something to stay busy
    I *CAN* walk away and the world won’t crash

    But I’m a little afraid it won’t last. I feel like it’s a vacation and it’s going to end soon, and I’d like to keep things this way, honestly.

    So, I hope that your next post will teach us what to do in our war room, because I think this change in my life is something I’d like to fight to keep.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 Lisa

    This is such a great post, Dave. You articulated perfectly the problem that so many of us face every day. I need to go figure out where my war room will be…

  • Jul 8, 2008 Brett Legree

    This kicks a$$ Dave, because it really is that simple. The system does not have to be complicated, nor should it be.

    And many of us know how to do it, and stumble. That’s okay, as long as we get up again. I did recently, but I’m back now.

    I’m looking forward to what you have in store for this series.

    @James,

    I think you’ll hold onto it this time. That’s what I believe, anyway. You figured out what you needed to do, and you’re doing it. Good show.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..a cog.

  • Jul 8, 2008 Mark R. Reif at Reif Group Mediations

    Dave:

    I’m going right along with you. This will be a good start for me and will build on the waking up early book and the what’s holding you back books I have digested. This is my problem. I don’t take the 15 – 30 minutes to “organize” my thoughts about what happened during the day, or yesterday. What worked, what didn’t and what I need to differently about both of those areas. I’ll be very interested in hearing about your experience. Hopefully, by listening to you, I’ll get better, If I stumble across something that I think is important, I’ll shoot it to you.

    Thanks – and keep your thoughts coming!

    Mark

  • Jul 8, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @James -
    I have no doubt you’ll hold onto it. If you slip, let me know, and I’ll send Naomi or Jon over to smack you or something. Or maybe Maki.

    @Lisa –
    Pick anwhere to start with – don’t wait until you find somewhere “perfect” …

    @Brett –
    Good to hear you again!

    @Mark -
    Hey, you picked up the Early Riser program so you should be able to make as much time as you need :-)

  • Jul 8, 2008 Brett Legree

    @Dave,

    I sort of buried myself in my writing, and the nice summer weather. The writing is good, some of the other stuff could use some attention – so I’m right beside you in the War Room this week.

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..a cog.

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    Work life balance has always come down harder on the ‘life’ side than the ‘work’ side – which I suppose is fantastic for my emotional wellbeing but tends to be rather hard on my finances. Which, in turn, comes back around to being rough on my emotional life.

    Moral of the story: I talk in circles, and spending too much time on ‘life’ is just as bad as spending too much time on work. I know that’s why they call it ‘balance’ but it seems everyone else is rocking out the work aspect and neglecting the life aspect, while I have the reverse problem. It’s kind of like being the skinny girl in a room full of Weight Watchers.

    “But I can’t gain weight even if I eat gallons of ice cream a night!”

    “Shut up or we’ll eat you.”

    ” . . . okay.”

    P.S. Jamie-boy, you’ve got a hold on something good. Why must you doubt it? Why must you doubt ME?

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    @ Tei – Because I am doubting Thomas. Show me proof, and make me a believer ;)

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    Dude, you just listed half a dozen proof-positive changes in your life. What do you WANT, a glowing beam of LIGHT?

    Well, you can’t have one. You get a peaceful household and general state of mind, instead. Sucks to be you.

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    I want proof that it’ll stay that way. I want my fears assuaged that life won’t go back to the way it is. That the habit will stay. That life won’t go nuts again. That I can forever have balance.

    WHERE’S MY WRITTEN IN STONE, DAMMIT?!

    (are you paying attention, Dave? There’s a blog post or three in this…)

    That glowing beam thing sounds very cool. Could I have that?

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    Ah, yes. Because if it doesn’t stay this way forever, clearly the good times weren’t worth having. Good lord, someone needs to make you really taste your next meal. I mean, really taste it.

    But what if I NEVER EAT AGAIN?

    Then you will have enjoyed the hell out of your last meal.

    Also, no beam of light. I already said that. No cookies either. Go enjoy your life, you weenie. :)

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    P.S. Sorry for shanghai-ing your blog, Dave. I should know better than to engage Jamie in a comment section.

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Tei –

    Oh, yeah. Because you know how much bloggers HATE people keeping the comment thread going on their posts …

    Sheesh, you … :-p

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    Well, yes, but it got all unrelated. Sort of. I think. Life work balance is sort of what I’m yelling at Jamie about. Except I’m more yelling at him to accept that his life work balance is actually balancing and that the idea that tomorrow it will have tipped a hairsbreadth to one side or another does not change the fact that at this moment in time, it is gloriously, perfectly balanced.

    Yeah!

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    I’m just perfectly happy to be the center of attention here.

    One for you, Dave – how does one continually assuage the guilt that life is just as important as work when there are other people depending on you? :)

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    @ Tei – Acceptance is one thing. Fear of losing it all is another ;) Weenie.

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 Tei - Rogue Ink

    Dude, fear is the mind-killer. Didn’t you read bad sci-fi as a kid? Did it teach you NOTHING?

    Also: those others who depend on you? Are they happier when you’re happier? Or are they happier when you work more? Or perhaps do both of these things work together to bring happiness? There’s a word for that . . . it’s on the tip of my – oh, right.

    BALANCE.

    Weenie.

    Tei – Rogue Ink’s last blog post..The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

  • Jul 8, 2008 James Chartrand - Men with Pens

    Dave must be thrilled we’ve actually proved his blog post to be true :)

    James Chartrand – Men with Pens’s last blog post..Where to Find Affordable Education for Freelancers

  • Jul 8, 2008 dawn

    I enjoyed your post. Sometimes so many of us keep doing the same-old-same-old, expecting different results. I like that you inspire a little analyzing along with your action plan.

    dawn’s last blog post..Life Just Comes At You Sometimes …

  • Jul 8, 2008 Michael Martine

    Everybody has been telling me to take a break already, and so I have forced myself to spend less time working and more time with my family, which I want to do, but if I don’t work, well, money does not magically come up between the floorboards, now, does it?

    But I think about Nature’s way of restoring balance to a system, and how sometimes that happens with a snap when the strain gets too great. People can snap, too, and I didn’t want to be one of them. None of my clients will get their blogs done if I have a breakdown or collapse from exhaustion. My family and I not only deserve some time together, taking a break is actually necessary for optimum performance. So there’s my work-life balance.

    By the way, I really despise the term “work-life” balance. That it even exists shows something is seriously wrong with society.

    Michael Martine’s last blog post..Readers or Prospects? Gateway Blogs Have Reader-Prospects

  • Jul 9, 2008 Jamie Grove - How Not To Write

    @James Be wary. WLB can disappear if you’re not careful. I had perfect balance twelve years ago. I mean, it was almost a state of bliss. Then I got stupid and screwed it all up.

    @Dave Distractions are truly a killer to WLB. Under the hood, it seems like those of us who give into them are trying desperately to hide from the mess we’ve made of our lives. The mess can be cleaned up but it takes a lot of work and some hard decisions. Excellent post. (and good comments)

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Write’s last blog post..Funny Writers: Twit-Wit Contest Win a Poem from Me!

  • Jul 9, 2008 Janice Cartier

    Hi Dave,
    Boy, late to this party, but I was busy in my war room….ouch, ouch, stop throwing things…and watch out with that bright glowy light….

    Don’t hate me.. .seriously….war room works…it’s the centering, setting compass kind of thing that sounds irksome ( points for irksome? ) but really, really makes a difference.

    Good post, Dave. My favorite part: “Life is going to explode on you, messily and without merci.” ;-)

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..The Paint, The Perfume, and Me

  • Jul 9, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Tei –
    Dune wasn’t bad science fiction! (Just a bad movie …)

    @Dawn –
    Glad you liked. :-)

    @Michael –
    You must have the wrong floorboards. Just pulled a couple of 20’s out of mine …

    @Jaime –
    Thanks!

    @Janice –
    Better late than never ;-)

  • Mar 16, 2009 Rosenrod

    Thank you – I’ll be sure to check back later for more of your posts.

Comments are closed.