Achieving balance is an unrealistic ideal that leaves us in a perpetual state of guilt and shame.
We feel like we’re failing at motherhood, building a career, being a wife, and juggling it all. We’re never “enough” and we feel like we could always do more and be more.
The truth is, chasing that unrealistic expectation of work-life balance will always leave you upset.
If you’re feeling frustrated in some area of your life around achieving balance, I want to share four practical applications with you. Two things to stop and two things to start today.
1. Stop compartmentalizing your life
You don’t live in two different realities: work vs. the rest of your life. Instead, you live one life in which you work, you play, you have a family and a community.
You would be naive to believe that certain areas of your life don’t impact others. For instance…
- The fight you had with your husband last night affected your work performance today.
- Your kids notice the stress you feel about your financial burdens.
- Neglecting self-care for too long can hurt your self-confidence, relationships and even your ability to focus at work.
Before laptops and cell phones, it was reasonable to compartmentalize your life because the worlds didn’t collapse. When you were at work, you focused on the tasks at hand. When you were at home, your laptop and work email didn’t come with you. It was easy to unwind and be with your family.
The more tech-savvy our world becomes, the more the lines are blurred between work, play, family, and community. Our phones and smart devices collapse these separate worlds giving us 24/7 access to work, family, entertainment and a social life, among other things.
So the first thing to stop (or give up) is the idea that you can compartmentalize and separate work from the rest of your life and that you can achieve balance in every area. It’s unrealistic and you’ll drive yourself crazy in pursuit of it.
2. Start prioritizing intentionally
Even though we know “work-life balance” is an unrealistic ideal and we’ve broken down the old-school mentality of compartmentalizing our lives, you may still be wondering…
“How can I get a handle on different areas of my life that feel out of balance”?
Consider how often you react to circumstances that show up and unintentionally neglect areas that are important to you. I recommend setting up structures in your life to improve those specific areas that feel “off”.
At different seasons and stages in your life, your priorities change.
There may be a season at work that’s all-consuming.
You may feel out of control with your nutrition or fitness routine and spend a season focused on losing those last 10 pounds.
You may feel like that spark of romance has dimmed in your marriage and you want to reignite that flame.
Whenever you feel like an area of your life is “out of balance” or not working the way you want it, recognize it as an opportunity to evaluate all areas of your life. Pinpoint those specific areas that are “off” and create new goals to improve that area.
My husband bought me a 3-pack of the SmartLife Push Journals for my birthday, which I highly recommend. The journal helped me systematically create structures to adjust areas of my life that I wanted to improve while giving me the flexibility to grow into new goals in the future.
- In step one, you go through an exercise that helps identify the key areas of your life you’d like to improve.
- In step two, you pick one key priority that becomes your focus for the next 90-days
- In step three, you set 10 specific goals that help you achieve your key priority
- In step four, you create a 90-day push goal or an ultimate goal that encompasses or improves multiple areas that you scored low.
- Once your goals and priorities are set, you keep a daily journal that helps you stay on track to meet them.
Even if you don’t have the journals, you can still go through the exercise to identify your key priorities here.
Of course, you don’t have to have a fancy journal to stay on track with your goals. Simply pinpoint key areas, set up your goals and intentionally take steps every day towards those goals. The key is to be intentional and safeguard the priorities that matter most in this season of life.
3. Stop using social media as your barometer
The second thing to stop doing is scrolling through Facebook and Instagram while comparing your life to the women in the posts and stories you see online.
I know that’s easier said than done. I mean, it’s human nature to compare ourselves. Even people in the Bible dealt with comparison hundreds of years ago (and they didn’t even have social media).
- “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Galatians 6:4-5 (NIV)
- “We do not dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves by themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
Just remember that social media doesn’t show anyone’s whole story. It’s the highlight reel.
When my son was 6 years old, he verbally threatened to kill himself, not once but several times at school over the course of several months.
Yes, at 6-YEARS-OLD!
With every threat, we took him to the emergency room. While he had no plan to follow through, the threats and frequent outbursts of anger had to be taken seriously. We wound up spending 23 days in an outpatient treatment center at UT Southwestern in Dallas as we navigated his negative behavior.
That was one of the hardest years our family experienced. If you go back to my social media posts during that time, you wouldn’t know the magnitude of the situation. Not because I was being inauthentic or misleading my friends and followers, but because I was still processing and simply not ready to share. We were navigating brokenness that only God could heal.
Other social media accounts, especially businesses and influencers, carefully plan and craft the perfect aesthetic for their Instagram feed and Facebook posts. They batch content to be “on brand”. They strategize the posts and content that generates the most engagement and attracts new followers. While there’s nothing wrong or bad about these strategies, I just want you to remember that it’s not the whole picture of that person or business’s real life.
The sooner you can stop using social media to compare your success as a mom, wife, dog-mom, entrepreneur, employee or colleague, the happier you’ll be.
4. Start setting boundaries
With your goals and priorities in place, you’ll be focused on the tasks that improve your quality of life, but you should consider implementing boundaries for yourself too.
If you’re struggling with comparing yourself to others on social media, limit the amount of time you spend on social media. The new IOS-12 update for iPhone and tablets includes new screen time controls. These controls will lock down apps in specific categories like social networking or entertainment.
If you struggle with finding quality time with your spouse, consider implementing no screens in the bedroom rule after a specific time. For example, no TV, no phones, no tablets after 9 PM.
If you struggle with night-time snacking, implement a no food after 8 PM rule.
These boundaries aren’t designed to leave you feeling deprived. Rather, you would put them in place to create healthy limits to the things that secretly sabotage your quality of life.
Maybe you read the whole post, and maybe not. If you skimmed the post here are the key takeaways.
- Stop chasing the unattainable ideal of “work-life balance”. It doesn’t exist.
- Quit compartmentalizing your life. You live one life in which you work, you play, you have a family and a community.
- To get a handle on different areas of your life that feel out of balance, identify your life priorities and set goals to improve those areas. Rinse and repeat every 30 to 90 days.
- Social media doesn’t show anyone’s whole story. It’s the highlight reel.
- Set boundaries for your life. Not to feel deprived, but to create healthy limits on the things that secretly sabotage your quality of life.
You are doing enough. You are being enough. You are enough.
You can work towards authoring a life you truly love with some introspection and daily action.