Work/life balance. We have all heard about it, wrestled with it and probably rolled our eyes at it. The phrase is everywhere in articles and on social media. It’s thrown out in conversations between colleagues, spouses, friends and partners. But what exactly is work/life balance? Is it possible? And who is tired of hearing about it? Spoiler alert: we are.
In our own personal conversations, we have concluded that this balance is a total myth. A legend. An imaginary term that, when related to life, only causes frustration and guilt. We both, like many, suffer from perfectionism and the need to please. Adding in the unattainable ideal of achieving work/life balance is enough to send anyone over the edge! Instead of trying to hold tight to this mythical ideal, what if we focused our energy on these three things that can help alleviate stress and reduce pressure on ourselves?
Step 1: Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations.
We all tend to equate great work ethic with around-the-clock availability, but this is both false and dangerous. If we are constantly available, negative consequences will inevitably follow in both our professional and personal lives. We need to say no, avoid overcommitting, value our time more (at work and at home) and set priorities while never compromising them. The need for expectations is similar. If we can clearly define what our expectations are of others, whether at work or at home, we are setting others up for success. For example, say you delegate grocery shopping to your partner. But don’t communicate that you want fresh lemons and not bottled lemon juice. You can’t be unreasonably angry when you get squeeze-bottle juice. Setting expectations is helpful, but setting clear expectations is critical for true success.
Step 2: Lead by Example.
Whether or not you are in a leadership position, you do have people observing you. Colleagues, subordinates, peers and even those in higher-level leadership roles will notice how you prioritize your life and set (or don’t set) boundaries. If you wish to create or maintain a culture where families are valued. Where personal lives are recognized and appreciated, and where companies encourage employees to live fulfilling lives, be the example. Make sure you are intentional about your time and your boundaries. When you’re at work, focus, dig in and do a great job. When you leave for the day, try your best to be in the moment. Be present with your family, friends, pet, yourself – whoever you’re lucky enough to have in your life. Will last-minute deadlines or rush needs arise? Absolutely. Sometimes you must tend to things outside your regular office hours – just try your best to stick to your boundaries and not let the time you spend on the occasional emergency become the expectation. People are watching and learning from you all the time. What you do speaks much louder than what you say.
Step 3: Be Gracious.
This may come as a surprise (we hope you can sense our sarcasm), but you will not do this well at all – or even most – of the time. We like to idealize ourselves, our relationships, our work lives and our abilities to the point that falling short leaves us feeling less-than or as though we have failed. But guess what – nobody does all things well all the time. It’s not humanly possible. We will fail, let people down, make mistakes, forget to do things, communicate poorly, oversleep, get sick or feel burned out. And it’s ok. It’s life. We are all trying to “balance” as best as we can, sometimes doing it well and other times falling flat. All we can do is extend grace to ourselves and to others. Offer some encouragement and keep on going.
Some find it difficult to set boundaries and are constantly trying to seek perfection and praise from others. How do we know? We both have personal experience and struggle with this, but also know that setting boundaries and expectations are critical to true and long-term success. In fact, our own personal struggles were the driving force in writing this very article. To find an alternative to chasing work/life balance. If these are concerns for you as well, pay attention. Are you listening? Perfection is not sustainable or attainable and we are here to say STOP THE MADNESS.
We hope that by applying some of these suggestions to your everyday life, some of the overwhelm you may feel on a day-to-day basis will be alleviated. Remember, this idea of reducing stress and overwhelm by setting boundaries and managing expectations as an alternative to work/life balance is not something that happens overnight. It is a process. Choose one step outlined above and be intentional about acting on it for 30 days. Take notes, write down specifics and document any results you observe. In addition, we urge you to be willing to share your stories with others. We found that we both struggled with this partly because we felt alone in it. We did not realize that other professionals in our circles were dealing with this because everyone appears to have it together. Being vulnerable opens the door to learn, to grow and to improve.
Additional Impactful Resources:
- Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley
- Also check out her free printable library for things like meal planning, brain dump lists, calendar sheets, packing check lists and more.
- I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brené Brown
Morgan Lewis is the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Society 54. She brings buckets of industry knowledge, a knack for imagining and implementing attainable goals, and a hint of dry humor to the team. With nine years of legal marketing experience under her belt, Morgan currently works with clients to fill in gaps on their marketing and business development teams, create roadmaps for long-term goals, and implement processes to create efficiencies and solve internal issues. When she isn’t delving into a project for a client, Morgan is likely buried in a good book, whipping up something in the kitchen or catching up on any given Netflix series. Morgan and her soccer-coaching husband, Spencer, live just north of Charlotte with their sassy and fiercely independent toddler, Chloe, and barkaholic dog, Piper.
Tracy Roberts is the Director of Marketing & Communications at Bass, Berry & Sims. In her role, Tracy works to ensure all marketing and business development strategies and tactics align with the firm’s strategic goals. She is primarily responsible for leading the Marketing & Communications team, overseeing reputation management, public relations and positioning strategies, and the overall brand of the firm. When not at work, Tracy and her husband, Chad, can be found working on home improvement projects. Also, spending time in the great outdoors, or enjoying time with family (including their dogs, Gibson and Miles, and two cats, Leo and Willis).