4 Ways To Improve Your Work/Life Balance

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By Liz McGrory

READ MORE: Career advice, Work-life balance, Mental health

Let’s talk about the elusive work/life balance goal that many of us cringe about yet strive for. If you are sick of hearing about this abstract idea, here are some concrete steps you can take to actually improve your lifestyle.

Focus on swaying instead of balancing.

An old boss once recommended that I work on my work/life balance. He meant well, but it was like he was saying “Here’s a new goal, go fetch!” I had no idea what he was talking about and was already stressed out figuring out life as a working mom.

The phrase work/life sway was introduced to me during a Twitter party hosted by Working Mother magazine and Fidelity Investments. This type of mindset is about how you sway between your work and your personal life. Work/life sway relieves the stress of finding balance between two worlds. It’s like a dance between work and life that enables you to go with the flow.

For instance, when you head to work, you sway your thoughts toward your job. Inevitability, an interruption happens that causes you to sway your thoughts toward your personal life. And it’s ok that you’re swaying! Life happens! Interruptions aren’t as bothersome when you adapt to this mentality because you anticipate them.

Make decisions based on your values and priorities.

When you know the values and priorities, or what I like to call your VP’s, you make decisions more quickly and easily.  You use them to decide when the right time to sway is. You will sway well when you have a clear agenda based on the answers to these questions:

  1.       What is important to you?
  2.       What feelings are important for you to feel?
  3.       Who do you care about?
  4.       What things do you like to do?
  5.       What do you want to succeed at?

Have two support systems in place.

A support system is a group of people who care about you and your success. Create two of them -- one for your personal life and one your professional life. It’s hard to “do it all,” but when you have support it makes it easier to sway between work and life.

How do you create the two systems? You use the 5W’s: who do you want to be in your support system, what do you need help with, when would you need the help, where would this have to happen, and, most importantly, why. Your reason why is told as a personal story that usually includes a negative emotion that people relate to. The story set the expectation that if your support system helps out you’ll feel happy.

A rock solid support system enables you to confidently sway when you need to. When you know your co-workers have your back you will sway without wavering. Likewise, when work calls, you can sway toward your deadline because you know things will take care of themselves on the home front.

Decide between “Heck yeah” or “Absolutely not.”

In Tim Ferriss’s new book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers,” one of his guests gave a great bit of advice. Instead of deciding between "yes" and "no," look at it as, " yeah" and "absolutely not."

Do you “need to do it” or “want to do it”?  A need is something that makes you say “heck yeah!” A want is something that would be nice to do, but isn’t necessary, so base the decision on your values and priorities and make the call.

But sometimes you feel like you “have to do it.” This happens when you’re suffering from the disease to please others. It’s considered a disease when you continuously choose other’s well-being over yours. When you make choices based on your VP’s, it’s easier to say “Absolutely not!” to others and “Heck yeah” to you!

It’s easier to sway between work and life when you use this guideline. You’ll spend less time hemming and hawing over whether you should sway and just do it.

Once you start implementing these ideas, you’ll feel empowered. Swaying is easier than balance. Life gets easier when you use your VP’s to make decisions. Your support system will have your back when you sway. Last, but not least, say “heck yeah” to a work/life sway mentality and forget about the old balancing act.

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Liz McGrory is a certified professional coach supporting working moms make audacious choices about their work life balance. She's a speaker, author, the Working Mom Expert on About.com and a working mom coach at The Maven Clinic.

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