Post # 100… Discussing my own work/life balance

I’m astonished to be hitting post #100 this morning.  How time does fly!

I’ve been thinking lately, with something between amusement and horror, about my own work/life balance.  One of the things I’ve learned as a coach is that I very often end up working with people who face the same issues that confront me.  No idea why that is, but I’ve observed it repeatedly.  Lately, work/life balance has hit at the top of that chart.

I thought it might be helpful to be open about my own work/life balance challenges just so you readers will be aware that I’m not writing about work/life balance from a white, fluffy cloud somewhere in the sky that allows me to observe the issue without ever being embroiled in it.  Some days, I wish that were the case!

Because this is a me-centric post (using self as an example), I’ve taken the unusual step of breaking the post here.  If you’d like to know more, read on.  And otherwise, see you in Wednesday’s post!

Here’s what’s on my plate: I’m “of counsel” with a local firm now, so practice issues are at the forefront of my mind again.  I’m managing and growing my own business, which entails coaching, working on my website, writing quite a bit, preparing programs, networking, etc. — activities which easily expand to occupy the available time.  And I’m enrolled in Georgetown’s Leadership Coaching Program through the Center for Professional Development, which isn’t a full-time commitment but does demand a fair amount of attention each week, plus 3 full-time days a month.

How is my balance? 
I am decidedly out of balance (for me) in terms of the number of hours I put into work on a daily basis — right now, it’s something along the lines of 12-14 hours on weekdays and 8-10 on weekends.  I’m willing to accept that because I know what the rewards are and will be as my business grows.  I recognize that I’m putting in many more hours on my business than perhaps I’ll need to in the future when I have programs and presentations prepared, when I have a steady flow of referrals, etc.  But for now, I plan to take off Thanksgiving week and the last week of the year for recreation, and that time will help to balance out my curent strong emphasis on work.  Chances are good that I’ll go straight back to the same schedule, but I’ll do it with mental and physical freshness from having taken a break.

On a daily basis, I try to pay attention to aspects of my life and energy that help me to maintain a reasonably acceptable work/life balance, as follows:

Physical balance  
I am committed to getting at least 6 hours of sleep a night.  Less than that, and I may as well not bother trying to accomplish anything.  I try to get 8 hours a night on the weekend.  I’ve been incorporating 10-minute walks into my schedule; I find that when I get my blood moving and get away from my desk for those few minutes, I come back with more focus and energy.   I also stretch for 2 or 3 minutes about every hour and a half.  I keep my energy up by eating protein-rich meals that include complex carbs.  Although junk foods call when I’m stressed out, I always pay a high price when I succumb.  And I make an effort to drink 2 liters of water a day so I stay well-hydrated.  I don’t always succeed with these goals, but I’m at least aware of them every day, which keeps me in better alignment than I would be otherwise.

Mental/emotional balance 
I take two nights a week for pure relaxation, usually Mondays and Fridays, and I do not work on Sunday morning absent an emergency.  I spend time with the people I love either in person or on the phone every single day, and I make that a priority.  I’ve learned that journaling and centering myself (primarily through meditation) helps me to deal with the stuff of life so I can be focused on work during my work time, and I make time for both of those pursuits on about an every-other-day basis.

Time balance
I begin work at 6:15 most days (the advantage of rolling out of bed and having a 10-minute path to my office) and make sure to have my schedule and to-do list waiting on my desk so I don’t have to spend time figuring out what my priorities are.  I (almost) always finish work by no later than 11 PM, and I aim to finish by 9.  The last thing I do each day is to make a list of my top 5 priorities for the next day.  And I keep a pad and pen by my bed so that when I have an idea as I’m going to sleep, or when I wake up with an idea, I can write it down without having to move enough to wake myself up.   Finally, when I’m considering whether to take on something new, I ask myself “for the sake of what” am I considering the commitment.  If I don’t have a good answer to that question, I don’t do it.  (Thanks, Deb, for teaching me the value of that one!)

Environmental balance
I strive to keep a tidy desk, though I don’t always succeed.  I do make sure I have the supplies I need at hand, and I use essential oils to help me perk up during the day.  My chair is comfortable, I use a telephone headset for long calls so I don’t get a crick in my neck, and my desk has good lighting.  My environment works with and for me.

What do I need to work on?
I very often eat lunch at my desk, and I’d like to get in the habit of getting away from my desk at lunch even if it’s just for 20 minutes.  A change of scenery is refreshing, and I’ll probably make up the time in increased efficiency.

I need to work at delegating some tasks, by hiring a virtual assistant or asking my webmaster to handle certain things that are outside my area of expertise.  That will free up time and energy for the things within my skill set.

And I’d like to get in the habit of reserving about 30 minutes each day that’s just for me.  I’m not sure quite when or how I can do that, given my current commitments, but I think taking a short time to do something fun every single day would help me to be more effective and more present.

In conclusion
I hope this little post about me-me-me provides some insight into how I view work/life balance.  It’s something I’m coming to understand more and more about, particularly now that I’m working primarily for the most demanding boss ever — myself.  I’m finding ways to make compromises on time and energy, and I’m learning how to zealously guard the time I need to myself.  Most importantly, I’m considering how my time expenditures match and support my priorities.  In my humble opinion, that’s all anyone can ask, so that’s what I ask my clients to focus on when we discuss work/life balance.

7 replies
  1. Patricia Katz
    Patricia Katz says:

    Sounds like you’ve got some great life balance strategies in place already.

    You and yoru readers might be interested in some of the articles and resources in the renewal Centre on the pauseworks website:

    You may also want to check out my latest publication on life balance – an easy inspiring read. See excerpt and details at:

    Keep on keeping on, Patricia

  2. Balanced Life Coach
    Balanced Life Coach says:

    Hi Julie,

    Very interesting post, as work/life balance is a recent passion for me, after retiring from the corporate world a few months back.

    I normally describe work/life balance as needing to address each of 5 areas in equal proportion:

    The 5 Pillars of Balanced Living

    Freedom, Sovereignty and Privacy strategies to protect and keep what is rightfully yours.

    Enjoying good bodily health, free from pain and discomfort to at least age 120, independently of the controlled medical establishment.

    Love-life or Relationship Principles and skills, to turn your romantic relationship into a life long love affair.

    Spiritual Truths which promote a true happiness from within, in harmony with the scientifically proven Laws of Nature, based on provable reality, not fables or traditions.

    Wealth Creation & Financial Freedom achieved by leveraging your skills, time and effort, allowing you to break free from the shackles of a salaried position.

    The last is probably the most difficult to achieve because it involves leverage: doing work once and continuing to earn an income for years afterwards. Examples of this are authors and pop stars.

    Thanks for letting us into your life for a peek at how you manage your priorities.

  3. Julie Fleming Brown
    Julie Fleming Brown says:

    Stephanie, thanks for your kind comments and for directing me to your terrific post. Although I hadn’t thought of it this way before, I’m inclined to think that balance, like so much else, is facilitated by a positive mood. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Julie Fleming Brown
    Julie Fleming Brown says:

    Michael, thanks for sharing your 5 pillars of balanced living. From the legal perspective, I’m particularly interested in the interplay between the idea of making money by leveraging time and the preeminence (for now?) of the billable hour system. I appreciate your comments.

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