The beach street buskers return soon! I’m always amazed by performers balancing a soccer ball, juggling pin, or even a chair on their head. It seems doable by anyone with enough practice and a reasonable sense of balance. Doable, that is, until they move up to bouncing a soccer ball off their knee, while juggling fire batons, sitting upside down in a chair balanced on the shoulders of their family member who is riding a unicycle on a tightrope – then we all applaud with amazement.
It is often the case that the things we strive for the hardest are actually elusive to everyone (despite their Instagram posts). Balancing between work and family seems like a simple juggle, but is a real challenge. From the time we move out of “just me” apartments and graduate to two people, or three, or four, or ten, we never seem to find that fleeting balance point. This balance remains oddly elusive even thru the “empty nester” phase. To achieve this balance as an entrepreneur or a distance worker, especially in a home office, can be harder than becoming a tightrope unicycling fire juggler!
Kevin Hart once joked, “I don’t know how to do anything halfway.” Neither do most of us. So when we think of balancing work with family, the 50-50 equation immediately short circuits in our head. We want to give our career 110% or more, and our family certainly deserves at least that much as well, and then we have hobbies, volunteering, friends, church, and other things that all want a piece of our time.
The bottom line is there are only 168 hours in each week to get all the sleeping, eating, working, house-cleaning, yard work, and everything else done. That’s it. But not all hours are created equally, some hours mean a lot more than others in both our work and our home. So, here are a few tips to make those hours balance out a little better.
Find those special hours.
The walk after dinner with your spouse. Playing a game with your kids. Taking a detour to explore something new. Saying bedtime or mealtime prayers. Celebrate life events together in simple ways. Splurge on some activities that you can all do together.
Set healthy boundaries for your family and healthy boundaries for your work.
With a home office, work only in workspaces and change hats to family time in family spaces. (Easier if your work time is at a co-working space like 1701.) Talk about work stuff with your spouse after the kids go to bed.
Hang a family planner or calendar in the kitchen or other common family space. Everything for every family member. School events, sports, parties, chores, work trips, project days, vacations, and anything else goes on the board. Beats the paper clutter on the fridge! We love this monthly chalkboard one from Etsy ( https://www.etsy.com/listing/277203644 ).
Set time to turn off.
Just five or ten minutes between work time and home activities can make a huge difference. An extra 10 minutes before the week starts to look over family plans for the week can serve to sharpen one side of the saw. Then take your time to plan your goals and strategy for your work week ahead to sharpen the other side.
Set times to “turn off” your business.
This means not only avoiding emails, texts, and calls during certain hours together as a family but also asking your kids to put their devices aside during the same times. We had an old round mouse pad on our kitchen table where we would all the phones and electronics during family meals and other times. Everyone could see that they were off. Turning off the radio and devices for part of a drive in the car can be a great family talk with a ‘captive’ audience.
Tell them what they mean to you.
Regularly. It takes repeated, spoken honesty for your family to know what you really value.
Don’t forget the rest of your team.
They also have a life outside of work and families. Your balance can’t really come at the cost of theirs, so ask them how they are doing on this too. They might have some good ideas you can ‘borrow.’
Teach your kids to juggle flaming batons.
Not really, but do take the time to help them see that where they put their own time matters. They need time to be a kid, and activity overload affects the whole family. Choose wisely.
If you need a bottom line to convince yourself to take some of these simple steps, there’s this. An Indiana University study showed high demand jobs led to weight gain, insomnia, and other deadly health risks. Over 70% of the workforce struggles with areas of work-life balance. Simple acts like setting your own schedule, making your own goals, and prioritizing your decisions led to dramatic decreases in all areas of health risks. So set a few minutes aside this week to prioritize some healthily balanced steps for you and your family. They’ll be glad you did.