We all have the same amount of time every day. That’s a cold, hard fact. The earth rotates once every 24 hours, and in that time balancing work and family can be challenging. In any given day you have to fit in:
- The essentials to stay alive — sleep, food, hygiene, daily medication, decompression time
- The things you need to do to maintain your lifestyle — work, doctor’s appointments, family communications
- The things that will improve your life — learning, recreation, quality time, looking for better opportunities
Understandably, it can be hard to balance all of this. Obviously not ALL these things are in EVERY day, but they’re the smaller components we have to choose from. I say choose specifically because every single day is a choice. What you do with it is what you are making a priority, whether you realize it or not.
Everyone’s family is different. I personally have been married for two years and am currently pregnant with our first child who is due in November. These are just a few things I’ve found helpful.
Be intentional. You have time for what you prioritize. Don’t get caught up in the chaos.
Biggest Thing: Plan Ahead
- Chart out the things you don’t want to miss
- Block out your calendar
- Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, do it the best you can
Benjamin Franklin once said “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail!” The most powerful thing you can do for yourself, your work, and your family is to take some time regularly to plan for the future. If you aren’t doing this already, start now.
Right this moment, stop what you are doing and set a time each week to plan what is going to happen in the next week—or further out if you have that info. Routines are a powerful tool to combat laziness, crazy schedules, or whatever else your particular thorn is.
Write down important events for work and for your family that you can’t or don’t want to miss. Set times to pay bills and make important calls. Plan weekly, biweekly, or monthly dates with your spouse or quality time with your children.
Everyone has a different rhythm but the point is to INTENTIONALLY carve out time in your schedule for the things that are important to you and your family. Deal with calendar conflicts early and reschedule as needed. Be present for the things that matter and the things you need to get done because you planned ahead and made it possible to be there.
Establish a Workload Limit, Communicate it, Follow it.
Consistently working too much is only going to burn you out and spread you too thin. Running around with your family too much and neglecting work will most likely lose you your job. One of the things you’ll need to plan is what your workload limit/goals are for BOTH your job and your family.
Are you only working 9-5? Are you home certain times? Does your spouse needs you to do certain things? Figure out what is achievable and be straightforward with your work and the significant people in your life about what those limits are. Don’t promise everything in the world just to make people happy when you can’t get it done. That isn’t going to make anyone happy and isn’t sustainable.
Here’s where it gets sticky. Are there people asking you to do more than you physically can? Is your work demanding more of your time than they’re paying you for? Do you feel you’re pulling more than your load at home? Those may be real issues, or they may be just your feelings. Either way they are very real for you and they need to be addressed.
Be Prepared to Make Tough Choices
In your planning time, set aside time to have those honest conversations with your family and work about what your limits are. Listen to what they have to say. Most of the time things can be moved around or adjusted to work. You may also gain some perspective as to why you’re being asked to do what you are. From there, you can come up with smarter plans to complete it.
At Design Extensions, we often hear:
- Can this task be automated?
- Can this task be delegated?
- Does this have to be done?
- Does this have to be done RIGHT NOW?
This can considerably reduce the list of things you feel you have to do. These conversations may not be straightforward and easy. They probably won’t be if the people you’re approaching are used to you running yourself ragged.
When it comes to your job, if you’re given no wiggle room, you may have to address it in your planning time and make moves to find a job that will respect a better work/life balance. Surround yourself with people that respect your time and energy that you have. That in particular has been a huge factor in improving my work and family balance.
Be Realistic About Your Time
You need to be real with yourself about where you’re spending your time. How much time are you wasting on social media? Are you spending more time at work than you should without realizing it? Are you neglecting your family’s emotional or physical needs for your presence in favor of other things?
If you aren’t sure where you’re spending your time, you need to track the time you’re spending at work, with your family, and on nonessentials. Compare with what you decided was your ideal. Could you be spending your time in a more efficient way? Adjust accordingly.
None of this will fix the imbalance overnight. But at the very least you can work towards what is more desirable for your life.
Give Yourself Time to Breathe and Unplug
Did you notice that in the beginning I listed “decompression time” in the “essentials to stay alive” category? It is. It took me far too long to learn this and I still struggle with it. Taking time for yourself is imperative for your mental health.
Daydream, create, walk, breathe, meditate, take a long shower—whatever it is that recharges your soul TAKE THAT TIME. PLAN FOR IT AHEAD OF TIME. Put it in your schedule and do not negotiate it away. You can’t be the best you for work or your family if you’re strung out, irritable, and exhausted. Plan time every day to breathe and unplug. Whether that be a small amount of quiet time in the morning, before bed, or intentional alone time during your lunch break, take time to breathe and just be.
It’s Ok to Hit the Reset Button
Through all of this planning and making moves towards a more balanced life, it’s important to remember that when things don’t work out the way you think they will, it’s ok to hit the reset button. No one is absolutely perfect at following plans and sometimes getting caught up in the whirlwind happens. When this happens though, it’s important to recognize it and take time to reset your intentions back towards your goals.
Learn From Your Friends
Everyone struggles with this and has their own way of approaching finding balance. I asked the team here at DE to share how they manage.
Jay Owen | Founder & CEO of Design Extensions
Excerpt from his book Building a Business that Lasts
“Here’s the thing, though: life is not a balanced scale. It’s more like a blender. Some days, weeks, years, our (work-life) smoothie needs more spinach and a little less fruit, and some seasons of life, it’s the other way around. The ingredients of life are the things you are focused on. What is on your calendar? What are you spending money on? Who are you spending time with? Those are the ingredients of your life.”
Shannon Werling | Web Designer
“As a new mom I’m still learning what balance looks like for my family but I’m starting to realize I can’t do it all of the time. Some days, I have to be in “mom mode” more and “work mode” less. And then some days my husband can take on some more baby duties so I focus on all the cool projects going on at DE. I love my family and I love my job so if that means checking emails during nap time, so be it!”
Travis Sutphin | Director of Development
“We have a loose structure at home but things like, you make a mess, you clean it up helps sanity for everyone. Everyone has their weekly to do list and expectations are they are done. So I guess the gist is that as a family, we help each other by doing our parts as individuals which in turn, helps everyone. This basically does not pile everything on one person’s plate making life and work more manageable and focused on the fun stuff.”
Carol Gilham | Account Manager
“For me it’s not about balance, it’s more about priorities. It’s easy to put work before family because there is more pressure, deadlines, and expectations to be constantly plugged in. So, while I love my work and want to work with excellence, I try and make time with family intentional. One thing we do is put our phones away at dinner so my family has my undivided attention. When we come in from work we give our kids or spouse 15 minutes of uninterrupted time. I think the intentional quality time goes a long way when the work demands are calling.
Also, as a working mom, I want my daughter to respect me for my career, not resent me for it. So I work hard at being there for her, being present when we’re together, but also letting her see my passion for my career so she knows she can do anything she puts her mind to one day too!”
Sara Schleicher | Content Strategist
“For me, finding balance means knowing when to give my full attention at work and when to give my full attention outside of work. My husband and I don’t have kids, but we do have very close ties to our families and friends, and we both have hobbies that are important to us. I try to give it my all when I’m at work. That way, I can dedicate time away from work to focusing on the people I love and the things I love to do without feeling guilty or distracted.”
Hannah Evans | Client Care Coordinator
“I try to guard family time as much as I can. With two little kids who are always watching, I don’t want to hear that I am “always on my phone or computer,” so I try to keep the focus where it needs to be at home and my focus on business while I am at work.”
Balancing Work & Family Takes Practice
Whatever your family looks like, whatever your responsibilities are, you’d be surprised what you can do when you take a little time on the front end to be intentional about what is important to you and how you are going to invest the time that you have. I’m not perfect at it, but I’d like to think that I’m getting better at it, and my family is better off for it, so I’m going to keep trying.