The Real Trick to Achieving Work-Life Balance
Today we’re talking about a topic near and dear to my heart: work-life balance. But first, I need to tell you how much I suck at sports (I promise this will all make sense in a minute).
Sports and I just don’t mix. Seriously, I can’t run, jump, or kick worth a damn.
You’d think that being ambidextrous would have given me some athletic advantages, but no. I’m equally lousy whether I’m throwing a ball with my right or left hand.
Yet I still tried to find the perfect sport for me when I was a kid. I didn’t like feeling left out, and I thought that if I tried enough activities one of them was bound to stick.
In a long list of failed attempts, I tried soccer, baseball, skateboarding, baton twirling, tae kwon do, and ballet. They all left me feeling even more feeble and uncoordinated than before I started.
Finally, I ended up in a gymnastics studio and found an athletic activity that actually worked for me. Not gymnastics exactly—my cartwheels were wobbly and my arms were never strong enough for the uneven parallel bars. A Flying Grayson I’m not.
But on the balance beam I was unstoppable.
My short stature and low center of gravity made strutting along that high beam feel as stable as the sidewalk.
At the time, I loved watching the TV show American Gladiators (this was the 80s after all), especially the event where the contestants try to knock the gladiators off a tall platform. It was a cinch to predict the winners—they were all built like me! Super short, stocky legs, and a wide stance.
Once I discovered my talent for balancing, I was able to find other activities that played to my strength such as hip hop dancing and yoga.
I still practice balancing every day, but now it’s through my work as a coach where I help my clients achieve their perfect work-life balance.
See how I tied that all together?
Finding your balance can take time, and some people are just naturally better at giving equal time to the various areas of their lives.
But there’s a secret trick to balancing that most people never realize. And the truth may surprise you!
Here’s how you can achieve work-life balance.
The Ebb and Flow
The key to balancing anything—your body, your life, a cookie on your dog’s nose—is in the movements.
A person standing on one foot isn’t motionless, even if she appears to be. She’s making tiny adjustments left…then right…then back again. Sometimes the movements are so small you don’t see them happening.
And the person balancing is doing it all on autopilot. It’s second nature.
There is an ebb and flow to your life as well. At times, your spouse or your kids will require more of your attention. Then a big project might cause you to work late hours at the office. You’ll never divide your time equally down to the minute.
I Like to Move It, Move It
Standing perfectly still on a balance beam is actually more difficult than when you’re moving along the length of it.
And it’s much, much easier for you to find work-life balance when you keep yourself moving.
When a client of mine is feeling overwhelmed with all the urgent and important things that demand her attention (family, business, health, etc.), I have her list out all her to-do items by category or by project. Next, we break them down into bite-sized 2-minute tasks.
Then I ask her to complete 2-3 mini tasks from each category. That way she’s moving forward on all her top priorities, balancing her time and energy, and avoiding burnout.
I use the same trick myself on those days when I can’t seem to get my butt in gear (we all have ‘em!). I write a blog post for 30 minutes, then read a magazine for 30 minutes, then answer client emails for 30 minutes, then walk Skyla for 30 minutes, and so on.
I don’t get bored because I get to do my favorite self-care activities sandwiched in between my business work. Mmm…productivity sandwich…
A balanced life is a moving life. Don’t feel guilty about giving the bulk of your time to one activity for a while. You’ll swing back in the other direction soon enough.
How do you balance your days, weeks, and months?
This post focuses on Step 5 of the Life Editing Process, Make White Space for Personal Self-Care. For more about life editing and what it can do for you, click here.
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Great ideas for feeling a sense of completion. I also get people to look at their life in large chunks and strive for balance in the large pieces instead if stressing out each day to find balance.
hahaha sage I just loved this post so much I suck at balancing lol but good at some sports lol, well I actually just did swimming when i was little and volleyball so … haha but when it come on challenges oh dear I will go multi-kristinas like it was robots everywhere. I usually don’t break things into smallest unless I admit that I need to do it (that usually nevers happens because ha!, I never admit things lol even if they’re wrong I make it happens in some way whatever it takes wrong or not :0P
LOL. I love this post Sage. This is so funny, and so relatable as I am terrible at sports too. This is so helpful to read this week, as I am not looking forward to my 4 “To Do” piles at work. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I just love how your character really shines through your blogs. I am visiting from our Creative Live Blogger group. Please check out and comment on one of our blogs too at http://www.timecapsule.com/blog.
Great post Sage! I love the idea and it’s great to keep this in mind when I’m concentrating on one aspect of my life thinking that I’m neglecting somethig else, that the pendulum will swing the other way soon and I will concentrate on the other stuff.
I love the 2 minute tip as well 🙂
PS now I have The lemurs from the Madagasgar movie singing and dancing in my head 😉
This is a really good post. Thanks for the reminder. I just started reading Thrive by Arianna Huffington and your post came just in time. You are very right about mixing in activities during your day. Lately I started a new system where I list out all my activities for the day (even the little ones like breakfast, reading a magazine etc) and put a time next to it. I try to mix the activities up so I’m not drained by ‘heavy duty’ activities back to back. E.g. Write a blog post -11am, send a quick email 12:05 – 12:10, sketch 12:15, lunch with my cousin, etc.. I noticed this allows me get more out of my day without feeling exhausted at the end.
In the past I used to have all of this in my head & didn’t break things down to the smallest possible task and I failed at achieving much. It really helps to break things down visually and mix things up.
Aww I love your story Sage! It’s so weird because I was fairly athletic when I was a kid, I dabbled in a little bit of everything but never stuck to any one thing to actually become really good at it! I bet it felt really amazing to find what you were good at and really embrace it!
Work-Life balance is a constant struggle for me but your advice is so helpful. I think focusing on the thing that demands my attention will definitely help me prioritize and accomplish a lot more 🙂
Excellent article here! I really like your idea of keeping moving in order to stay balanced. I never looked at it that way, but you’re absolutely right — if you can keep doing things in smaller chunks, you can do a little of what you need to do (work), and intermix a little pleasure too! I will be sure to integrate this philosophy into my work and life moving forward. Great advice and great article! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom!
Thanks so much, Victor! I try to move forward on my most important projects every day even if I’m only doing a very small task. It adds up!
Great Post Sage!
I’m like this too. I realized a while ago that balance doesn’t necessarily mean giving equal amounts of time to every aspect of my like (business, day job, family, self) but instead finding the balance of what needs me most at that point in time while not letting the other important aspects of my life slip off the schedule.
I also find that when I’m stuck on a challenge I use two strategies you mentioned. First, I break things down into the smallest bite sized chunks I can so I feel like I’m accomplishing something in all areas. Second, when my creativity won’t flow, I block myself time to do things like reading a book, going for a walk, cleaning the bathroom or kitchen (I don’t know why this works, but it does) but don’t let myself linger on any one thing for too long or I know I will get frustrated with ‘how little I accomplished today’.
Thanks, Rebecca! Do you keep a progress journal too? Sometimes I think I didn’t accomplish anything, but when I look back on my list, I actually did a lot!
I don’t have a progress journal.
I just have my to do lists with things checked off at the moment but who knows!