The Myth of Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance. People talk about it, strive for it, but is it really something we can achieve?

I don’t think so. Have you ever done balance poses on the yoga mat? Then you know that balance is a dynamic experience, built of movement and tension. It’s not something you achieve and put behind you—it’s an ongoing dance.

It’s a bummer when “work-life balance” is on our goal pedestal, because it isn’t an outcome. We walk around feeling like a failure because we can’t meet our own expectations.

So, instead of looking at balance as a discreet event, experiment with looking at it as a process. Notice what is working and what is not working. Ask…

What am I choosing now?
What is satisfying about the choice?
What is uncomfortable?
What do I need to shift?
How do I want to be in the midst of this ride?

Stop trying to juggle responsibilities and priorities. Instead, aim for finding your flow.

Flow, Not Balance

That’s how Dr. Christine Carter sees things, too. She’s a sociologist and Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. She’s also a happiness expert and coach who hit the wall, suffering exhaustion from overwork as she coached the public in work-life balance. This experience inspired her second book: The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work.

In her view, the very idea of balance suggests that there’s a perfect, achievable ratio between work and pleasure/personal life, as if they’re mutually exclusive or a zero-sum game.

Instead, she points out that the quality of your professional life will always be dependent on the quality of your personal life. If you’re happy, you’ll be better at your job.

I agree completely. When we’re happy outside of work, we have more motivation, energy, creativity and grit in our work life. Want to improve your potential for achievement? Improve your personal life.

The Sweet Spot: Overlap of Ease and Strength

I love her image of the sweet spot: “the overlap between where we have the most ease in our lives and the place where we have our greatest strength. Think of it as a Venn diagram, with a ‘strengths circle’ and an ‘ease circle.’”

So that’s the image of balance I like to take away: a balance between these overlapping arenas. Some of us live in our strengths, some of us live in our ease. A healthy, sustainable, evolving dance between these two is the way to find joy and richness—not in balance, but in flow.

Too Much to Do: Four Strategies for Guaranteed Productivity

In my recent teleclass, Kelly expressed her goal succinctly: “I want to spin less and get more done.” Can you relate?

Journalist Charles Duhigg is an expert on productivity. In his latest book, Smarter Better Faster, he concludes that the most productive people have trained themselves to be productive, and most importantly, experimenting is part of the process. By trial and error, we build habits and contemplative routines that yield increased productivity.

The same tools don’t work for everyone, so don’t be frustrated if you’ve tried and failed some techniques: The winning technique for you is still out there — waiting for you to give it a try.

Here are four ideas to inspire your experiments:

1. Set a Stretch Goal

Take a few minutes to reflect on what is most important to you and WHY it’s important. The key to being productive is motivation. Understanding your “why” will help you stay focused and overcome obstacles.

For example, while having a clean house may be the goal, it’s not the motivation. The motivation might be “I am happier when I can find things easily,” or “my allergies do better when it’s not dusty,” or “I love having guests, and I don’t do that when it’s messy.” Once your motivational goal is clear, then make your TO-DO list, outlining the tasks that will get you there.

2. Keep a Not-Doing-Now List

Your Not-Doing-Now list is a parking lot. When your mind strays or another task tempts you, put it on your list and return focus to the task you’re committed to. Don’t multitask: ask “is this intrusion helping with my current task or not?” If the answer is “no,” park it.

3. Do the Hardest Thing First

It’s typical to tackle the simplest item on list. We get to check something off quickly and enjoy a feeling of moving forward. It makes us feel productive – but it only keeps us spinning. However, when you nail the hardest thing first, it frees you up.

My clients who’ve tested this one consistently say they feel so much better not having that big task hanging over their head all day long. It gives a sense of freedom, creating more energy and space to get more things done, and the rest of the day goes a lot smoother and easier.

4. Make a Daily Top-Three Commitment List

Review your master to-do list and pick three things that you are absolutely, 100% committed to completing today. Don’t take on another until all three are completed. This strategy helps me say “no” (at least not now.) When something else tries to sneak on to my schedule, I know what my priorities are.

Experiment TODAY!

Duhigg says one thing productive people have in common is a willingness to experiment.

I challenge you to choose one of these strategies, and commit to it for a day, or seven, or 30. Keep experimenting and be willing to train yourself into new habits.

What’s your first experiment?

Mary

Change is in the Air

Cold fall or winter evening. People resting by the fire with blaTransitions are tough and exhilarating at the same time.

Just take a look at our Midwestern weather this time of year: you can leave the house in the morning shivering in your sweater and by lunch time, you are sweltering, ready to shed those socks and shoes for sandals! You just never know what the day will offer.

That particular lesson from Mother Nature — helps me become aware of how my mindset creates struggle or ease in the midst of transition. When I hold tightly to my expectations and things don’t turn out the way I planned, I get pretty cantankerous. It is really hard to delight in a surprise October snow shower when I had my heart set on shorts, sandals, and a t-shirt.

So when I start to feel that cranky, agitated feeling, I can step back and notice how I am contributing to the stress of this moment. I can choose to ruminate on my disappointment (I really wanted it to still be summer!) OR acknowledge my disappointment and focus my attention on something within my power (oh goody, I get to wear my cozy fleece jacket and wool socks!)

What is your attitude when change is in the air? Try this if you are feeling cranky:

  1. Stop whatever you are doing
  2. Soften or even close your eyes
  3. Take 3 nice, easy breaths — giving your breath your full attention
  4. Open your eyes and go back to whatever you were doing
  5. REPEAT AS NEEDED until crankiness subsides

Ready with socks and sandals!
Mary

Mary

Retreat: An Essential Daily Practice

It is a gray and chilly day here in Minnesota. Every now and then a few snowflakes drift by. What a perfect day for a retreat!
Today in the Growing Edge Teleclass, my friend and Retreat Coach Extraordinaire, Michelle Burns, treated us to a lovely mini-retreat. She guided us to an inner landscape of renewal; helping each one of us experience a wonderful, relaxing, peaceful retreat. Here is where I went…

In less than 10 minutes, we felt refreshed and refueled.

AMAZING!

All of us left the teleclass with a renewed commitment to carve out some sacred down time each day. Some people will be taking walks in nature. Others will be creating time to meditate. Still others decided to create Technology Free Zones during their week. I renewed my commitment to no screen time for 30 minutes before bed each day.

With the barrage of constant connectivity from cell phones, emails, mp3 players, texting, iPads, laptops, etc. — we need down time to reconnect with ourselves to know who we are and what we want.

How are you going to create a retreat for yourself today?

Click on the comment link below and tell me!

PS. If you want a two hour time block for yourself, join Michelle and me for a VIRTUAL RETREAT on November 20. Click here for the details

Mary

Your Invitation to a One-Hour Vacation!

Usually, I host The Growing Edge teleclass on the second Thursday of the month. In July, I will be away on vacation so I won’t be hosting a teleclass.

Instead…

 

How would you like to join me for SUMMER VACATION?

Since there isn’t room in my minivan for all of you to ride along with me and my family to Michigan, it will have to be a virtual vacation.

Here’s how it will work:

Sign up for a one hour vacation WITH YOURSELF on July 14 at 10:30 AM CT. That’s right – take a one hour break in the middle of the day. Step out of your usual routine and do something special that YOU will really enjoy.

  • Spend time sitting in the sunshine in your favorite park.
  • Visit that museum you have been meaning to get to.
  • Treat yourself to a meal with someone you haven’t seen in a long time. Go for a bike ride.
  • Take a historic walking tour.
  • Read a cheesy novel.
  • Rent a Segway or Vespa and toodle around town.
  • Sun bathe (with sunscreen of course!)
  • Take a nap in the hammock.
  • Drive the scenic route on the way home.
  • Play backyard baseball or a pickup game of basketball.
  • See a movie….

So, will you do it? Will you join me and take a mini-vacation on July 14? If your answer is YES, I WILL, register below for YOUR VERY OWN ONE-HOUR VACATION!

If your answer is YES, then Register for One-Hour Vacation in This event is a teleclass.  on Eventbrite for YOUR TICKET TO YOUR VERY OWN ONE-HOUR VACATION!

Hello Darkness

“Hello Darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again…”

P. Simon 1964 “The Sound of Silence”

I love the quiet darkness of winter. It brings a peaceful calm to my heart and mind. In the midst of a frenetic time of year, the darkness invites me to sit down, to slow down, to just be in this moment. When I embrace the quiet darkness, I am treated to wonderful surprises – the sharp contrasts of the shadows cast by a full moon, the fiery brilliant colors of the sunrise, a wonderful sensation of being connected to everything and everyone! My heart tingles with aliveness! I am grateful for the invitation to slow down and come home to me.

Thank you Winter Solstice!

What surprising invitation do you find in the quiet darkness?
Leave a comment and let me know!

THANK-FULLNESS: The Practice of Gratitude

November is a month full of giving thanks around my house. We celebrate Thanksgiving, our national holiday of appreciation for life’s bounty. I also celebrate my birthday and my wedding anniversary, too. My birthday gives me the chance to appreciate all the gifts in my life. My anniversary allows me to stop and appreciate my soul mate and the relationship we have been cultivating for over 20 years. I get a lot of practice being thankful in November!

Join me this month as I dive deeper into the PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE. Each of the Growing Edge blogs, the free teleclass and my special event: The Practice of Gratitude Virtual Retreat, all revolve around what gratitude is, what it means, how we can share and learn from the wisdom of others, and how to develop a daily gratitude practice.

  • Watch for my weekly gratitude blogs
  • Sign up for my Nov 11 free teleclass – The Wisdom of Retreat HERE
  • Join me for our first virtual retreat – The Practice of Gratitude hosted by myself and Retreat Coach Michelle Burns on Nov 21. Click HERE for more information

I invite you to take time this month to get grounded in the practice of gratitude, rejuvenate your spirit, and marvel at how this powerful practice can make your life rich, meaningful and magical!