Work-life balance this, work-life balance that. You hear it touted on podcasts, Ted Talks, books, and even the TikToks you’re trying to enjoy on a break. But the more you hear it, the more you question your own ability to find peace.
Suppose you aren’t following some prescribed regiment of walking around the block during lunch, taking stretch breaks, adhering to a hard stop at 5 p.m., and all the other self-care tips filling the media, it’s easy to feel inadequate—as if you aren’t doing enough for yourself.
After all, if everyone else is nailing this work-life balance thing, why can’t you?
Here’s the big secret, though: Nobody is nailing it all day, every day.
The luxurious at-home spa days and wanderlust-inspiring vacations you see on Instagram offer a lovely aesthetic, but they aren’t the reality. Look beyond those photos and you’d see fellow entrepreneurs trying to figure out this whole business thing—but nobody wants to post a photo at their lowest when revenue is down and their desk is a hot mess.
Allow us to introduce the life-changing concept of seasonality.
When you can move past the often-toxic myth of work-life balance, you realize that being put together 100% of the time is an illusion. Are there weeks where you’re slaying it? Absolutely. But will there also be weeks that feel out of control? Without a doubt.
So the best way to go about business and life isn’t by creating a clear division between the two but rather through integration. Here’s how to find a natural balance in your life that doesn’t make you feel like you’re playing a zero-sum game.
Embrace the schedule that works for you.
It’s easy to get stuck in the 9-5 grind when you know it’s when your inbox is busiest and everyone expects you to be present. But it’s your life and business, so you call the shots! If you prefer to work in morning and evening shifts to prioritize school pickup, make it clear that you can’t be reached during the afternoon. Or, if your creativity flows best at night, adjust your schedule accordingly. When you take back control of your time, work becomes less demanding and you’ll find yourself feeling more present in every moment.
Make your office space feel like home.
This isn’t a suggestion to spend all of your time in the office and sleep at your desk. That’s counterproductive to your work and life. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make your workspace feel comfortable with personal touches that feel like home. A cozy pair of slippers or your favorite quirky mug can make work an enjoyable, even indulgent experience, so it doesn’t have to feel like you’re leaving behind the joys of life to toil your day away on the computer.
Get comfortable enforcing boundaries.
We all know where our boundaries lie, but it’s easy to lose sight when you’re pulled in every direction. One “yes” leads to another, and suddenly your calendar is cluttered with appointments and responsibilities that don’t add value to your day. This is where the “enforcing” part comes in. You have to stick to your guns with clients, colleagues, and even family members! The first few times you have to say “no” are hard, but it gets easier with practice—especially when you see the benefits of controlling your own schedule.
Know your burnout signs—and listen to them.
Burnout doesn’t happen overnight but rather the result of untreated stress over time. And if you don’t tune in to the warning signs, it’s a slippery slope to the bottom. Everyone experiences stress differently, so get a feel for your signs that it’s time for a reset. It may be that you’re experiencing afternoon headaches, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or pushing yourself to work endlessly from morning to night. When you can identify the signals of impending burnout, use it as a reminder to step back and allow yourself the nourishment your mind and body need to function.
So let’s ditch this grandiose idea of work-life balance, shall we? Instead, let’s accept the seasonality of our lives and embrace integration to tie the two sides together in a holistic way that creates real balance. In this way, there are no “sacrifices”—only meaningful opportunities that allow you to invest in all parts of your life.
Hustle + Gather is a training and consulting firm that is on a mission to inspire others to take big leaps, dream big dreams, and create amazing teams that grow profits and an enjoyable (but productive) culture within business. They specialize in the hospitality industry and have coached and trained businesses to increase their profitability while creating a kick ass team along the way.